Little Women Essay Thesis

But Marmee insists that women’s work in the domestic space is a pilgrimage on par with Christian’s journey: “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.”This conviction that the work of the domestic realm merits and should sustain an intellectual religiosity of purpose, not merely an emotional religiosity of sentiment—that the home should be a place of sober character formation for all—is the central contention of is a disappointment because the March girls—now women—become wives.

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have long boiled down to this: Does the novel empower women, or does it oppress them?

When critics read the novel as empowering, they focus on Alcott as a proud rebel against the 19th-century cult of domesticity and the sentimental Christianity upon which it rested.

In Bunyan’s allegory, Christian embarks on the road to salvation without his wife, since she would be too much of a distraction in his endeavor to be “saved.” His only companions are male, and the challenges he has to conquer are various types of physical dangers.

In Alcott boldly adapts Bunyan’s rugged pilgrimage to the domestic space of the March women.

They see her as attempting to reform that world from within with a novel that rejected all the pre-emptive categorizations and premises that would have put it on a shelf alongside tracts like those referred to above.

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These are the critics who view as a female utopia, free from any male intrusion.

Jo begins to prepare for marriage when she takes to heart her eventual husband Friedrich’s criticism of her writing as “trash” motivated by money—secular sensation stories that were, for Jo as for the real-life Alcott on whom she is based, a source of both pleasure and shame.

Meg grows closer to her husband, John, when they overcome together her vain desire for the expensive dresses that their poverty precludes.

rejects that view, not in favor of its equally hollow opposite, but in favor of better marriage—unions based not on commodification, but on a foundation of collective self-mastery and shared spiritual growth.

Addressing Meg and Jo, Marmee says: “To be loved and chosen by a good man is the best and sweetest thing that can happen to a woman, and I sincerely hope my girls may know this beautiful experience.” When Meg responds that it is difficult not to put her time and energy into catching a man when “poor girls don’t stand a chance unless they put themselves forward,” Marmee replies: “Better to be happy old maids than unhappy wives, or unmaidenly girls, running about to find husbands.” What a wonderful seeming juxtaposition that isn’t a juxtaposition at all: Loving marriage to a good man does indeed offer the greatest happiness, but a woman can certainly be happy and whole without that, provided she stays true to herself.


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