The major characters are sisters Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth and neighbor Theodore "Laurie" Laurence. The sisters meet Laurie at a Christmas party to which their neighbor and his grandfather, Mr. Laurence, has invited them. Laurie romances both Jo and Amy. Jo rejects his marriage offer but Amy accepts him after he rushes to her aid following the news of Beth's death while both Amy and Laurie are independently traveling in Europe.
Each of the sisters is different in temperament and personality though all are similar in that each is talented and intelligent. Beth, the quiet withdrawn one, is the only one who has no grand aspirations and dreams. On the contrary, Beth is so shy that she prefers to study at home rather than go to school. Jo is the opposite of Beth and has a hot temper that can flare up and sometimes cause trouble like when she was enraged with Beth for burning her novel and let Beth venture out without guidance onto the ice where she fell through into the cold water. Jo also has an unsympathetic streak evident in the way she twice rejected Laurie's hints at and then proposal of marriage.
Amy and Meg are less well differentiated than Jo and Beth. Amy is the artist the youngest and Meg is the oldest and first to marry. Amy and Meg both love the finer things in life and succumb to vanity and ambition. While Amy is still throwing temper tantrums, Meg mends her ways enough to accept the marriage proposal of Mr. Brooke, who is a poor tutor for Laurie. Amy settles down in life when she goes to be the companion of Aunt March who provides her with art lessons and sends her to Europe to study art. Her volatile personality and vanity are subdued when she finds, first, a sense of accomplishment in art and, then, the love of Laurie.