The Duality Of Women In Little Women By Louisa May Alcott

Decent Essays
For the past century and a half, much of the world has incorrectly come to the conclusion that Louisa May Alcott intended her novel, Little Women, to serve as a conservative icon that endorses the proper life for women to aspire to, the life of a subservient wife and mother. However, Alcott did not intended her novel to be a propagandist piece supporting the cult of domesticity, the philosophy that women in the 1800s should stay at home and not work outside of the domestic sphere. In contrast, Little Women is a novel meant to convey the message that women should seek independence and cast off their restrictive societal bonds to the domestic sphere.
The origin of this ignorant vision of Alcott’s work is likely rooted in the character Marmee,
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Marmee’s character is intended to be a superficial display of society’s perception of the ideal woman during the time, but at times shows that this is a façade of sorts. In the novel Marmee admits to Jo, “I am angry nearly every day of my life.” Despite Marmee’s anger going unexamined in the novel beyond the acknowledgment that she has a “temper”, the reader is intended to infer that Marmee’s temper stems from frustration with her limitations as a woman in the 19th century. As a woman however, she is forced to control her temper. Marmee later goes on to explain how her own mother had helped her to stifle her temper. This symbolizes a legacy of the societal oppression of women. While Marmee, is outwardly the epitome of a 19th century woman, there are minor details concealed within the novel that indicate otherwise. While for the majority of the novel Marmee’s character is intended to be interpreted the ideal woman, her hidden flaws demonstrate the impracticality of this notion. It is Marmee’s superficial depiction as a character that is meant to be a foil to the other females characters in the novel, however her nuanced flaws that she keeps concealed make her a round character with depth and in some ways liken her to the other females within the …show more content…
As a mother, she does not encourage her daughters to marry for money, despite the fact that her family is poor. She teaches her children that faith, hard work, and unwavering principles are the most important parts of life. She believes that even the poorest members of a society, like the Hummels, an immigrant family, are integral. Marmee goes beyond passing on her moral principles to her daughters, she ensures that her daughters are educated an can make informed decisions on their own, instead of allowing them to be married off to men who will make decisions for them. In several ways Marmee’s character was progressive, and should not be interpreted as a conservative woman adhering to 19th century

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