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MonkeyNotes-Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
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Beth

Beth is almost a minor character, except that she is so important to her own family and to the Laurences. Her family’s adoration of her contributes to her development more than anything she does on her own. Also, for a short time she fills a gap in the life of Mr. Laurence who lost a granddaughter much like her. She is quiet, devoted to her parents, committed to household chores and performing kindnesses to others, and is incredibly shy, a flaw that Laurie and Mr. Laurence help her to overcome. Her primary purpose is to bring out the best in other characters. Thus she finds the gentleness in Mr. Laurence and has a calming influence on her sisters, especially Jo.

Amy: Amy begins the story as a self-centered child who thinks primarily of the benefit to herself even when she does something good for other people. She is a little rebellious and doesn’t take her education too seriously-hence her problems with grammar and spelling-but she is very bright and shows an ability to do whatever she sets her mind to. As she matures, she learns to think of other people first, something her father notices immediately when he returns from the hospital in Washington. Her self-centeredness transforms into an innate knowledge of a behavior that will impress the right people and acquire the things she desires without much effort on her part. In spite of their financial situation, Amy learns early to conduct herself with class. She never has the tomboy wildness of Jo, but neither is she a snob. She wants friends among the wealthy, so she emulates the expected behaviors but does it in a way that gains many friends. She does learn the hardway that friendship with the wealthy is sometimes a one way street, and the girls that seem to be her pals in the art school ignore her invitation to pursue a longer lasting friendship outside of school.


Amy

Like Meg, she wants the comforts and the lifestyle that money can buy. She could have the lifestyle of the elite by marrying Fred Vaughn, and at one point she intends to do that. The irony is that in turning Fred away and marrying for love, she ends up with just as much money and the opportunity to enjoy spending it with a man who loves her.

Meg

As the oldest of the girls, Meg is mature and mother-like from the beginning of the story. Their poverty state is difficult for her to endure because she is old enough to remember when they had all the money they needed and were able to enjoy some of the luxuries of the monied classes. She complains wistfully on occasion, but never within her mother’s hearing. While she is nearly always ladylike and dependable, she is capable of forgetting responsibilities as she does when her mother goes to Washington and Beth becomes sick. She is also a bit too critical of herself; although she indulges in a little wild partying during her stay at the Moffats, she certainly doesn’t behave any worse than any of the other girls. It seems worse because the shallow flirtation and silliness is not really a part of her character and is therefore not expected from her by either the reader or the other characters.

Meg’s romance with Brooke provides the motivation for her to relinquish any dreams of marrying wealth. As a child of a wealthy father, she would have been the one who had the most, but in marrying Brooke she ends up with the least for she lives in a tiny, modest house and her husband works as a bookkeeper. Nevertheless, once the children arrive and she no longer has time for daily excursions with Sally, her wishes for a richer life style seem to be replaced by the happiness she finds in her husband and children.

Meg does not have quite the dominant spirit of Jo and Amy. As a wife to John Brooke, she accepts guilt easily and apologizes willingly for minor offenses that are not hers alone. She is easily manipulated by others, but this seems like a harmless fault when Jo manages to get her own way as in the episode of admitting Laurie into their little newspaper club. However, the weakness leads her to act foolish at the Moffat party and undermines her authority with her little son Demi. Her husband is a stronger willed individual and is able to take charge when given the opportunity. In Meg’s case, the strength of her husband could be seen as support rather than domination.

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