Most of the characters in Little Women are ambitious – either they want to get rich, or they want to be famous, or they just want to see the world and have a good time. As they mature, each must learn to subordinate ambition to duty, or to shift his or her ambitions in different directions. Instead of seeking fulfillment outside the home, characters must redirect their ambitions into the domestic sphere. Characters with artistic talent must learn to distinguish between wanting to do brilliant work and actually being geniuses, and sometimes ambition has to give way to love and realism.
Little Women suggests that there is a definite distinction between artists and audiences; no amount of ambition or hard work can make up for the lack of genius.
Although Amy decides to give up painting and Laurie to give up music because they feel they do not have "genius," Jo's decision to continue writing in the face of criticism and mixed reviews suggests that she gains something important but intangible, even when her art is imperfect.