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Little Women, Part First by Louisa May Alcott is a book about four young girls: Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy. It tells of their struggles growing up, the kind that almost every youth faces. These sisters have to work to support each other at a time when the Civil War is at its peak. Their father gets involved in the war, and the girls are left facing the hardships and constraints of poverty as well as the unmatchable social expectations. Alcott greatly explores the theme of family and love, insisting on the need for the family to always stay together no matter what.
Most of us first encountered Little Women, Part 1 during primary school days, probably around 9 years old. But Little Women is the kind of a book that one can enjoy, whether young or adult. Even more interesting about it is that both genders will find an easy time reading it. Thus, the title should not deceive you into thinking that only the female gender will enjoy it.
The novel revolves around the lives of four teenage sisters: Margaret March (Meg), Josephine March (Jo), Elizabeth March (Beth), and Amy March. It also centers on the life of their mother, Marmee. The young women live in the poor neighbourhood of Concord, Massachusetts. Their father gets involved in the American Civil War and spends Christmas away from the young girls. As a result of the abject poverty faced by the March family, Meg and Jo are forced to work so that they can support the family. Meg’s work involves teaching four children from one of their neighbours while Jo March provides aid to her aged aunt March. As Amy March continues with schooling, her other sister, Beth March, feels more comfortable staying at home and helping with house chores.
Just like most teenagers, one of the elder girls has anger issues. One of the biggest challenges that she struggles to overcome throughout the novel is the ability to control her anger. A problem that her mother also faces. The mother tells Jo to always speak with forethought before taking any action. I feel Louisa May Alcott must have adequately studied the different issues that youths, girls in particular, often face. The issue of anger is quite a common occurrence in this phase of growth. As the sisters grow, we see them often caught in the midst of unpleasant disagreements. However, that does not change the intense love they have for each other. They all progress in different directions, just like most children do as they slowly become young adults. Unfortunately for Beth, she contracts scarlet fever and is ever sickly. Her sad state is made slightly better by Mr. Laurence, who is fond of her. He even gives her a piano, which helps keep her company. Jo actively gets involved in taking care of Beth, who recovers but not entirely. Amy and Jo take turns in taking care of her.
As a youth, determining the one person who truly loves, you can be quite a difficult thing to do. This is never easy, especially when other facets like partying and peer influence are involved. At one time, Meg visits her friends for two weeks, where all they do is to party and have fun with boys. The author does not specify the type of fun, but I hope it had nothing to do with sex. One of the boys, Laurie Laurence, incorrectly assumes that Meg has fallen in love with him. The truth of the matter is that Meg has stronger feelings for John Brooke. At one time, Mr. Brooke confesses his love for Meg, but her parents decline, citing that she is too young to be married. Though heartbroken, Brooke insists that he will wait. He goes on to enlist in the American Civil War and serves for one year.
Alcott’s narrations of the book’s events are sure to give you Goosebumps. Reading her narrations of the girl’s love for different boys are sure to live you with a smile in the face. At the same time, she describes their struggles and even Beth’s sicknesses in a manner that you find yourself crying. I think Alcott is one of the greatest writers of all time because she mastered the art of moving the reader’s emotions. A good and talented writer is one who makes you picture yourself in the character’s shoes as you go about the reading. You must be able to see what is happening, feel every emotion, and even smell if need be. Alcott does this without much strain. It is for this reason that people demanded part two of the novel. Little Women, Part Second, also called Good Wives, was published separately in the United Kingdom after persistent public demand. Everyone wanted to know how the girl’s lives progressed post Part One.
My family is my life
The first part of the book has a heavy concentration on the theme of family and marriage. To begin with, all four girls are family. The author defines each of the characters based on their familial relations and are all focused on supporting each other. No one can underestimate the relationship among family members. They might quarrel and even fail to talk to each other for years, but family will always come first.
I am pleased by the author’s insistence on the importance of family. Even though it is not an economic or practical unit, it still is meaningful. Consider the situation where the March family go through tough financial times. In the midst of all of these, Aunt March offers to adopt one of their children to ease the burden. However, the father and the mother refused, maintaining that they have to stay together. Even as they remain united, the family undergoes the most dramatic instances. Jo and Amy are involved in a fight over a burnt manuscript while all children miss their parents because they are the moral head of the family unit.
The society has always put it that you do not get to become family without the involvement of love and relationship. It is as if there is a non-written rule that you must first of all fall in love, get married and start a family. That is why we see several instances of love throughout the novel. We see different characters like Meg, Jo, Laurie, and Professor Bhaer pushing forth this theme of love.
The working poor
Different classics authors have always discussed the theme of poverty to a greater extent in their works. However, what makes Little Women unique is that it addresses poverty from the perspective of the working poor. Poverty does not happen only to those unable to work; the working people are also shown to face it. For instance, the elder two girls, Meg and Jo, work hard to support their families. However, this does not get them out of their financial struggles.
The poverty faced by the March family is quite an interesting and touching one. It emanates from the father’s attempt to help a friend as well as sicknesses that crepes into the family. The ever-sick Beth engages the family members in taking care of her, which costs them in terms of money and the time needed to work for more. The author clearly shows us why it is necessary for the healthcare system to be harmonized in such a way that it does not eat into people’s pockets. Even though we do not have control over the emergence of health issues, we have a say over how much they will impact one’s financial standing. A good healthcare system is one with more substantial insurance cover to mitigate costs.
Little Women is undoubtedly a hit. It became such a success that it got adapted into film going by the same name. In the film adaption, Emily Watson takes on the role of Marmee while Angela Lansbury is depicted as Aunt March. All of these are magnificent and do justice to the book.
So many other film adaptations of this book have been released and became great successes. An adaptation directed by Greta Gerwig features reputable stars including Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Eliza Scanlen, Florence Pugh as Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy respectively. Other stars include Meryl Streep, Laura Dern, and Timothée Chalamet.
Little Women, Part First is a brilliant masterpiece. It shows the struggles that youths and families go through on a daily basis. There are so many children across the world who are forced to take care of their siblings due to difficult financial situations. The fact that the author clearly captures this in a manner that makes you never want to stop reading the book makes it unique.