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Little Women (Puffin in Bloom)
by Louisa May Alcott

Published: 2014-08-28
Hardcover : 777 pages
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Louisa May Alcott's classic tale of four sisters in a deluxe hardcover edition, with beautiful cover illustrations by Anna Bond, the artist behind world-renowned stationery brand Rifle Paper Co.

Grown-up Meg, tomboyish Jo, timid Beth, and precocious Amy. The four March sisters couldn't be ...
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Introduction

Louisa May Alcott's classic tale of four sisters in a deluxe hardcover edition, with beautiful cover illustrations by Anna Bond, the artist behind world-renowned stationery brand Rifle Paper Co.

Grown-up Meg, tomboyish Jo, timid Beth, and precocious Amy. The four March sisters couldn't be more different. But with their father away at war, and their mother working to support the family, they have to rely on one another. Whether they're putting on a play, forming a secret society, or celebrating Christmas, there's one thing they can't help wondering: Will Father return home safely?

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Discussion Questions

1. In the opening chapter, Marmee convinces the girls to give their Christmas breakfast to a family that is in greater need than they are. Later in the book, she says to Jo, “I’m not ambitious for a splendid fortune, a fashionable position, or a great name for my girls. If rank and money come with love and virtue, also, I should accept them gratefully, and enjoy your good fortune; but I know, by experience, how much genuine happiness can be had in a plain little house, where the daily bread is earned, and some privations give sweetness to the few pleasures.” Think about Marmee’s values and compare them to others especially those in the social media spotlight today. 



2. Greta Gerwig, the director of the upcoming LITTLE WOMEN movie, was struck by the ambitions of the March sisters, who grow up using each other and their quiet country life as creative inspirations. “Every single one of them took what they did very seriously,” Gerwig says, pointing out that each sister has an art form. Jo writes, Meg acts, Amy paints, and Beth plays piano. Did the sisters’ creative aspirations resonate with you? 



3. Which sister(s) do you identify with? Or which one is your favorite and why? Is it Meg who loves fine clothes and wants to be a good wife and mother but admits being frustrated? Is it Jo who is independent, the original feminist who aspires to be a writer? Is it Beth, the sweet animal lover who is shy? Or is it Amy, the artist, who cares deeply how she looks and always seems to get what she wants? 


4.  In what ways are the girls pressured to act like "ladies"? Does this still apply to girls and young women today? 


5.  Can you relate to Meg's desire to have nice gloves to the wear to the dance, and/or to Jo's desire to be a boy so that she could go to war? 


6.“Meg, like so many people, just has an irrepressible desire to fit in with the fancy girls that she’s so different from,” Gerwig says. This is demonstrated when she attends the ball and borrows her Sallie Moffat’s gown. Can you relate to her wanting to be like others? 


7.  Is Sallie Moffat a good friend to Meg? 


8.  In what ways is Laurie also expected to act like a boy or a man? What are his grandfather's expectations for him, and how does he feel about them? 


9.  Similarly, Gerwig points out, “Jo is a girl with a boy’s name, Laurie is a boy with a girl’s name. In some ways they are each other’s twins.” Do you think Alcott’s choice of names for the two characters was intentional? 


10.  What are the characters' "castles in the air" and do you think they will be able to realize them or make them happen? 


11.  What are your "castles in the air"? In the end, how have the characters' achieved or modified what they hoped to do with their lives? 


12.  Meg says, “My John wouldn’t marry for money, any more than I would. We are willing to work, and we mean to wait. I’m not afraid of being poor, for I’ve been happy so far.” Yet Meg struggles with the decision of whether or not to buy the grey silk that they cannot afford. Does this make her a more realistic and relatable character?


13.  Discuss the following exchange among Marmee, Meg and Jo: 

“Money is a needful and precious thing, -- and, when well used, a noble thing, -- but I never want you to think it is the first or only prize to strive for. I’d rather see you poor men’s wives, if you were happy, beloved, contented, than queens on thrones, without self-respect and peace,” said Marmee. 

Meg then responds: “Poor girls don’t stand any chance, Belle says, unless they put themselves forward.”
“Then we’ll be old maids,” said Jo stoutly.
“Right, Jo; better be happy old maids than unhappy wives, or unmaidenly girls, running about to find husbands,” said Mrs. March. 


14. Alcott describes Beth in the following manner: “There are many Beths in the world, shy and quiet, sitting in corners till needed, and living for others so cheerfully, that no one sees the sacrifices till the little cricket on the hearth stops chirping, and the sweet, sunshiny presence vanishes, leaving silence and shadow behind.” Comment on this description – do you think there are many Beths in this world? Do you have a close friend or a family member who is like Beth? 


15. While Amy seems so intent on being an artist and gets her dream of going to Paris, in the end, she seems to abandon her aspirations once she marries Laurie. Were you deeply disappointed by her decision? Given women’s roles in society in the late 1800s, is Amy’s choice realistic? 


16.  Before Louisa May Alcott wrote the second part of Little Women, her publisher insisted that Jo must get married. Why do you think Alcott refused to have her marry Laurie? What do you think of her courtship with Professor Bhaer? Did that relationship make more sense for Jo’s personality? Would you have preferred that she not marry at all?


17.  “I always knew who Jo March was. She was the person I wanted to be,” says Greta Gerwig. In fact, many women writers credit the character Jo as inspiring them to become a writer. “It is hard to overstate what she meant to a small, plain girl called Jo, who had a hot temper and a burning ambition to be a writer,” said Joanna Rowling, a.k.a. J.K. Rowling. Did Jo have a similar effect on you or others that you know?


18.  Both Jo in Little Women and Louisa May Alcott in real life supported their families through their writing. “Jo enjoyed a taste of this satisfaction, and ceased to envy richer girls, taking great comfort in the knowledge that she could supply her own wants, and need ask no one for a penny.” How revolutionary was this concept in the 1860s?


19.  In the beginning of her marriage, Meg has an idealized vision of married life and motherhood, but she soon becomes overwhelmed after the twins are born. “She was nervous and worn out with watching and worry, and in that unreasonable frame of mind which the best of mothers occasionally experience when domestic cares oppress them, want of exercise robs them of cheerfulness, and too much devotion to that idol of American women, -- the teapot, -- makes them feel as if they were all nerve and no muscle.” Describe other moments in Little Women in which Alcott presents an unvarnished look at motherhood.


20. “One hundred fifty years after it was first published, Little Women remains not only a beloved book, but also a deeply relevant one,” states Anne Boyd Rioux, the author of Meg, Jo Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Matters. Do you agree or disagree? 

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by [email protected] (see profile) 05/29/19

A cute story with memorable characters. That’s really all I can say. I enjoyed reading Jo, Beth, Meg and Amy’s adventures.

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