Literary Characters

The March Sisters: An In-Depth Look at the Girls of Little Women

The March Sisters: Little Women

I think it’s safe to say that Little Women by Louisa May Alcott has a massive following, so the March sisters are literary celebrities in their own right. Everyone has a favorite March sister and that favorite varies from person to person depending on personality and common features. Alcott crafted an incredible story of these four girls who eventually grow into strong, powerful women despite the restrictions on women during and after the Civil War in New England.

The March sisters are similar in some aspects, but they each have their own niches that they find throughout their individual stories. I love the uniqueness of each sister and how they interact with one another as well as their parents. So here I go into detail on my feelings on each March sister and which one I connect with most. 

Note: If you haven’t read the book and/or seen the movie, you might not want to continue. 

Margaret “Meg” March

Meg March is the oldest of the four March daughters, and quite the beauty. Of all the sisters, she tends to the home and family while her mother is away. This makes her the archetypal woman of their society; cooking and cleaning and taking care of the family. This was expected of women during the 19th century. Their roles as mothers and keepers of the home was pretty well cemented in society, and there weren’t many other expectations for women then.

Meg is old enough to remember times before their current poverty-stricken state, to the times when they were comfortable financially. She tends to appear a bit snobbish, focusing on what other people think about her rather than what she thinks about herself. She is kind and generous, but chooses to surround herself with people who don’t care about any of that.

Meg is the domestic woman of the sisters, the one that best represents the idea of ‘little women,’ the idea that she always tried to instill in her sisters. She ends up marrying for love rather than marriage, which is something that she didn’t expect from herself. I believe she is one of the least favorite of the March sisters because she becomes the wife and mother. But just because a woman becomes a wife and mother and embodies everything that women are stereotyped as doesn’t mean that she isn’t happy in her life. Being a wife and mother can be just as fulfilling as being a journalist or CEO.

Josephine “Jo” March

Jo is the second-born March girl. She is the narrator of Little Women and probably the most well-known character in the story. Jo is willful and strong, which is something she tries to subdue in her childhood. She knows she is different compared to her other sisters, which is prevalent in the ways that she would rather act like a boy than a girl. Creative and independent, she loves literature and writing and often composes plays for her and her sisters to act out.

In a time when women are required to be submissive and subdued, she rebels against this stereotype, choosing instead to stand out in a crowd. This is typical of many female protagonists nowadays, where women are expected to be strong and powerful, but during the time period of this novel, it wasn’t common.

Jo is modeled after Little Women‘s author, Louisa May Alcott, and her own life. I think, in a way, Jo is exaggerated so that she could be who Alcott wanted to be rather than who she was. Because of her individuality, Jo is the most iconic character of this novel.

Elizabeth “Beth” March

Poor Beth. She’s sweet, innocent and sensitive. The fact that she dies as a young girl just personifies her innocence even more, since she was unable to live a life as a young woman and adult. She plays a minor role in Little Women, but her presence is felt throughout the whole story.

She really represents the innocence of all the girls, and her death brings about the end of their innocence and entrance into adulthood. Seth makes them realize that life is short and that they should be  It’s very hard to dislike her character, since she is so good and beloved to her whole family. Her absence is strongly felt by all the characters when she leaves them, and it makes for a really emotional departure.

Amy March

Amy is most likely the least favorite of the March sisters, and for good reason. She’s sassy, spoiled and stubborn, and envisions a life of wealth and riches for herself. Aren’t the babies of the family always the most spoiled? Can we blame them wholly?

During most of the narrative, Amy is a very young girl, being only 12 when the story begins. I don’t know about you, but when I was 12, I was concerned with how people perceived me. Middle school was rough, as most of those kids are trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in life. Amy gets a bad rep for this, being the character that most readers love to hate. But she had a lot to offer the rest of the family.

With curly, golden hair and stunning blue eyes, she is doted upon the most by her family. She is an artist in her own right, drawing and painting the things around her. Eventually, as Beth gets sick, she is chosen to live with her wealthy aunt and uncle. They take her to Europe and offer her the things that her own family can’t.

 

Overall, I love how diverse these sisters are when compared to each other. They may have similar traits and features, but they couldn’t be more different. So, which one is my favorite? I’ll tell you:

My Favorite March Girl

By far, without a doubt, Amy was always my favorite. I’ve always wanted to be the youngest child, being doted on and cared for in a way that any other child wouldn’t be. She had sass and class, and she could be downright funny when she wanted. She was an artist, which is something I completely identify with, being an artist myself. I completely understand why she isn’t well-liked by most readers. I know I didn’t like myself when I was her age. Girls can be vicious and vain during their early teens, which is what Amy tended to be.

She wanted to go out to parties and entertainment like her sisters, but was too young to do those things. Amy always had to stay home due to her age. I think she was just a child beyond her years, wanting to make a name for herself in the world. She is a completely misunderstood character.

 

This being said, I couldn’t be more excited to read The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper. The idea that May Alcott, Louisa’s sister and the inspiration of Amy, had a lot more going for her is mesmerizing. Art back then was considered a man’s profession, and her path in that world is similar to Louisa’s as a writer. It takes a strong-willed woman to defy the ideal of what a woman should be, so May must have been a brilliant person in real life.

I hope to read The Other Alcott soon. I’m on hold for it at my local library. I might just have to buy it. That’s how excited I am to check it out. There will DEFINITELY be a review of it here, so keep checking back!

The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper

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2 thoughts on “The March Sisters: An In-Depth Look at the Girls of Little Women

  1. Interesting breakdown of the characters! I can’t say I was ever an Amy fan. It isn’t her brattiness, selfishness, or spoiled self. It is who she marries where I take umbrage. I have never been a fan of the ending of Little Women, and I will never understand why Alcott chose to give Amy a married life of comfort. Meg and Jo both get their comeuppances and learn life’s harsher lessons as they grow toward adulthood, but we never see Amy experience the same harsh realities. Plus she ends up getting exactly what she wants. That is where I struggle with Amy’s character. Still, it is a testament to Alcott’s writing that she can make her audience feel so strongly about her characters!

    1. I can’t disagree with you there. She does end up getting everything she wanted, but she did sacrifice a lot as well. She was sent away when Beth died and never really came back. She didn’t grow up completely with her family, and I think that’s something she really missed out on .

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