The girls in Little Women are raised to hold fast to their moral principles, listening to their own consciences before they pay attention to anything else. The principles in this novel are firmly based on Protestant Christianity, although the novel rarely makes explicit reference to the Bible or even to God. However, the novel makes an attempt to depict these principles as universal, so that disagreement with small details of doctrine doesn't get in the way of learning ethical lessons. Morality here is also connected with hard work, self-improvement, and the resourceful American spirit.
Questions About Principles
- How does the novel's strong focus on morality and ethics make it different from other novels you've read?
- To what extent are the moral principles described in the novel based on Protestant Christianity? To what extent are they general ethical principles that apply more broadly?
- Do Jo and her sisters seem unrealistically good?
- Choose one principle that is articulated in the novel by Marmee or Father. Can you relate this principle to your own life? How so?
Chew on This
Although the March family is strongly Christian, most of their principles are general and have broad appeal to readers of many different backgrounds.
Jo's struggle to behave ethically in all circumstances helps readers sympathize with her.