Review: Little Women

By: Louisa May Alcott

Available on: Amazon, Audible, and Barnes and Noble.

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Blurb: Little Women is a classic story of four sisters: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March growing up during the American Civil War in New England. It is loosely based on the author’s childhood growing up with three sisters. The March family has its own fair share of trials of relative poverty and domestic squabbles. With patriarch Robert, the father of the four girls, absent as a chaplain in the Union Army for much of the story, Little Women focuses heavily on the interactions between four loving but flawed sisters as they grow up together, and then apart as life goes on.

Trigger Warnings: Death, Slavery (mentioned), Time Period Accurate Racism, War (mentioned)

Body Count: 1

Overall review:

Thoughts:

I love this little classic. While written in the 1860’s, it has charm enough to carry itself even in this modern age. Little Women primarily focuses on the domestic life of the March girls as they grow from children to women.

The four sisters are written as delightfully human. Their father is absent most of the novel and reminds them in his frequent letters home, as does their mother Marmee, to be good and kind to each other and have faith. One of the undercurrents of this book is their faith in God and faith that things will improve. The main theme, it seems, is of growth and domesticity being its own reward.

Eldest sister Meg often wants for better. As the eldest, she remembers the brighter days before the family fortune was lost. She marries for love. While not completely content in continued poverty, she is happy with her lot in life by the end of the novel. She is the most domestic of the four, other than Beth, and seems to grow from girl to woman without much issue. I like her character almost as much as I do Jo’s, for her kindness and sensibility.

Second eldest sister Jo is a feminist before her time, one who often bemoans her being born a girl and acts quite boyish. The novel primarily focuses on her. Jo can spin stories and gets into much mischief with the next door neighbor and family friend Laurie. To avoid a marriage proposal from him, Jo runs off to New York and meets German immigrant Professor Friedrich Bhaer, who pursues her romantically. I liked Jo’s character, even if her temper is beastly. She seems, however, to grow the least of the four. She is selfish with herself and focuses on writing to get paid, rather than writing for the joy of it.

Next middle sister Beth is the mouse of the family: quiet, painfully shy, but musical as a songbird. Her greatest love are her little dollies and the piano. She is my absolute favorite character of the story. She is always fantastically kind and is the peacemaker of the often troubled sisters. When tempers flair, or moods dip low, Beth can often soothe with wise words or music. It is her kindness, however, that is her undoing in the end. Whilst visiting some unfortunate neighbors, she falls ill with Scarlet Fever. She recovers, eventually, but is greatly weakened and her heart eventually gives out. Her loss is one felt bitterly by her family, especially Jo.

Youngest sister Amy is both bold and temperamental. From her brash temper, flickers of vanity, and occasionally shallow wanting for more material things as a child, she grows into an accomplished artist. She paints well and does it, unlike Jo, for the joy of it, rather than the monetary gain. She rejects a very rich suitor and marries for love by the end of the novel.

  • Was it engaging?
    • Yes
  • Favorite Character:
    • Beth, for the sweetness of her character. Her illness and eventual loss of life is touching.
  • Rating out of five: 4.5 out of 5
  • To Read or Not To Read (Again): On the Bookshelf to Read Again

The Technical Specs:

  • Genre Technical Genre: Literary Fiction, Classic Literary Fiction, Classic Literature & Fiction
  • Theo Genre: Chick Lit, Classic Fiction, Classic Literature
  • Page count: 621 pages
  • POV: Limited 3rd
  • Publication information:Publisher: Louisa May Alcott, various
  • Language:  English
  • ISBN-13: 9781593081089
  • ASIN: B083RG28TV

Representation, Morality, and Sexism in Media Tests:

  • Bechdel–Wallace Test: Pass
    • Do two female characters talk about something other than a male character?
  • Deggan’s Rule Test: Fail
    • Are there at least two non-white human characters in the main cast in a story not primarily focused on race?
  • DuVernay Test: Fail
    • Are there fully actualized characters of color?
  • Ellen Willis Test: Pass
    • Would two related characters still work to carry the story if their genders were reversed?
  • Hays Code: Fail
    • Part One: outdated moral guidelines
      • Are there any outdated “moral content” rules gloriously kicked in the teeth by this story? Murder, happy queer characters, profanity, etc.
    • Part Two: queer representation
      • Are there queer characters that get a happy ending?
      • Do the queer characters die?
    • Part Three: age and agency:
      • Is there an illegal or otherwise distasteful age gap between characters, queer or otherwise?
  • Mako Mori Test: Pass
    • Is there a female character that gets her own arc?
  • Mary Sue/Gary Stu Test: Pass
    • Is the main character completely flawless and persecuted by other characters needlessly?
      • Take a Mary Sue test here!
  • Sexy Lamp Test: Pass
    • Would the plot fall apart if the female character was replaced by a sexy looking lamp?
    • Post-It Note Caveat: Pass
      • Would the character be able to be replaced by a Sexy Lamp with a sticky note on it for information conveyance?
  • Tauriel Test: Pass
    • Is there at least one woman in the story who is competent in her chosen occupation and not immediately shown up by a newcomer male character?
    • If she has or develops a love interest during the story, either implied or explicitly stated, does she suddenly abandon her job and/or chosen path to support or pursue said love interest?
  • Topside Test: Fail
    • Are there two or more trans characters in the story that know each other and do they talk about anything other than medical transition procedures?
      • I acknowledge that most common media lacks decent trans representation.
  • Vito Russo Test: Fail
    • Is there a character on the LGBTQIAP+ spectrum spectrum who is a character beyond their orientation and do they actually affect the plot and are something beyond a punchline?
      • What does that stand for? Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual/Biromantic/Bigender, Transgender, Queer/Genderqueer, Intersex, Asexual/Aromantic/Agender, Pansexual/Panromantic

You can read more about the various Media Tests I employ in my reviews at GeekFeminism.wikia.org or by clicking the header on the individual test. Why include all these? Because I can, because representation matters, and because I’m neurotic.

Review format updated 29 February 2020

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