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Literature / Little Men

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The sequel to Little Women, Little Men, takes place at Plumfield, which the now married Jo and Fritz have turned into an orphanage/school for young boys, based not-so-subtly on Bronson Alcott's then-controversial educational theories.

We are introduced to Jo's sons, Rob and Ted; Laurie and Amy's daughter Bess, the Brooke twins Daisy and Demi (a clever way of avoiding Margaret and John Jr.), their baby sister Josie; and Professor Bhaer's orphaned nephews Franz and Emil. Also on hand are a mixed assortment of other Aesop-appropriate youngsters, the foremost being gentle ex-street violinist Nat; his best friend the wild and surly Dan; Daisy's tomboyish friend Annie, called "Nan" and the happy-go-lucky Tommy.

Following up Little Men ten years later is Jo's Boys, and How They Turned Out: A Sequel to "Little Men". Plumfield has grown into a mixed college (a rare phenomenon at the time) and we rejoin these beloved characters as young adults, plagued by an epidemic of romance and broken hearts amidst chasing dreams and choosing careers before the final curtain falls forever on the stage of the March family.


Little Men and Jo's Boys provide examples of:

  • Abandon Ship: The "Emil's Thanksgiving" chapter of Jo's Boys
  • Accidental Murder: While travelling, Dan runs into a young man named Blair and takes him under his wing in the rough town they stop at, knowing Blair is young and unused to the lifestyle. When Blair takes up gambling with unfair men who mean to swindle him and remove Dan from the picture, Dan gets into an argument with one of them - ending in Dan accidentally killing the man by knocking him down as he was about to shoot him. Dan is tried and put in jail.
  • Accidental Proposal: Tommy Bangs finds himself accidentally engaged to Dora in Jo's Boys, although he doesn't really mind afterward - much to the annoyance of the shippers.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: In the Fandom Nod chapter of Jo's Boys, Jo's Last Scrape, Ted Bhaer's response to the reporter who showed up at Plumfield's door uninvited:
    'If you could tell me Mrs Bhaer's age and birthplace, date of marriage, and number of children, I should be much obliged,' continued the unabashed visitor as he tripped over the door-mat.
    'She is about sixty, born in Nova Zembla, married just forty years ago today, and has eleven daughters. Anything else, sir?'
    And Ted's sober face was such a funny contrast to his ridiculous reply that the reporter owned himself routed, and retired laughing.
  • Ambiguously Brown: In Little Men, Dan is described with black eyes, black hair, and, at several points where his skin is mentioned, brown skin. It's unclear as to whether this is racial, tanned, or just dirty, but Jo theorizes in Jo's Boys that Dan has Indian blood in him. Everyone else in the book seems to be of European-descent (several are specifically blond Germans) except for a Black cooknote , but Dan just seems like the odd boy out.
    • Perhaps that is why at the end of Jo's Boys, it is revealed that Dan dies protecting the Indians? Perhaps he felt some connection to them and this was a subtle way of putting it across.
  • Animated Adaptation: Got one as a part of of World Masterpiece Theater series, called Little Women II: Jo's Boys. The name comes from Jo's Boys, but is based on Little Men. It also focuses more on the tomboyish Nan than any other character (possibly to appeal to Japanese audiences), and cuts out Dick Brown and Billy Ward.
  • Anti-Hero: Dan, though he tries to become better and be good.
  • The Atoner: Dan becomes this in jail, thanks to a simple moralistic story told by a middle-aged woman who visits the jail on Thanksgiving.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The chapter Jo's Last Scrape, in the final sequel. Jo, after twenty years, has finally seen her dream of becoming a famous author come true... only to have to deal with hordes of demanding, pushy fans and reporters.
  • Better as Friends: Tommy and Nan, though he was the one who always crushed on her - she never liked him more than a friend.
  • Betty and Veronica: Dora and Nan for Tom.
  • Bookworm: The adorably precocious Demi.
  • Brainy Brunette: Demi, with his excellent memory and love of learning. Dan with his street smarts and interest in nature. Nan, with her quick-wits and interest in medicine. The sequel introduces Alice Heath, one of Laurence College's brightest students who, like Nan, pursues a career.
