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Definition: Little Women from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Novel for children by Louisa M Alcott published 1869, one of the most popular children's books ever written. It describes the daily life of a New England family in reduced circumstances, and the tensions and harmony between the four teenage daughters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy.

It was followed by a sequel, Good Wives, 1869.

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Little Women


Summary Article: Little Women
from The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English

A novel by Louisa May Alcott, originally published in two parts. The first part, Little Women: or, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, appeared in 1868; the second, under the title Good Wives, in 1869. In 1871 the two appeared as a single volume, Little Women and Good Wives. Subsequent editions have generally included both sections and have been entitled simply Little Women.

The March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, are the daughters of an army chaplain in the Civil War who live with their mother (Marmee) in a small town in New England. The story follows the girls' lives and their efforts to increase the family's small income. Jo, the independent and unconventional sister, wants to be a writer and is on the verge of success at the end of the first part. The second part relates the girls' emergence into womanhood. Meg and Amy marry; Beth falls ill and dies. Jo becomes a successful novelist and later marries a professor, Dr Bhaer. Together Jo and Dr Bhaer establish a school for boys, the subject of Alcott's later novels Little Men (1871) and Jo's Boys (1886).

The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English, © Cambridge University Press 2000

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