- Die for Our Ship: Poor Amy. To this day there are still people invested in demonising her (and apparently Professor Bhaer) for preventing Jo/Laurie. While conveniently letting *Laurie* off the hook, despite him pushing his feelings on Jo to the point of getting rejected twice.
- Fair for Its Day: The series was actually comparatively feminist by the standards of the time — especially "Jo's Boys", which is set in a co-ed college, struggles openly with the concepts of gender equality, and comes to some surprisingly modern conclusions. In particular, Annie aka Nan is portrayed as a capable and independent young woman who treats Tommy Bangs' insistence on their Childhood Marriage Promise with open amusement, choosing to pursue her medical studies instead and ending up a successful single doctor. All the while Daisy's own choice to marry her Childhood Friend Nat and become a Housewife is also seen as valid and worthy of respect.
- Josie puts it to Mr March directly:
"Grandpa, must women always obey men and say they are the wisest, just because they are the strongest?" she cried, looking fiercely at her cousin, who came stalking up with a provoking smile on the boyish face that was always very comical atop of that tall figure."Well, my dear, that is the old-fashioned belief, and it will take some time to change it. But I think the woman's hour has struck; and it looks to me as if the boys must do their best, for the girls are abreast now, and may reach the goal first," answered Mr March, surveying with paternal satisfaction the bright faces of the young women, who were among the best students in the college.
- Josie puts it to Mr March directly:
- Fan-Preferred Couple: Jo and Laurie. The original 19th century fandom also shipped them.
- First Installment Wins
- Fridge Horror: Mr. Laurence gives Beth his dead granddaughter's piano. So...Laurie had a sister or cousin?
- According to some versions of the book, Laurie had an older sister who died when both of them were little kids. It's not said how she died, but it may have been an illness since Laurie himself was kind of an Ill Boy as a child.
- Heartwarming Moment: The very end of the 1994 film:
Bhaer: But I have nothing to give you! My hands are empty!Jo: (taking his hand) Not empty now.
- "I know I shall be homesick for you, even in Heaven."
- Hilarious in Hindsight: An out-of-universe example in Alcott's journal about her publisher's request to write a book for girls (info in brackets added by troper):
Marmee, Anna (Meg's real-life counterpart), and May (Amy's real-life counterpart) all approve my plan. So I plod away, though I donít enjoy this sort of thing. Never liked girls or knew many, except my sisters, but our queer plays and experiences may prove interesting, though I doubt it.(Added later after the novel's publication and success) Good joke.
- Hollywood Homely: Most, if not all, of the movie adaptations cast very beautiful actresses to interpret the self-described "plain" Jo March, leading to the unintentionally hilarious moment when Jo has her hair cut off and a very shocked Amy cries: "Jo, your one beauty!". The Winona Ryder version even has her declare that she is "ugly and awkward". At least Katharine Hepburn in the most famous earlier adaptation isn't a classic beauty, and manages to make young Jo coltish and a bit clumsy.
- This could also be said of the latest incarnation of Professor Bhaer, aka Gabriel Byrne.
- It Was His Sled: Beth's fate.
- Misaimed Fandom: Alcott was upset to see her female readers focus less on Jo's struggle to be a writer and live her life the way she wanted to, and much more on whether she and Laurie would or not end up married. Hence why her Ship Sinking was so determined.
"Girls write to ask who the Little Women will marry, as if that were the only aim of a woman's life. I won't marry Jo to Laurie to please anyone."
- Moe: Beth.
- Narm Charm: Little Women plots a course through wildly extravagant and sentimental prose, Aesops (some of them rather questionable) in nearly every chapter... and comes out as a gripping romantic drama with a deserved place in the highest pantheon of American literature.
- Shipping Goggles: Jo puts on her Beth/Laurie shipping goggles in the chapter "Tender Troubles."
- Tastes Like Diabetes: Can come across as such to a modern reader unused to the straight-forwardly sentimental tone and earnest moralising very typical of children's literature of the time.
- Beth in the 1949 film version is so cloyingly cute that her scenes lose their poignancy.
- Unintentionally Sympathetic: Jo, when Amy burns her manuscript when the latter doesn't take her on an outing to the theatre. As per the moral imperative mentioned in Tastes Like Diabetes above, the intended focus of the chapter (actually called "Jo Meets Apollyon", ie. her ultimate failing) is clearly Jo's recognition of and resolve to control her violent temper. The modern reader is much more likely to home in on the fact that it was the only copy of the manuscript that Jo had spent years pouring her heart into. Adding to which Amy, however genuinely remorseful at first, quickly starts to get petulant when she isn't forgiven right away. And when Jo goes out skating with Laurie, leading Amy to whine about missing another outing, Meg doesn't help matters at all by blithely suggesting that the little girl tag along where she clearly isn't wanted.
- Values Dissonance: Unavoidable, given the books were written circa 1870.
- The initial relationship between Jo and Bhaer seems weirdly unromantic by modern standards, especially compared to what one might expect for young, spirited, independent Jo. The 1994 film goes out of its way to give them a more romantic love story.
- In Little Men Billy Ward's father is illustrated as having pushed his son's education far too hard by "keeping him at his books six hours a day". Nowadays seven hour school days are the absolute minimum (not counting homework). Internationally some school days go as long as sixteen hours.
- This shows up again more explicitly in one of Alcott's non-March novels, Jack and Jill. Near the end of which Jack's mother—portrayed throughout as a cultured and thoughtful woman—informs her sons she's going to cut back their study hours drastically for their own good. This is taken to the extent of deliberately delaying the older brother's entry into college. Hilariously to the modern reader, the boys protest loudly at this, to no avail.
- Right after John Brooke's death, Professor Bhaer tells his students he "died as he has lived, so cheerfully, so peacefully, that it seems a sin to mar the beauty of it with any violent or selfish grief." Getting upset about the unexpected death of a close friend and relative as "selfish" and "a sin" would be an extremely hard sell in a children's book today.
- The opening chapter of Jo's Boys unceremoniously informs us that physically disabled Dick and mentally disabled Billy are dead now. And "no one could mourn for them, since life would never be happy, afflicted as they were in mind and body". While the idea that death is preferable to disability is still around, it's far less acceptable, let alone charitable or sympathetic.
- Interestingly, the different film versions of Little Women all echo the values of the time in which they were made, to the point of contradicting each other:
When we view the 1933 version, we are reminded of a nation during the Depression that needed to see the March girls' benign poverty and nostalgic family togetherness. The 1949 version, with its two shopping trips, reinforces how important it is for a woman to be a consumer, and the 1994 version supports strong, unconventional, feminist women.
- The Woobie: Beth. Jo definitely has her moments as well.