Little Women and the Imaginative Power of Family Identity

While lists of literature’s favorite women vary widely, they nearly always mention one beloved heroine: Josephine March of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. “Jo” and her three sisters, Meg, Beth, and Amy, have charmed hearts and minds for nearly 150 years through numerous adaptations, and PBS is preparing yet another rendition with a 2018 television series.

What is it about Little Women that keeps us returning to it? While the individual trajectories of the sisters, and especially Jo’s, are enthralling in their own right, something more profound and weighty anchors the story and comforts its readers: the sisters’ shared childhood and distinct family identity.

Little Women opens on Christmas Eve, just hours before a day that will be marked by a scarcity of gifts and a quartet of daughters missing their father who is serving as a Union Army chaplain. The girls are dejected as the story begins, lamenting that a day they want to celebrate will be tainted by lack and loneliness. They attempt to bring about some brightness by planning small gifts for their beloved mother, Marmee, but remain sad and disappointed at the thought of Christmas.

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Author: Abby Perry

Abby has written for The Gospel Coalition, Christ and Pop Culture, Upwrite Magazine, and The Influence Network. She is the communications coordinator for a nonprofit organization and co-facilitates two community efforts—one promoting bridge-building racial reconciliation conversations and one supporting area foster and adoptive families. Abby graduated from Texas A&M University and currently attends Dallas Theological Seminary. She and her family live in College Station, Texas.