In what ways does the idea/concept of gender roles serve as a conflict throughout Louisa's novel?
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The novel sets to challenge the stereotypical gender roles of the period. Marmee, the mother of Jo and Meg, tells them that do not need to have husbands. This speaks against the assumed role of the woman of the period: women are to get married and take care of their husband. Their independence speaks against what was expected of women's behavior at the time.
The March family follows the Transcendental philosophy which means they often defy social conventions. While the world around the family is set in a time of strict gender roles, this particular family often goes against the norm. This allows Joe to move out on her own and become a writer. It allows all the girls to dress differently and play outside. Their mother believes "that young women are no different than young men in their need for exertion. Feminine weakness and fainting spells are the direct result of our confining young women to the house bent over their needle work in restrictive corsets." The girls are educated and encouraged to pursue their own particular talents rather than simply look attractive and pursue a husband.
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