Reviewing the Classics #4: Little Women

Little Women was probably the first classic I ever read. That’s to say: my grand-parents had an abreviated children’s version of it and I loved it. I actually read it so often that they eventually just let me have it. Because, you know, that seemed more prudent than just having me borrow it every month for 4 years straight. Anyways, here’s my review of Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott!

I’ve mentioned this book in probably every single one of my winter or Christmas reads, so for starters there’s that. Because this novel starts out at Christmas time, it really does immediately set the mood of a cosy night by the fire. If you decided to write your bachelor’s dissertation on it (as I did) that association might slightly vanish. Apart from that, though, this book is definitely a cosy one.

Characters

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story, Little Women was inspired at least partially by the author, Louisa May Alcott’s own youth. It features herself as Jo, and her 3 sisters.
The eldest sister, Meg, is the most classic “little woman”. She is, throughout the first book, fairly pre-occupied of the way others view her and her family, and as such she puts quite a lot of value in things such as luxury, pretty clothes and parties. In the second book, however, she ends up marrying a poor man for love.

Jo herself is more of a tomboy and at numerous occasions wishes she were born a boy. Although she definitely maintains much of her characteristics (such as there are: stubbornness) she does spend most of the books trying to better herself. She eventually turns into more of a femine character, in that she becomes slightly more soft-spoken, and ends up falling in love as well – although she travels to New York in order to do so. Whereas many characters in 19th century would be either strictly good or strictly bad, Jo is kind of an exception to this rule. As she was based largely on Louisa May Alcott, she does have both good and bad traits, which make her seem both more balanced and more real than any of the other characters.

Beth is the third sister, and the one with the closes relationship to Jo. She’s generally the most soft-spoken, shy and quiet of the four sisters. She also has the most fragile health of the sisters, which eventually leads to the biggest tearjerker I have ever encountered. Beth is the one that wants, more than anything, to just keep her family together, and for things to stay pretty much as they are. In that aspect, she’s actually really similar to Jo, which might partially explain their close relationship.

At the beginning of the book, Amy is still a little girl, but it’s already pretty clear that she is very similar to Meg. She too seems very focused on appearance and wants to be a real lady. In many ways, she is the exact opposite of Jo. Where Jo writes, Amy paints, where Jo chooses family, Amy chooses herself. That is not to say that this is a bad attitude – just a very different perspective on the way these two sisters live life. At the same time, what makes them so different, also means they’re quite similar. You want prove? The boy who first proposes to Jo, eventually ends up the man who maries Amy.

Story

Little Women actually consists of two books: Little Women and Good Wives. The first part follows the four sisters up to the part where Beth has healed from her illness. The second part goes on to follow them until Jo gets married. I think. It’s been a while since I last read just those first parts, rather than the entire series. Because, you know, there’s at least 2 more books following these two.

Basically, in the first book, the girls’ father is away in the Civil War. The story follows the 4 sisters as they struggle to deal with his absence and with their newfound poverty. Where they evolve from children to young (little) women throughout this first part, in the second part they all eventually end up getting married – hence the title, obviously. I’m really not going to tell you much more about the story than that, because otherwise you’d just be really spoilered. (Is that even a word?)

Narration

Now, this might just be because I first read it in a simplified version aimed at children. However, I always find that Louisa May Alcott’s style reads so easily. Like, seriously, this is just one of those books where you basically almost fly through the story just because it’s so well-written. And not well-written as in let’s use all the difficult words. No, well-written as in: this just makes the story seem so much more fluent.

A fun little fact: John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress at least partially inspired this story! (which is actually what I wrote my bachelor’s dissertation about) That also means there is definitely a religious element here. However, the way in which Alcott set up this book makes it so that that doesn’t actually come across too much. This book definitely teaches you some moral lessons, however, that never actually bothered me. And that’s something that actually requires quite a bit of skill!

Overall

This is one of those classics that somehow allow you to ease your way into the field of the literary classics. It’s such a classic coming of age story. But at the same time,it brings across some pretty darn great messages as well. Also, if you feel like now you want to read this book? Because, you know, I’d totally recommend that! You can find this one at thebookdepository (affiliate link)!

-Saar