  • Brick Joke: Jo's dinner party in Little Women becomes this for herself, Meg, and Laurie in Little Men when she shops for Daisy's toy kitchen and gives her cookery lessons.
  • Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: Averted with Dan and Bess (who never got together).
  • Byronic Hero: As a brooding 14 year old and 10 years later on as an adult Dan comes across as this.
  • Childhood Marriage Promise: Nan and Tommy in Little Men. Tommy is still trying to hold her to it 10 years later in Jo's Boys, but she will have nothing of it. Nat and Daisy are a successful version.
  • Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: The ending of Jo's Boys.
  • Continuity Nod: When Rob gets out of bed in the middle of the night, Jo refers to Demi doing the same thing at his age in one chapter of Little Women.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: In Little Men, Professor Bhaer punishes Nat for lying by ordering Nat to cane his, Professor Bhaer's, hand. Not wanting to hurt his teacher, Nat is more upset than if he himself had been caned.
  • Cool Old Lady: Jo, absolutely.
  • Credit Card Plot: Nat experiences the 19th century version of one in Jo's Boys. He goes to Germany for advanced musical training, and Laurie has given him a generous allowance (and the narrator notes that he was going to give Nat more but the women had to talk him down). Nat's personality makes him many friends, too bad they're rich and Nat feels like he has to spend as much to keep up. Then New Year's comes and all his bills arrive in a rush. He panics, but knows that the only honorable option is sell everything that he can, move back to his initial humble apartment, and take menial jobs to live on now that his bank account is empty.
  • Creepy Doll: In Little Men, Teddy throws a kid doll on a fire; since it's made of leather, he and the other children are horrified that it squirms as if it's in agony instead of burning immediately.
  • Darkest Hour: Dan's time in jail after committing murder. Later on in the book, the entire lot of Plumfield and all the boys get this when they get word of Emil's ship being lost at sea and believe him to be drowned. He lives and the family is made closer because of their pain.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Bess, of course, is short for Elizabeth. In the second half of Little Women, she is even identified as "little Beth" and doesn't become Bess until Little Men.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: And how! Dan in Jo's Boys, as well as Tommy Bangs both pointedly not getting the girl they originally wanted though Tommy happily ends up with Dora while Dan...Killed Off for Real.
  • Education Mama: In Little Men, one of the titular Little Men (Billy) has an already old education papa who drove his promising student son to mental handicapping and physical frailty and then dropped him off at boarding school in shame.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change/Traumatic Haircut: Of all people, Dan gets this while he's in prison for the murder of a man. His hair is cropped short and he falls into deep emotional despair.
  • Expy: Meg's youngest daughter, Josie. She's just like her namesake Aunt Jo, only with acting instead of writing. She is, in fact, called 'little Jo' in dialogue more often than 'Josy.'
    • Meanwhile, Meg's oldest daughter Daisy takes after her Aunt Beth as Mr March and Jo wistfully observes; being sweet-natured, domestic and a lover of music. Happily, she gets to experience the adult life her aunt never had, going on to fall in love and set up her own home.
    • Bess is more like her gentle namesake, being a frail, angelic girl. Daisy is more of the mini-Meg, being inclined to domestic hobbies and acts like a big sister to everyone. She even falls for a poor man just as her mother did.
  • Fate Worse than Death: What Dan thinks his jail-sentence is in his darkest moments of despair.
  • Fish out of Water: Nat, when he first comes to Plumfield.
  • Flat Character: There are an awful lot of characters who have virtues and vices in place of actual personalities, especially in Little Men.
  • Great Escape: This is what Dan plans to do along with the other prisoners to get out of jail, but he ends up realizing he must atone for his sin and carry out a fair sentence for murdering a man.
  • Guilty Until Someone Else Is Guilty: Nat is accused of theft. He's the only suspect and assumed guilty because for two reasons: he was the only one besides the victim who knew where the money was, and he has a history of lying to make himself look better, which he's trying to overcome). The other boys treat him like dirt until the true thief reveals himself.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Bess, though her personality comes off as nauseating and annoying to some readers.
