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Lousia May Alcott; Little Women

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Historical Reference:

Little Women

Louisa May Alcott

Little Women is a semi-autobiographical novel written by Louisa May Alcott. Born November 29, 1832, Alcott grew up in the middle of the American Transcendentalist Movement. "The Transcendentalists stood at the heart of The American Renaissance -- the flowering of our nation's literature, poetry, painting, sculpture, architecture, and music..." (Hampson). Growing up in Concord, Massachusetts, she lived near a few of the great writers and transcendentalists of that era, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau. A man by the name of Thomas Niles, partner and manager of the Roberts Brothers publishing company, spoke to Alcott one day saying, "I think, Miss Alcott, that you should write a story for girls"(Alcott). She initially declined. Having been a tomboy, her friends were generally boys. How could she write a story for girls when the only girls she knew were those in her family? According to the forward of Little Women, Alcott submitted the first half of her manuscript to Niles within two and a half months. Both Alcott and Niles rather despised the manuscript, however, Niles' nieces loved it. Little Women is adored by young girls especially because the book portrays real life, that of Louisa May Alcott and her family. Of course she did tidy the story up enormously, making her father's character a hero rather than the emotionally difficult and abusive man that he was.

The March family in this story is very similar to the Alcott family. There was the absent father, eldest sister (Meg March/Anna Alcott), second to eldest sister (Jo March/Louisa Alcott), third in line (Beth March/Elizabeth Alcott), and finally the youngest (Amy March/Abigail(May) Alcott). Marmee March in Little Women portrays a generous, sympathetic, hard-working, devoted wife and mother which somewhat sugarcoats the character of Abigail (Abba) Alcott, although similarities can be found. Similar to the March family, Alcott grew up with three sisters, Anna, Elizabeth, and May. Alcott chose the character of Jo to depict herself, "blunt, full of energy; the tomboy, the hoyden, the one who may marry but never loses her position of power" (Yolen).

The story's setting takes place in the 1860s, an extremely turbulent decade with numerous cultural, social, a political upheavals. During a time of war, the March family had very little money, but made do with what they had. The Alcott family as well as the March family relied on what little money their mother and girls could earn doing various jobs. For instance, Louisa Alcott sold several of her short stories to help support her family as did her counterpart, Jo. The Alcott's could not rely on their father because he was a, "highly impractical man"



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