Little Women

Little Women

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780142408766
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 03/27/2008
Series: Puffin Classics Series
Pages: 816
Sales rank: 17,939
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.00(h) x 1.30(d)
Lexile: 1300L (what's this?)
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About the Author

Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) grew up in Concord, Massachusetts, and began her writing career at an early age, with short stories for newspapers and magazines. What began as a series of stories in the 1860s became the classic American children's novel we know today as Little Women.

Read an Excerpt

Playing Pilgrims

"Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents,"grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

"It's so dreadful to be poor!"sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.

"I don't think it's fair for some girls to have lots of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all," added little Amy, with an injured sniff.

"We've got father and mother, and each other, anyhow,"said Beth, contentedly, from her corner.

The four young faces on which the firelight shone brightened at the cheerful words, but darkened again as Jo said sadly?

"We haven't got father, and shall not have him for a long time." She didn't say "perhaps never,"but each silently added it, thinking of father far away, where the fighting was.

Nobody spoke for a minute; then Meg said in an altered tone, "You know the reason mother proposed not having any presents this Christmas, was because it's going to be a hard winter for every one; and she thinks we ought not to spend money for pleasure, when our men are suffering so in the army. We can't do much, but we can make our little sacrifices, and ought to do it gladly. But I am afraid I don't;"and Megshook her head, as she thought regretfully of all the pretty things she wanted.

"But I don't think the little we should spend would do any good. We've each got a dollar, and the army wouldn't be much helped by our giving that. I agree not to expect anything from mother or you, but I do want to buy Undine and Sintram for myself; I've wanted it so long,'said Jo, who was a bookworm.

"I planned to spend mine in new music,"said Beth, with a little sigh, which no one heard but the hearth-brush and kettle-holder.

"I shall get a nice box of Faber's drawing pencils; I really need them," said Amy, decidedly.

"Mother didn't say anything about our money, and she won't wish us to give up everything. Let's each buy what we want, and have a little fun; I'm sure we grub hard enough to earn it,"cried Jo, examining the heels of her boots in a gentlemanly manner.

"I know I do, teaching those dreadful children nearly all day, when I'm longing to enjoy myself at home," began Meg, in the complaining tone again.

"You don't have half such a hard time as I do," said Jo. "How would you like to be shut up for hours with a nervous, fussy old lady, who keeps you trotting, is never satisfied, and worries you till you''e ready to fly out of the window or box her ears?"

"It's naughty to fret, but I do think washing dishes and keeping things tidy is the worst work in the world. It makes me cross; and my hands get so stiff, I can't practise good a bit." And Beth looked at her rough hands with a sigh that any one could hear that time.

"I don't believe any of you suffer as I do," cried Amy; "for you don't have to go to school with impertinent girls, who plague you if you don't know your lessons, and laugh at your dresses, and label your father if he isn't rich, and insult you when your nose isn't nice."

"If you mean libel I'd say so, and not talk about labels, as if pa was a pickle-bottle," advised Jo, laughing.

Table of Contents

Introductionvii
Suggestions for Further Readingxxix
A Note on the Textxxxi
Little Women
Prefacexxxv
Part I1
Part II236
Notes493

Reading Group Guide

1. In the first two chapters, the girls use John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress as a model for their own journey to becoming "little women." What was Alcott trying to say by using such a strongly philosophical piece of literature as the girls' model?

2. What purpose does Beth's death serve? Was Alcott simply making a sentimental novel even more so, or was this a play on morality and philosophy? Do you think Beth was intended to be a Christ figure?

3. Consider the fact that Beth will never reach sexual maturity or marry. What do you think this says about the institution of marriage and, more important, about womanhood?

4. Consider Jo's writing: While we are treated to citations from "The Pickwick Portfolio" and the family's letters to one another, we are never presented with an excerpt from Jo's many literary works, though the text tells us they are quite successful. Why is this?

5. Do you find it surprising that once Laurie is rejected by Jo, he falls in love with Amy? Do you feel his characterization is complete and he is acting within the "norm" of the personality Alcott has created for him, or does Alcott simply dispose of him once our heroine rejects him?

6. Some critics argue that the characters are masochistic. Meg is the perfect little wife, Amy is the social gold digger, and Beth is the eternally loving and patient woman. Do you believe these characterizations are masochistic? If so, do you think Alcott could have characterized them any other way while maintaining the realism of the society she lived in? And if this is true, what of Jo's character?

7. The last two chapters find Jo setting aside her buddingliterary career to run a school with her husband. Why do you think Alcott made her strongest feminine figure sacrifice her own life plans for her husband's?

8. Alcott was a student of transcendentalism. How and where does this philosophy affect Alcott's writing, plot, and characterization?

9. Do you believe this is a feminine or a feminist piece of work?

Interviews

"I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship."
— Louisa May Alcott (quote from Little Women

Customer Reviews

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Little Women 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
dorcas_yester on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Enjoyable, well-written story overall, but characters could be a bit goody-goody. For the time period though, it is remarkably unpreachy.
bookworm12 on LibraryThing 10 months ago
From the very first sentences of Little Women we know the four daughters in the March family: the eldest, Meg, tomboy Jo, gentle Beth and vain Amy. Soon we meet their kind mother, Marmee and from those first moments the reader is part of the family. Set during the Civil War the March family is left with no men in their household when the father is sent off to war. The remaining house full of women is left to manage on their own. I first read this when I was in grade school and I was thrilled to discover the character of Jo. She was a stubborn tomboy who longed to be an author and on the very first page she's described as "Jo, who was a bookworm." It was me in every way. Jo was the antidote to every sugary sweet character tossed my way in other books. She wasn't a lady, but she was strong and loving and she was willing to sacrifice anything for the good of her family. The other characters, their neighbor Laurie, their selfish Aunt March, etc. are engraved in my mind forever. I longed to be there, in their world, acting out the Pickwick Portfolio with them in the attic. Alcott wrote about intimate family dynamics in a time when little was known about women's interaction in the privacy of their own homes. The book was published in 1869, shortly after the end of the war. She created a family full of women with very different personalities, who must struggle through some horrible trials, but survive because their love for each other holds them together. It's a beautiful story that everyone should read.
bohemima on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Along with thousands of others, I believe this is the world's best book for young girls. Some now think it's much too syrupy, but it remains a great story of four sisters, trying hard to learn to be the "Little Women" of the title. Moving, funny, and a glimpse of a vanished world.
4sarad on LibraryThing 10 months ago
This book isn't written poorly, and the stories aren't bad, but I still find it really annoying and hard to read. The characters are just very unbelievable. You can tell it's a children's story because all the girls always burst out in unison "Yes Mother!!" and things like that. They're just way too goody-goody to be interesting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In the book Little Woman there is a family with 4 sisters. The sister names are Margaret, who is very nice, and is the oldest at 16 years old, Jo who is 15 years old and is very stubborn, Beth who is 13 years old and is very peaceful, and Amy who is the youngest, and thinks she is all that. The family is living in New England through the Civil War. The family is very scarce on money. The children don’t really get much of anything because they don’t have all that money to spend on things they want. I would definitely recommend this book especially if you like books that involve topics of the Civil War, and sisters working together to help each other do things. This book is very good it was very well written. I couldn’t really relate to this book, but maybe you could depending on what your life is like. The book made a lot of sense, not like other books that don’t go in order, and gets everything all confusing. In general this was a very great book, and I think you should try it!
passionreader More than 1 year ago
This is in the first of the "Little Women" series, I love this as a teen and I'm happy to say my daughter loves it too! A must read for any middle school age and up.