  • Happily Married: Jo and Fritz constantly delight each other just by being themselves; it's said that Fritz labors under the delusion that Mrs. Jo is the most delightful woman alive. Meg and John until he dies. Laurie and Amy too. It can also be assumed that Franz and Emil and their wives end up in good marriages. Tommy and Dora along with Nat and Daisy most certainly become this, while Bess and Josie are said to have married good men and have good marriages at the end of Jo's Boys.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: There's a lot of referring to Jo's Boys as "gay."
  • Hidden Heart of Gold: Dan, very much though he starts off as a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
  • Hopeless Suitor: Tommy for Nan as well as Dan for Bess, though she becomes barely aware of it before her parents take her away.
  • Hot-Blooded: Dan plays with this: he starts off as this, then he learns to restrain his darker impulses. Unfortunately in Jo's Boys, Dan becomes a victim of his own impulse when he kills a man in self defense of himself and a younger boy and lands in jail for a year of hard labor and only just manages to get through it.
  • Hot Scientist: Nan in Jo's Boys, who attracts many suitors but is only in love with her studies in medicine.
  • Hypocrite: Meg refuses to let Daisy marry Nat due to his impoverished background and is horrified at Josie wanting to be an actress...Even though she herself married a poor man and was the one was taught her children acting from when they were tiny. To be fair she lampshades this and eventually relents on both counts.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Bess, which makes her come off as a Flat Character to many.
  • The Ingenue: Bess is pretty much the embodiment of this Especially to Dan. Daisy is a more realistic, developed version.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: A large pair in a "thin face" belonging to Nat. Also, Daisy - unlike her twin who has brown eyes. Bess too.
  • Irony: At the beginning Jo's Boys Meg wishes for Demi (considered something of a prodigy and golden child by the Marches) to become a minister and daydreams about his first sermon. The epilogue reveals that the troublesome, wild child Ted is the one to become an "eloquent and famous" clergyman.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: Jo eventually does in Jo's Boys.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: George (Stuffy) and Dolly are both attending Harvard in Jo's Boys. Averted for every other character who are attending, living, or teaching at, the fictional Laurence College where the story is set.
  • Jerkass: Jack is about the only boy with no redeeming traits; described as selfish, sly and money-hungry. Most notably, in Little Men he steals Tommy's money, doesn't care when everyone blames and alienates Nat for it, let's Dan falsely confess to it and only when Dan saves his life does he feel any remorse for his actions. By Jo's Boys, he and Ned are out of the picture and considered two of Plumfield's few "failures. Although, during Emil's accident, Jack does write with "unusual warmth", while "good-hearted Ned" comes down to shake hands with the school workers, and expresses how sad he is."
  • Karma Houdini: Blair, who gets away scot-free though he caused the mess, while Dan gets a year of hard labor for killing a man accidentally.
  • Kill 'Em All: Barely averted at the end of Jo's Boys.
    It is a strong temptation to the weary historian to close the present tale with an earthquake which should engulf Plumfield and its environs so deeply in the bowels of the earth that no youthful Schliemann could ever find a vestige of it.
  • Killed Off for Real: In Little Men, the well-loved John Brooke suffers this fate, leaving Meg a still-young widow with three children. And in Jo's Boys, the physically deformed, kind-hearted Dick Brown and the severely mentally challenged Billy Ward die, as the reader is alerted to in the very start of the book. Later on in the book in the epilogue, George "Stuffy" dies and then, much to the eternal anger, outrage and horror of fans, Dan dies alone and loveless years later defending the Indians, in what many consider a brutally unfair and tragic end to such a loved character. While not mentioned only in passing, both Mrs March and old Mr Laurence are dead by the time Jo's Boys begins.
  • Lethal Chef: Jo starts off like this in Little Women, but considering she's giving Daisy cookery lessons in Little Men, it is safe to say she's grown out of it.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Tommy and Nan become this, much to the horror of the shippers. Thanks, Lousia May Alcott!
  • Love Hurts: When they're all grown up in Jo's Boys, several of the cast...especially Nat and Dan and especially Dan.
  • Nature Lover: DAN - and it calms him down as well.
  • New England: Just like Little Women.
  • Nice Girl: The gentle and soft Daisy. Nan is the tomboy version of this and Bess the (supposedly perfect) symbol of this.
