With their father fighting in the American Civil War, four sisters live at home with their strong outspoken mother. Little Women, a novel published in 1868 by Louisa May Alcott, narrates the story of how four sisters grow up, find love, and their place in the world. As each of these individuals play a significant role in the novel, the audience gets a deep view into three of these characters. Josephine March, who is called Jo, learns how to be caring, which leads her to being selfless and puts others before herself.
Meg, the oldest, learns how to love, whether that is accepting what she has or appreciating the people that surround her. Most importantly, the mother, Mrs. March, who is known as Marmee, makes it her responsibility to show the right path for her children. She passes on her wisdom to her daughters as best as she can for their own success. Each family member possesses unique characteristics regardless of their blood connection.
The characters in the novel each have their own personality; Jo is altruistic, Meg captures everyone’s hearts with her loving personality, and Marmee is full of wisdom.
For starters, Josephine Jo March has many traits of her own, but throughout the novel, she repeatedly displays her sense of altruism. She feels a sense of requirement to help others and puts her own needs last. Jo, being one to sacrifice anything and everything for the people she admires, sells her hair which is one of the most valuable things she possesses.
After Jo cuts her hair off, she returns home with the money were her mother then greets her with, Your hair! Your beautiful hair! Oh Jo, how could you? Your one beauty. My dear girl, there was no need for this… (Alcott 41). This proves, that Jo considered her family’s financial stability more than the thought of how she will endure giving her hair away. Jo becomes selfless, only thinking about helping her familys tough times rather than her own vanity. Likewise, Jo feels the necessity to help others whenever she can. She feels bad for everyone and wants to be able to help, not expecting anything in return. A psychology professor at Stratford University suggests that often, people behave altruistically when they see others in desperate circumstances and feel empathy and desire to help. Altruism doesnt always come naturally. Since by definition, it requires people to disregard their own concerns to help others without any expectation of reward… (Taylor). When Jos younger sister Beth gets sick with Scarlett fever, Jo does not care or even think about possibly becoming ill while nursing Beth. Her only focus is to provide as much care for her sister, feeling bad and sad for her. Jo feels empathy towards friends and family whenever they are in a problem and she consistently strives to be the one providing that help however she possibly can. Moreover, this character gives up her ambitions, hopes, and the plans she has for others happiness and success. For instance, Beth points out that she had often said she wanted to do something splendid, no matter how hard, and how she had her wish, for what could be more beautiful than to devote her life to Father, and Mother trying to make home happy… what could be harder for a restless, ambitious girl than to give up her own hopes, plans and desires and cheerfully live for others? (Alcott 191). Jo grows to possess many dreams and hopes, in which she had ambition to complete. For instance, when she plans to have a full tour for the launch of her book, she immediately declined it to be with her parents, so that they do not feel alone. As time went on, she gives up on those dreams for her parents. She wants them to be happy, so she lets go of any ambitions that will keep her away from making them contented. For these reasons, Jo has one of the kindest hearts and due to her kindness, she is an altruistic character. She puts everyone’s needs before her own and that makes her arguably the most selfless character in the novel.
