The four March sisters come of age against the backdrop of a nation forever changed by the Civil War. While their father serves in the conflict, the sisters—dutiful Meg, fiery Jo, gentle Beth, and fanciful Amy—are guided on a journey of growth and experience by their spirited mother.
The story follows the girls through about 15 years of their lives. Each girl has an imaginary "castle" for which she hopes, but each ends with a very different "future" than she would have imagined for herself. Meg, the one who most dearly misses the wealth of the old days before her father had lost his fortune, marries Mr. Brooke, the tutor of Laurie Laurence.
Jo has a talent for writing that she develops in spurts, writing first innocent romances for a local paper, a novel that receives mixed reviews and finally "sensation" stories for a tabloid in NY. Beth, the third child, is the only one without ambitions, whose only desire is to live at home with her parents and practice her music.
Amy is the youngest and the one who intends to marry for money. She wants to move about in high society and have wealthy friends, expensive jewels and rich clothes. However, when she actually gets the opportunity to fulfil her dreams, she turns it away, turning instead to Laurie, their childhood friend.
In the end all of the girls learn that no amount of wealth can bring more happiness than that of a close and loving family.
Book in Detail
Characters To Personalise
Josephine March - The protagonist of the novel, and the second eldest of the four March sisters, Jo is independent, tempestuous, vivacious, clever, and self-confident. She struggles throughout the story to learn to control her temper and her tendency to hold a grudge. She is sixteen when the story opens, and she has no desire to get married, preferring the happy and satisfying life she enjoys with her family. In fact, when Meg prepares for marriage, Jo is very upset at the prospect of the family breaking up.
Jo has a special relationship with Beth, the next youngest sister. While all of the girls look to Marmee for guidance and advice, Jo watches over Beth and provides additional sisterly support. Jo's relationship with Beth reveals a soft, maternal side of Jo that is rarely seen.
Besides reading, Jo loves to write plays and short stories. Writing brings her success and allows her to earn money doing something she loves.
Jo's best friend is the wealthy young man next door, Laurie. After graduating from college, Laurie proposes to Jo, but she rejects his proposal, despite knowing that their friendship will be forever changed. Eventually, Jo marries Professor Bhaer, an older man who is poor, educated, and supportive of her career. Together, they start a school for boys at Plumfield and later have two boys of their own.
Meg March - The oldest March sister. Responsible and kind, Meg mothers her younger sisters. She has a small weakness for luxury and leisure, but the greater part of her is gentle, loving, and morally vigorous.
Meg is the eldest of the four girls. Seventeen as the book opens, she is drawn to domestic affairs and feels rewarded when she is able to please those around her. Being old enough to remember times before her family lost its money, she longs for many of the luxuries she can no longer enjoy. She works as a governess for the Kings, who have two children.
Meg is regarded as beautiful and, as a result, she struggles with her own vanity. She adores wearing fine dresses and having nice things, but such items remain out of reach. When Laurie's tutor, Mr. Brooke, proposes to her, she accepts despite the fact that he is a poor clerk. She sees that he is a good and honest man, and overcomes her disappointment that they are not a well-to-do couple.
Beth March - Beth is the second youngest of the March girls. She is fourteen as the story opens, and she is painfully shy and withdrawn. Although she loves her family and is comfortable with them, she is fearful of strangers and relies on Jo to watch over her. Too shy to attend public school, she studies at home. Beth never makes plans for the future and never talks about having any dreams; she seems perfectly content with her life as it is and expects it to stay the same.
Beth's disposition is sweet, selfless, and warm. She never asks for anything for herself and seeks only to make those around her happy. Her talent is for music, and she makes do on an old worn-out keyboard until Mr. Laurence allows her to play the beautiful piano at his house.
While caring for a poor family, Beth contracts scarlet fever and becomes extremely ill. Her fever breaks before it claims her life, but her health is permanently compromised by the ordeal. Years later, her health finally gives out, and Beth dies as a young woman.
Amy March - Amy is the youngest of the March girls and is twelve at the beginning of the novel. She is spoiled and throws tantrums, and her family strives to correct her behaviour before she gets older. Like Meg, Amy loves luxuries and takes an interest in her appearance that is unusual for someone so young. She is also concerned with behaving properly and being popular among her peers. Her pride is her beautiful hair, which falls into golden ringlets. Amy is an artist who adores visual beauty and has a weakness for pretty possessions.
Amy's marriage is comfortable because she marries a man she cares for who happens to be wealthy. Unlike the other sisters, Amy never has to worry about work and has all the fine things she always desired.
Marmee March - The March girls’ mother. Marmee is the moral role model for her girls. She is a strong, confident, reliable woman who provides moral instruction, guidance, and support for her daughters at every stage of their lives. While her husband is away at war, Marmee must care for the house and the four girls on her own. She never appears to struggle, however. She makes certain demands on the girls so that they will learn valuable lessons about life.
Laurie Laurence - The rich boy who lives next door to the Marches. Laurie, whose real name is Theodore Laurence, becomes like a son and brother to the Marches. Although Laurie is wealthy, the economic difference between himself and the Marches does not factor into their relationships. Laurie is instructed at home by a tutor, Mr. Brooke, and later attends college. Laurie is a handsome, friendly, intelligent, witty, and dashing young man who delights in the capers of his neighbours. After graduating from college, Laurie proposes to Jo, who rejects him. Devastated, he accompanies his grandfather to Europe, where he and Amy fall in love and marry.
John Brooke - Mr. Brooke is Laurie's tutor. As he gets to know Meg, he falls in love with her. In accordance with her parents' request, he waits to marry Meg until she turns twenty. This period gives him an opportunity to establish himself and buy a house. Although Mr. Laurence offers to help Mr. Brooke, the young man refuses, preferring to make his own way without incurring any debt. Mr. Brooke takes a job as a clerk and earns a modest living for himself and his new bride.