Little Women or, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy (commonly known as Little Women) is a novel by American author Louisa May Alcott (1832–1888). The book was written and set in the Alcott family home, Orchard House, in Concord, Massachusetts. It was published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869. The novel follows the lives of four sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March – and is loosely based on the author's childhood experiences with her three sisters. The first volume Little Women was an immediate commercial and critical success, prompting the composition of the book's second volume titled Good Wives, which was successful as well. The publication of the book as a single volume first occurred in 1880 and was titled Little Woman. Alcott followed Little Women with two sequels, also featuring the March sisters, Little Men (1871) and Jo's Boys (1886).
Louisa May Alcott's father Bronson Alcott approached publisher Thomas Niles about a book he wanted to publish. Their talk soon turned to Louisa. Niles, an admirer of her book Hospital Sketches, suggested she write a book about girls which would have widespread appeal. She was not at first interested and instead asked to have her short stories collected. He pressed her to do the girls' book first. In May 1868, she wrote in her journal: "Niles, partner of Robers, asked me to write a girl's book. I said I'd try."
She later recalled she did not think she could write a successful book for girls and did not enjoy writing one. "I plod away", she wrote in her diary, "although I don't enjoy this sort of thing." By June, she sent the first dozen chapters to Niles and both thought they were dull. Niles's niece Lillie Almy, however, reported that she enjoyed them. The completed manuscript was shown to several girls, who agreed it was "splendid". Alcott wrote, "they are the best critics, so I should be satisfied."
Josephine "Jo" March: The protagonist of the novel, Jo is an autobiographical depiction of Louisa May Alcott herself. A tomboy, Jo is the second daughter, aged fifteen at the beginning of the story. She is outspoken and has a passion for writing. Her nature often gets her into trouble, while her heart often pushes her into acts of kindness. She is very close to her younger sister, Beth, a quiet and compassionate character who offsets Jo's more outgoing nature. At the beginning of the book, Jo is unhappily employed as a companion by her Aunt March. When Beth comes down with scarlet fever, Amy replaces Jo as Aunt March's companion. Jo cuts off her long, chestnut brown hair—"her one beauty", as Amy once called it — and sells it to a wig shop to earn travel money for her mother to visit their father, a Civil War chaplain who is dangerously ill. Jo receives a marriage proposal from her childhood friend and neighbor Laurie, but she refuses him. Later, Jo moves to New York, where she meets Professor Friedrich "Fritz" Bhaer, whom she later marries. Regarding Jo's marriage, Alcott later wrote, "Jo should have remained a literary spinster, but so many enthusiastic young ladies wrote to me clamorously demanding that she should marry Laurie, or somebody, that I didn't dare refuse and out of perversity went and made a funny match for her".
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