Meanwhile, Meg, the oldest sister, developed throughout the novel to become more loving. She grows from being greedy and wanting to satisfy her materialistic needs, to learning how to love and accept everything around her. Meg finds out over-time that no love is more rewarding than the genuine one from the people closest to her. Meg learns throughout the novel, that family and friends are more important than money. Meg states to herself, Neither silk, lace, nor orange flowers would she have. I dont want a fashionable wedding, but only those about me whom I love, and to them I wish to look and be my familiar self (Alcott 337). At first, Meg wanted her wedding to display an array of pricey decorations. She soon realizes, after her sister gets sick, that she would want the people she loves around to support her rather than the materialistic items. She understands that her expensive items will remain with her, but she will not always have her friends and family. Similarly, Meg learns how to love people for who they are and accepts everyone. She falls in love with a man who does not have much to offer to her, which taught her that loving a person is more important than how much they can monetarily offer. Beth states, Meg learned how to love her husband for his poverty… (Alcott 410). It is clear that, Meg finds joy in the idea of spending money, which gives her the feeling of aristocracy. As she grows up, she learns that not everything revolves around these objects. She marries a man who is not rich, and she adores his personality, accepting him for who he is and what his capabilities are. In addition, she gives up her most valued belongings for others. She learns how to convey her love and acceptance of people. Records state, Love nurtures and has a positive effect on each persons self-esteem and sense of well-being” (Firestone). This is proven when Meg hands over her most valuable dress to Jo prior to heading to the Ball Gown party. Jos dress rips, and although Meg could have easily gone alone and not given her dress, she shows her loving side handing it to her. Therefore, with all the ups and downs of love, Meg learns to be a loving person to the people around her and to herself. She learns how to be patient and full of affection.
Lastly, Marmee is an experienced mother who uses her wisdom to not only benefit the people around her, but herself as well. Starting off, she allows her children to act on their choices, but guides them to making the right decisions. She tries to keep helping them in making the right decisions. She continues to attempt to aid them in making the right judgment throughout the novel and remains by their side throughout their lives. During the first chapter, Meg informs her sisters You know the reason Mother proposed not having any presents this Christmas, was it because it is going to be a hard winter for everyone; and she thinks we ought not to spend money for pleasure, when our men are suffering so in the army… (Alcott 4). Marmee could have easily told the girls not to buy any gifts, but by using her wisdom, she subtly hints to her daughters that they should spend their money on helping the poor rather than for their own pleasure. She guides them into making wise decisions and to help the ones who need it most. Differently, while assisting the girls through their lives using her own experiences, she uses her own wisdom to learn, improve, and keep moving forward in her own life to benefit herself as well. Marmee comforts her daughters by saying, Dont cry so bitterly, but remember this day and resolve with all your soul that you never know another like it, for I go through the same, but keep moving forward (Alcott 35). She uses her own experiences and the wisdom she gains over the years to educate herself also as the days go by. Particularly, when she talks to Jo about her inability to control her temper comparing it to how she has grown with controlling her temper. She talks about how she has been curing it for forty years. She uses her own perception to make herself a better person. Furthermore, Marmee gives her children a boost of encouragement when she sees they need it most. She helps attend her daughters by encouraging them through their struggles as a wise way of teaching them a way to lead their lives. Psychology Today Canada informs, …an integration of knowledge, experience, and deep understanding that incorporates tolerance for the uncertainties of life as well as its ups and downs (Stroller). Marmee uses her experience of insight and knowledge to keep her daughters in understanding of life. Wisdom helps teach the ups and downs, and she encourages them in a way, teaching them how to live their lives. As a result, when Meg becomes a mother to twins Marmee encourages her telling her she is doing better than herself [Marmee] when she only had one child. She encourages her to keep trying with the kids because it is her only way of learning. Marmee has proven time over time how she is full of wisdom and how well she can balance it between herself and being able to coach and encourage her daughters from her own experiences, and knowledge. She uses her wisdom in order to benefit everyone around her and to teach them how to be prudent.
All in all, this novel covers many different characteristics for the characters. The most important point proven is that not every person from the same family has the exact same personality just like no one in this world has the same traits as others. Everyone has different traits that define them in their own special way. We see this in Little Women as, Jo is an altruistic character who gives up her dreams, and desires just for everyone elses happiness and success. Whereas, Meg, the oldest, shows the personality of loving, to others and herself. Finally, Marmee and spending her wisdom. She guides her children using her wisdom and tries to increase her own knowledge and perception at the same time. All three characters are shown to have different traits that represent each in their own way. These characters have proven how they each have their own trait that shapes their personality to be unlike others. Once again, proving how coming from the same family does not mean they will all have the exact same characteristic, making each person unique.