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YMMV / Little Women

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  • Alternate Character Interpretation:
    • Great Aunt March is a bitter old lady, and the girls have very little love for her. But after she dies, Marmee implies that she was really just very lonely - "her blessings became a burden because she had none to share them with" - and the girls acting as her companions could be because the old lady wants some company and attention since she had no living children.
    • Amy realizes it's wrong to marry for money, and instead marries someone she truly cares for. Since this someone also happens to have lots of money, this may be a Broken Aesop to some. To others, however, Amy really has a good Character Development because, after the wedding, she decides to use their wealth to benefit the poor and underprivileged and she's living a life of virtue rather than indolence. Also, Laurie is the most significant male character, and they've been close since childhood.
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    • Beth: Too Good for This Sinful Earth, or dull weakling who "needs" to die because the anti-feminist "angel in the house" archetype she embodies needs to die? (Helen Burns in Jane Eyre is a similarly Base-Breaking Character.)
  • Die for Our Ship:
  • 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. Nan in particular is portrayed as a capable and independent young woman who treats Tommy Bangs' insistence on their Childhood Marriage Promise with amusement, choosing to pursue her medical studies instead and becoming a successful single doctor. Daisy's own choice to marry her Childhood Friend Romance Nat and become a Housewife is also seen as valid and worthy of respect.
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    • 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.
  • Fanon: Some people believe Amy's name is short for "Amelia," due to her sisters being referred to by nicknames, but her name is just Amy. In real life, of course, the name "Amy" can either be a nickname for "Amelia" or a stand-alone name.
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  • Fan-Preferred Couple: Jo and Laurie. The original 19th century fandom also shipped them. Alcott put him with Amy partly out of annoyance at their focus on the romance.
  • First Installment Wins: The first book has been adapted many times - including five films. The sequels get less adaptations love.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff:
    • The book is extremely popular in Japan, and there are three anime and numerous manga adaptations; the most popular sister seems to be a tie between Meg and Beth. Japan also treats Amy much better than US readers do, where she is considered the least liked of the sisters, especially since she is the main focus and narrator of the 1987 anime adaptation.
    • The books are well-beloved in the UK, considering the first film adaptation (1917) and first two television adaptations (1950 and 1958) came from England (it didn't save them from being lost, however), as did two later BBC miniseries (1970 and 2017).
  • 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 don’t 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.
    • At the end of Little Women one of the students at the Bhaers' school is "a merry little quadroon, who could not be taken in elsewhere". By the time Ms Alcott wrote Little Men this character had been replaced with (mixed-race) Dan. Now imagine Dan with "the sweetest voice of all".
  • Hollywood Homely: All the movie adaptations have 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.
  • It Was His Sled: Beth dies, and you can thank Friends for giving it away. It's also widely known that Jo and Laurie don't end up together.
  • 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, as she's an Ill Girl but still very sweet. Margaret O'Brien proved to be such in the 1949 film, reducing her co-star June Allyson to tears during one emotional scene.
  • Narm: The "Jo, your one beauty!" line from Amy after the former cuts off her hair tends to come off like this on film, as it's missing the narrator's careful buildup re: Jo's appearance. Without it, the line reads as Amy being rather blunt about how bad her sister looks now.
  • 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.
  • Ron the Death Eater: Some people go overboard with bashing the Hummels for getting Beth sick - as if it was part of some evil plot.
  • The Scrappy: Amy is widely disliked among fans, and not just for Die for Our Ship. As a child, she's a bratty little thing, and burns Jo's manuscript just because she doesn't get taken to the theatre for a play she was going to see the next week anyway. And when she grows up, she becomes so annoyingly perfect that it feels like Character Shilling
  • Shipping Goggles: In-Universe. Jo is sure Beth and Laurie have developed feelings for each other, but they're just friends and he's actually in love with Jo.
  • 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 because Jo doesn't take her on an outing to the theatre. As per the moral imperative, the intended focus of the chapter (actually called "Jo Meets Apollyon") 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 Woobie: Beth. Jo definitely has her moments as well.


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