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Little Women Questions
Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.
- Why do you think Little Women is divided into two halves? (If your edition doesn't show this, note that the first part, originally titled Little Women, goes from Chapters 1 to 23, and the second part, originally titled Good Wives, goes from Chapters 24 to 47.) How do the tone and structure of the story change between the two? What is lost? What is gained?
- Is the March family realistic? What aspects of their life seem too good to be true? What trials do they face that seem familiar to you?
- Louisa May Alcott wrote two sequels to Little Women, the first of which is titled Little Men. We're guessing that you haven't read Little Men (although if you have, props to you!), but how do you think it might be different from Little Women? How might this novel be different if it focused on masculinity instead of femininity?
- Does Little Women accept or challenge gender stereotypes? Explain your answer.
- Despite the importance of Christian faith to the March family, Little Women never mentions Jesus by name, and the Bible and Christ are only referenced by name once each. Why do you think Louisa May Alcott chose to make the religious references in the novel abstract instead of specific?
- Is Little Women really a "children's book"? What aspects of it seem directed at or appropriate for child readers? What aspects of it might appeal more to adult readers?
- Is Jo March still an appealing heroine for twenty-first-century readers? Do you think her problems relate to the experiences of girls today? If you are a female reader, describe your personal reading experience of the novel. Does it speak to you or not? Do you find aspects of it unrealistic or frustrating?
- Do you think gender is a barrier for male readers of Little Women? How can male readers engage with this novel more fully? If you are a male reader, describe your personal reading experience of the novel. Do you face challenges as you try to absorb yourself in the narrative? If so, what are they? If not, why not?
- Critics often note that female Jo March has a boyish name, while her male companion Laurie has a girlish name. Can you think of other examples of gender-swapping or the crossing of gender boundaries in the novel? What do you make of them?
- How important is the setting to this novel? Could the same story take place in nineteenth-century England, or is there something particularly American about it? Could the same story take place in a different century?