What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this novel, published in 1868, contains outdated (but time-period appropriate) gender roles and many religious references.
What's the story?
Alcott's semi-autobiographical classic, set in Boston during and just after the Civil War, follows the four March sisters as they struggle to overcome poverty and grow into proper young ladies. Meg, the oldest, is pretty but swayed by material temptations; Jo is a good-hearted tomboy and writer; Beth is a shy, sweet music lover; and Amy, the youngest, is a little selfish but very social and elegant. Even as the girls bicker like all siblings, they keep their loving home together as they wait for their father to return from the war.
Is it any good?
Like the Little House books, LITTLE WOMEN's appeal is its vivid depiction of its 19th-century time period. Though the writing style can be didactic, even contemporary girls who can't imagine wearing silk dresses or being too ladylike to run will identify with the March sisters' strong bonds and earnest efforts to overcome their faults. Jo, who romps with her best friend (a boy) and cuts her hair short, remains an enduring character who defied the era's gender conventions.
At nearly 800 pages (for some editions), the book might work better as a read-aloud so parents can skip the occasionally lengthy, boring passages of description, long letters, or the girls' plays. Young readers may struggle with the sometimes archaic language and unfamiliar references.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the emphasis on "housewifely" duties for women. How are opportunities and expectations different/similar for women today?
Would kids have liked living during the 1860s and '70s? Why or why not?
The type of clothes and objects the girls desire are different than today, but can kids see similarities in their own lives? What lessons about consumerism do the girls learn?
The writing style is more didactic than most literature written for children today. The author also breaks in with first-person comments. What do readers think of this style? How does it compare to contemporary novels?