  • Nice Guy: Many of the children, but Demi, Nat and Tommy Bangs in particular. Later on, Dan.
    • In Jo's Boys, Stuffy and Dolly are said to be such despite their little faults. Gentle Nat is liked by everyone as is Dan, though the latter is very rough around the edges and aloof with people he doesn't know. Franz, Tommy, Emil and Demi are good guys too.
  • Official Couple: Jo's Boys gives us Tommy/Dora, Nat/Daisy, Demi/Alice, Franz/Ludmilla and Emil/Mary.
    • Josie and Bess both end up with unnamed, but good men as stated in the epilogue.
  • One-Steve Limit: Inverted. Almost every main character is related to someone else with the same name; but they all have different nicknames.
    • Elizabeth Laurence = Bess (initially "Little Beth")
    • John Laurence Brooke = Demi
    • Josephine Brooke = Josie
    • Margaret Brooke = Daisy
    • Robert Bhaer = Rob
    • Theodore Bhaer = Ted
  • One-Gender School: Plumfield was this prior to Daisy's enrolment. Fortunately, she is treated well there, but does sometimes get lonely being the only girl until Nan's arrival.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Like their elders before them, quite a few!
    • Nathaniel Blake = Nat
    • Daniel Kean = Dan
    • John Laurence Brooke = Demi (short for Demijohn, being a pun on a bottle used for brewing, and kept as an alliterative name with his twin)
    • Margaret Brooke = Daisy
    • Thomas Bangs = Tommy
    • Annie Harding = Nan
    • Robert Bhaer = Rob, Robby, Bob, Bobby, Robin
    • Theodore Bhaer = Teddy, Ted
    • George Cole = Stuffy
    • Adolphus Pettingill = Dolly
    • Elizabeth Laurence = Bess
    • Josephine Brooke = Josie
  • Opposites Attract: In several somewhat Odd Friendship examples: Dan and Nat, Nan and Daisy, and romantically Dan towards Bess.
  • Out of Focus: Franz in Jo's Boys. Among the Plumfield boys from Little Men who Jo still regards positively in their adulthood, he's the only one to not get a dedicated chapter.
  • Overprotective Mom: In Jo's Boys, Meg is the overprotective mother who doesn't believe Nat is good enough for her daughter Daisy. She relents later, though.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: Meg towards Nat, the ex-street musician and her precious Daisy for most of Jo's Boys. Later on, Jo subtly implies to Amy and Laurie that Dan is in love with Bess, their daughter.
  • Penny Among Diamonds: In Jo's Boys, Nat goes to Europe to continue his musical education. Due to his having wealthy and influential friends, everyone thinks that he's wealthy and influential as well... too bad he's actually an orphan who spent a number of years as a street musician, and thus has little idea of how to handle either the money or the attention. Cue the nineteenth century version of a Credit Card Plot.
  • Pet the Dog: Dan's soft side for baby Teddy and animals.
  • Plucky Girl: Nan, in sharp contrast to Daisy. Josie in the sequel.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: Sort of with Daisy and Demi: she's a little housewife in the making who loves to run a household and take care of everyone; he is the highly intelligent Bookworm who is always devouring books and knowledge. Yet, the twins are very close to each other and get along very well.
  • Pretty Boy: Physically the large-eyed, shy and slender Nat and internally as well - so much so that in the book Professor Bhaer jokingly calls him his "daughter" and finds him as "docile and affectionate as a girl." Jo on the other hand (though she pets and fusses over Nat and finds him amiable), considers him "weak" - then again her preference is for traditionally masculine boys like Dan.
    • There's also Dolly, who is is proud of his good taste in clothes and his black hair with a curl on the forehead in Jo's Boys.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Because Demi is clearly Alcott's favorite character, and because he adorably mispronounces words, it's considered cute and charming in Little Men when he bullies his sister and cousin into burning all their favorite toys in a "sackerryfice" to an imagined god, the "Naughty Kitty-mouse". (He freely admits that this was a compromise choice, because he had no "live creatures to sackerryfice".)
