Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women"

Read Alcott's famous novel set during the Civil War in this two-volume version, which was published in 1868 and 1869. Alcott's Little Women depicts the lives of four sisters and their relationships to one another, to men, and to their family. It offers a good cross-section of the experiences – domestic and otherwise – of the new American woman. Think about these discussion questions as you read through this text:

  • Why do you think Little Women is divided into two halves? How do the tone and structure of the story change between the two? What is lost? What is gained?
  • Is the March family realistic?
  • Does Little Women reinforce or challenge gender stereotypes?
  • Despite the importance of Christian faith to the March family, why do you think Louisa May Alcott chose to make the religious references in the novel abstract instead of specific?
  • Is Little Women really a "children's book"? What aspects of it seem directed at or appropriate for child readers? Adult readers?
  • How does this novel address the question of women's place in society at the time?
  • Which relationships are the most important in the novel? Why?