Meg March, the oldest of the March girls, a plump governess to unruly neighborhood children. She marries John Brooke.
Jo March, a tall, awkward, tomboyish girl who likes to write and to devise plays and entertainments for her sisters. In character and personality, she corresponds to the author. She resents Meg’s interest in John but later is happy to have him as a brother-in-law. She writes and sells stories and becomes a governess for Mrs. Kirke in New York. Proposed to by Laurie, she rejects him. She later marries Professor Bhaer, with whom she establishes a boys’ school at Plumfield, Aunt March’s old home.
Beth March, a gentle homebody helpful to Mrs. March in keeping house. She contracts scarlet fever, from which she never fully recovers. She dies during the spring after Jo’s return from New York.
Amy March, a curly-haired dreamer who aspires to be a famous artist. She is a companion of Aunt Carrol on a European trip. She marries Laurie.
Mrs. March (Marmee)
Mrs. March (Marmee), the kindly, understanding, lovable mother of the four March girls.
Mr. March, her husband, an army chaplain in the Civil War who becomes ill while away but who later returns well and happy.
Theodore Laurence (Laurie)
Theodore Laurence (Laurie), a young neighbor who joins the March family circle. He falls in love with Jo, but after his rejection by her he transfers his feelings to Amy, whom he marries.
Professor Bhaer, a tutor in love with Jo, whom he marries.
Mr. Laurence, the wealthy, indulgent grandfather of Laurie.
Aunt March, a wealthy, irascible relative who wills her home to Jo.
John Brooke, Laurie’s tutor, who falls in love with and marries Meg.
Aunt Carrol, a relative of the Marches.
Mrs. Kirke, a New York boardinghouse keeper.
Demi, Meg’s children.
Themes and Characters
Like John Bunyan's allegorical work Pilgrim's Progress, in which Christian faces many obstacles in his journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City, Alcott's novel chronicles the four March girls' efforts to overcome individual character flaws and thereby become "little women." Sixteen-year-old Meg, who cares too much about her appearance and too little about work, must learn to devote more time to her family and less time to dreaming of a life of glamour and luxury. Fifteen-year-old Jo's burden is her violent temper. An adventurous, rebellious, spirited girl who writes plays, poems, and short stories, she must reconcile herself to being a girl of poise, grace, and patience. Thirteenyear- old Beth, an excellent pianist, must overcome her shyness. Ten-year-old Amy, artistically talented but impractical, must overcome her thoughtlessness and learn to help others.
At the end of Part I, Father returns home on Christmas Day and evaluates his daughters' year-long struggles to emulate Christian in Pilgrim's Progress. He is pleased with what he sees. Meg is less vain. Jo is less boyish, more ladylike and quiet. Beth has recovered from scarlet fever and is gradually conquering her shyness. And Amy is less selfish, less concerned with her appearance.
Mr. March is away from home during the first half of the novel, and even after his return, he remains in the background of the narrative. His presence is felt rather than seen. In his absence, Marmee runs the March household and guides the girls when they are confused or troubled. She is selfless, devoted to her family, and always available when needed. Like Jo, she has a temper, but she keeps it under control.
Next door to the Marches live wealthy Mr. Laurence and his grandson Theodore, called "Laurie," both of whom contribute much excitement and adventure to the lives of the March girls. In his generosity, Mr. Laurence throws a Christmas party for the girls, gives Beth a piano, and offers Jo access to his vast library. His grandson is as wild and adventurous as Jo but is also studious and a lover of music. In Part II, Laurie...
(The entire section is 3,117 words.)