by Louisa May Alcott
Little Women Theme of Sacrifice
In Little Women, the ability to make sacrifices, both great and small, is an essential part of ethical behavior. Everyone must be able to show a certain degree of selflessness – doing without material comforts, letting go of pride, or giving up personal desires for the good of the family or community. Sacrifices might also be more extreme or serious; sisters must sacrifice their claim on their sisters, daughters must sacrifice their claim on their fathers, and lovers must sacrifice their claim on their beloveds when the situation requires. It's not surprising that sacrifice plays such an important role in a novel that, underneath it all, is structured around Christianity – a religion that centers around one great sacrifice.
Questions About Sacrifice
- Little Women begins with a small but significant sacrifice – the March girls' gift of their Christmas breakfast to the Hummels. How does this act clarify the social, financial, and moral position of the March family for the reader?
- Name one major sacrifice that each of the March girls makes over the course of the novel. What moral lesson does each sister learn from her sacrifice?
- Does it ever seem like Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy are too self-sacrificing? What moments stand out in this respect?
- Recall the scene where Jo reveals to her family that she has sold her hair to help pay for Marmee's trip to Washington. What does this sacrifice reveal about Jo? Is it really necessary?
Chew on This
Each of the sisters in Little Women must learn to sacrifice some aspect of herself, such as pride or ambition, in order to contribute more to the family as a whole.
The March family is defined by the few things they will not sacrifice: their family bond and ethical principles.