Little Women Discussion #CBAM2017

poster-little-women-1933_04Hello, Classic B00k-a-Month Readers!

Today is the day for the grand “posting of the questions.” Spoilers below!

To be honest, I’ve borrowed and modified these from a number of sources because 1) I’m not finished with the book yet and 2) I honestly knew very little about the book or about Louisa May Alcott before this month (not my period of study!).

I thought these questions were interesting, though, and I’m looking forward to hearing what you all think. Please feel free to respond in the comments or post on your own blog (or use our Goodreads Group page!). Remember that we are using #CBAM2017 for social media discussion, too – Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. 



  1. Little Women is often categorized as a “children’s book”? Do you think this is really the case? What aspects of it seem directed at or appropriate for child readers? What aspects of it might appeal more to adult readers?

2. Why do you think Little Women is divided into two halves? (If your edition doesn’t show this, note that the first part, originally titled Little Women, goes from Chapters 1 to 23, and the second part, originally titled Good Wives, goes from Chapters 24 to 47.) Is anything lost or gained by splitting the book into two sections? 

3. Does the title and term “little women” say anything about the status of American women in the 1860s?

4. The last two chapters find Jo setting aside her budding literary career to run a school with her husband. Some critics have argued that the book, sometimes praised as feminist, is actually anti-feminist because its strongest female character gives up her own ambitions in the end. Why do you think Alcott made her strongest feminine figure sacrifice her own life plans for her husband’s? Do you think this is a feminist work? 

5. What purpose does Beth’s death serve? Was Alcott simply making a sentimental novel even more so, or was this a play on morality and philosophy?

4 Comments on “Little Women Discussion #CBAM2017

  1. I’ll answer these QUITE briefly because I spent too long writing my review, and now I have homework waiting. Pardon the fly by night remarks! 🙂

    1. I believe it was written for children (girls), yes, but it was read by her whole family, and loved, so it was probably really meant for whoever would read it. Women of the nineteenth century were often marketed as children’s writers against their will. Alcott, like other female writers, likely attempted to speak at an adult level through a medium aimed by her publisher at children. I’m completely writing this off the cuff, by the way, but I believe this was the case with Alcott.
    2. It was originally published as two separate books. Little Women originally ended with John Brooke’s proposal. Alcott had no idea whether the publisher would ask her to write another. She was an unknown banking on the book being popular enough they’d ask for more. That’s why the first book ends with a suggestion that the book’s reception would decide whether anything else happens for the characters.
    3. The phrase “Little Women” is an homage to Dickens: he coined the phrase “little woman” (if I recall, to describe Esther Summerson, but I’m not positive on that) to describe a woman who was not quite a little girl anymore, and not quite a woman. Dickens was Alcott’s favorite writer when she wrote Little Women.
    4. I answered this when I wrote on the book at Goodreads. Briefly, yes, it is feminist, and because she had to.
    5. The novel was inspired by Alcott’s own life — as well as her mother’s. Beth was inspired by Alcott’s sister Lizzie (ElizaBETH), who died as a young woman. Later books see the characters disappearing as the real inspirations died. Beth’s death may also symbolize that her choice to be a spinster means she is written out of a “proper” script for a woman (according to society — marriage) — an ironic snuffing out of her candle, perhaps. But my personal feeling is that this is simply what actually happened for Lizzie.


  2. Pingback: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott | The Book Stop

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