How we cite our quotes:
Nobody spoke for a minute; then Meg said in an altered tone, "You know the reason Mother proposed not having any presents this Christmas was because it is going to be a hard winter for everyone; and she thinks we ought not to spend money for pleasure, when our men are suffering so in the army. We can't do much, but we can make our little sacrifices, and ought to do it gladly. But I am afraid I don't." And Meg shook her head, as she thought regretfully of all the pretty things she wanted. (1.6)
Sacrifices in this novel can be very small things – choosing not to buy little luxuries, for example, like Christmas presents. The March girls have learned how to sacrifice, but not how to do it cheerfully.
"Not far away from here lies a poor woman with a little newborn baby. Six children are huddled into one bed to keep from freezing, for they have no fire. There is nothing to eat over there, and the oldest boy came to tell me they were suffering hunger and cold. My girls, will you give them your breakfast as a Christmas present?" (2.23)
At first the March family seems poor, but when they're contrasted with the Hummels, who don't even have wood for a fire in the middle of winter, we realize that they're actually pretty well off. The existence of poor families like the Hummels gives the Marches a way to practice charity at home, sacrificing some of their comfort to preserve the lives of the unhappy children who live nearby.
There are many Beths in the world, shy and quiet, sitting in corners till needed, and living for others so cheerfully that no one sees the sacrifices till the little cricket on the hearth stops chirping, and the sweet, sunshiny presence vanishes, leaving silence and shadow behind. (4.32)
Beth's manner of sacrificing is subtle – so subtle that Alcott doesn't even describe it in specific terms. We can imagine Beth going to extra lengths to do little kindnesses for her sisters, giving up things that she wants in order to give them to others, and generally not taking much time for herself. Is Beth over-sacrificing? Does her neglect of herself lead to anything negative?