How is the Civil War present in the story Little Women, and why does it not play a major role in her novel?

Expert Answers info

Domenick Franecki eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write4,245 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

The Civil War is present in Alcott's Little Women, but it is a marginal part of the story. At the beginning of the novel, as Mr. March is away serving as a chaplain in the war, but he later returns and does not spend much time talking about the war. When he is away, Mrs. March and her daughters read his heartwarming letters from the front. Most of the action, however, occurs far from the war and concerns the domestic travails of the four March sisters.

There are many theories about why Louisa May Alcott relegated the war to a minor place in the novel. She herself had served as a nurse during the war and had suffered from typhoid, which was treated with mercury. Her treatment would cause years of ailments. Her book, however, was a paean to the sweet domestic novel of the time, and, hoping to sell enough copies to put herself and her family on secure financial footing, Louisa May Alcott did not make the war central to the action of the book. She was hoping to write a book that was endearingly domestic and in which the power of the home could overcome most obstacles (save Beth's illness and death). She therefore made the war occupy only a minor role in the novel—one that only emphasizes the comforts of home, far from the front.

Source:

Fetterley,...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 691 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write8,933 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

sensei918 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2010

write190 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Arts, and History

check Approved by eNotes Editorial