Little Women
Little Women
by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women Plot Analysis

Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.

Initial Situation

Jo March and her sisters work hard to keep their family together despite poverty, war, illness, and everyday troubles.

At the beginning of the novel, Jo and her sisters are almost literally waiting for things to happen. They go through their everyday routines, working, keeping house, and trying to be good people. Each girl also cherishes certain ambitions – Jo wants to do something amazing, but she's not sure what. We don't know exactly how this will work out, but we're sure that it's going to be exciting!

Conflict

Jo's friend and neighbor Theodore Laurence falls in love with her, but she does not return his feelings.

This disconnection between Jo's platonic friendship for Laurie and his romantic interest in her has been building almost since they met. Jo sees Laurie as a pal, someone to hang around with who won't force her to be proper and ladylike. But Laurie sees Jo, despite all her peculiarities, as the kind of wife he'd like to have by his side.

Complication

Jo's sister Beth is dying.

It seems heartless to think of Beth's death as a "complication" rather than the center of the plot, but that's really what it is. After all, Beth is sickly from the beginning, and, as she herself points out, she never really has dreams or plans for the future. It's as though she knows that she's not meant to live long. Dealing with the loss of Beth helps turn Jo from a happy-go-lucky girl into a sweet and serious woman, but it's still not the most important development in her life – or in the plot of the book!

Climax

Laurie goes to Europe to try to forget Jo. Meanwhile, back at home, Beth dies.

OK, so this isn't your typical climax where the hero battles the monster with a sword. Still, everything seems to be changing – Laurie leaves, Beth dies, Amy is away, and nothing is ever going to be the same.

Suspense

Jo's future is uncertain; it seems like she remain an old maid, living at home and caring for her parents.

For a while Jo exists in a strange limbo; she stops writing for money and becomes more introspective, writing truthfully from the heart. Instead of living in New York and moving in fast-paced intellectual circles, she stays at home, taking care of her parents in the wake of Beth's death. It seems like she might just stay there forever, a spinster in a small town with a rich inner life. After all, that's pretty much what Louisa May Alcott did as an adult.

Denouement

Jo discovers her feelings for Mr. Bhaer.

Luckily, Jo figures out what you may have guessed already – she's in love with Mr. Bhaer, and she does want to get married! After a series of comical misunderstandings and miscommunications, they finally get engaged.

Conclusion

Jo marries Mr. Bhaer, inherits a mansion from her Aunt March, and opens a boarding school for boys.

A marriage, an inheritance, moving out of your parent's house, and starting your own business? Yes, this is definitely the conclusion.

Next Page: Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis: Rags to Riches
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