How we cite our quotes:
"A year seems very long to wait before I see them, but remind them that while we wait we may all work, so that these hard days need not be wasted. I know they will remember all I said to them, that they will be loving children to you, will do their duty faithfully, fight their bosom enemies bravely, and conquer themselves so beautifully that when I come back to them I may be fonder and prouder than ever of my little women." (1.75)
Mr. March's letter home describes the principles that will structure most of Alcott's novel: hard work, filial loyalty, and selflessness.
"We are never too old for this, my dear, because it is a play we are playing all the time in one way or another. Our burdens are here, our road is before us, and the longing for goodness and happiness is the guide that leads us through many troubles and mistakes to the peace which is a true Celestial City. Now, my little pilgrims, suppose you begin again, not in play, but in earnest, and see how far you can get before Father comes home." (1.85)
Mrs. March – and Louisa May Alcott – use the structure of John Bunyan's allegory The Pilgrim's Progress to describe the spiritual journeys of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. For the March family, pilgrimage isn't just an allegory; it's real life that is just a stand-in for their gradual journey toward God.
Then she remembered her mother's promise and, slipping her hand under her pillow, drew out a little crimson-covered book. She knew it very well, for it was that beautiful old story of the best life ever lived, and Jo felt that it was a true guidebook for any pilgrim going the long journey. (2.1)
The "little crimson-covered book" is the Bible, which is going to be Jo's refuge and solace in times of trouble. It's interesting that Alcott shows us scenes in which the members of the March family read the Bible and think about religion, but we rarely hear them talk about it, and the Bible is almost never quoted directly in the novel.