  • Puppy Love: Little Men gave us Tommy/Nan and Nat/Daisy - one of which makes it to the official stage; the other isn't so lucky.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Wild Dan is the red to gentle Nat's blue. Tomboy Nan is the red to girlie-girl Daisy's blue. Josie is...somewhere in between the latter two.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Dora in Jo's Boys, whom Tommy originally started dating foolishly to invoke to make Nan jealous, only to find that he actually enjoyed the way she treated him and "accidentally" proposed to her. She accepts.
  • School Play: A couple in Little Men, Several (mostly written by Jo and Laurie) in the chapter "Class Day" in Jo's Boys.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Several, including the boisterous, aspiring actress Josie and serene, housewife-in-training Daisy; impetuous Ted and thoughtful "Professor" Rob; adventurous sailor Emil and placid, domestic Franz.
  • Ship Sinking: Much to some shippers' disgust, Tommy and Nan. Later on, a painful -for Dan- version of this happens to Dan/Bess.
  • Ship Tease: You can't have a Louisa May Alcott book without some! Early on in Jo's Boys Dan/Nan gets a bit of teasing with Nan admiring Dan's impressive physique (biceps!) and outright stating that she finds Dan the best looking of all the boys - much to Tommy's dismay. Subtly implied and hinted at from the start is Dan/Bess - this goes well out of Ship Tease territory from Dan's point of view later on in the book. It ends badly.
    • To a certain demographic, this is what is really happening between Dan and Nat's encounters and their close relationship - especially given the way brooding Dan and gentle Nat are physically described. Oddly enough, Dan does not get any of this with Ted though it is repeatedly stated how fond the two of them are of each other - probably because their relationship is so brotherly.
    • Nat gets a bit of this himself with Minna, the German girl while studying in Germany - though Minna does truly fall in love with him, Nat does not have eyes for anyone but Daisy.
    • Some interpret any scene with Ted and Josie to be this though they do not end up together to the dismay of some fans who likened them to Laurie and Jo of 'Little Women''.
  • Shrinking Violet: A rare male example: at the start, the painfully shy, bashful and quiet Nat. He grows out of it somewhat, but always remains on the quiet, soft spoken side.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: Nat and Daisy by themselves are the tender-hearted cuties of the group - when they're together, they're just outrageously adorable.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Dan talks Nat and Tommy into smoking cigars and playing cards late one night in the dormitory. Naturally, they nearly burn down the school and serious consequences follow.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: If a brief clip in the WMT anime is to go by, then Dan ends the series living a relatively happy life out West.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Dan is this in the books to the other characters due to his swarthy Spaniard/Native-American good looks, strong, muscular physicality and impressive height. His very handsome features are mentioned frequently, especially in the early stages of Jo's Boys - not that Dan seems aware of how good looking he actually is. Dan attracts the eye of the ladies, eventually even beginning to charm Bess. It does not end well for their potential relationship and Dan in general who ends up dying alone and unloved (romantically).
    • Affectionate Daisy claims Nat is this Trope - but it is implied that it is because she is loyal and loves him. Not that Nat is unattractive - he's just more of a Pretty Boy with often mentioned big blue eyes and pleasing, if pale and slim features.
  • Team Dad: Franz to the younger kids during Little Men.
  • Team Mom: Meg to her sisters; later, Jo in Little Men.
  • Theme Twin Naming: Daisy and Demi, named after their parents Margaret (Meg) and John.
  • Those Two Guys: In Little Men, Dick and Dolly.
    • Jo's Boys has Stuffy and Dolly.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: In Little Men, Nan and Daisy; Jo's Boys has Josie and Bess.
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Twice: Tommy to Nan, though he gets over it and ends up happily with Dora. Dan is not so lucky in regards to Bess who has has known and seen grow up since childhood.
  • Unusual Euphemism: In Little Men, Dan tries to get Nat and Tommy to swear. Tommy's idea of a good round oath? "Thunder-turtles!"
    • In Little Men Emil's dog is named Christopher Columbus - courtesy of Jo, so she has an excuse to say her favorite swear just as she used to in Little Women.
  • Victorious Childhood Friend: A very cute, well suited example happens when Nat and Daisy, who have been good friends since Little Men, get married in Jo's Boys.
  • The Wicked Stage: In the last of the books, Jo's Boys, an actress discusses the purification of the stage with an aspiring actress.

Alternative Title(s): Jos Boys