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Bringing the March Family to Life

The Characters of Little Women are based on Lousia May Alcotts own sisters. Each sister has unique and different qualities which Alcott took from her own sisters.

The Characters:

  • Jo – based on LMA herself (though LMA never married)

  • Headstrong, strong independent streak – duh…

  • STRONG sense of justice

  • Dissatisfied with her expected lot in life

  • Creative

  • Over-dramatic (but not as bad as Amy), primarily when it comes to her writing. In general can be a little more practical than the others.

  • Will make quick, foolish decisions on a whim, but normally repents immediately.

  • Deep down, lacks self-confidence, particularly as a writer (which is why she always writes about things she’s never experienced)


  • Meg – based on oldest sister Anna

  • The family beauty

  • As close to the ideal of “proper womanhood” of the time

  • Stable and responsible

  • Easily embarrassed by anything improper

  • Including Jo, most of the time (at least in public)

  • Slightly vain, but her daily chores help keep her mind off it

  • Fun real-life connection: From an early age, Anna was "stage-struck" and secretly longed "to shine before the world as a great actress or prima donna." In her youth she and her sister Louisa created romantic melodramas which they performed for friends.


  • Beth – based on second-youngest sister Lizzie

  • “Little Cricket”

  • A complete home-body

  • Loves the security of her home

  • Completely selfless

  • The musical genius

  • Bound by utter terror of anything unknown

  • Unlike Amy, she HATES the idea of a ball, or meeting anyone new

  • A good balance to Jo

  • She is Jo’s favorite sister

  • They have a special bond; she, like Marmee, can say things that Jo might not accept from other people


  • Amy – based on youngest sister May (an anagram!)

  • Spoiled to a degree

  • Hates being left out of anything

  • Over-dramatic

  • Most artistic in the family

  • Vain

  • Her looks AND her intelligence

  • Tries to use vocabulary she doesn’t understand

  • Admires Jo and envies her independence and skill

  • Is closest to Meg

  • Meg and Amy have a similar relationship to Jo and Beth – they are the two “teams” in the house, as it were.


  • Marmee – idealized version of LMA’s mother Abigail

  • Utterly unflappable

  • The novel’s and musical’s source of warmth and wisdom

  • She can calm any storm in her household

  • The girls respect and admire her so much, that any correction from her is taken seriously and immediately

  • Like LMA’s mother, she is actively involved in helping the less fortunate around her – soldiers, the impoverished


  • Father (absent) – very idealized version of Bronson Alcott

  • Aunt March –

  • The only money in the family now

  • Quite displeased with Jo – probably because she’s reminded of herself J

  • The epitome of propriety

  • Considers herself head of the family.

  • Very fond of her nephew (the girls’ father), but hurt that he didn’t take her advice when it came to his investment decisions.

  • Professor Bhaer – based on Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau

  • Reserved

  • German

  • Was a famous professor in his home country, but became impoverished when he immigrated.

  • Works as a tutor, but maintains a level of dignity that Mr. Brooke could not attain

  • He is a great thinker, and does not necessarily feel the need to prove his superiority.

  • Deep thinker – gets truly excited about exploring intellectual arguments with anyone (one of the only things that shakes him out of his reserve)

  • Desires an intellectual equal


  • Laurie – based on a couple short acquaintances of LMA’s, who may have been of romantic interest

  • Impetuous, immature, passionate, earnest

  • Musical genius

  • Lonely – orphaned, no siblings, a cold grandfather, a rather dull tutor

  • Afraid of his grandfather, but longs for his approval

  • According to the musical, he falls for Jo immediately.

  • In the book, they have much more of a brother-sister relationship for several years. Once Laurie “grows up” more, he falls in love with her

  • When refused by Jo, Laurie’s worst personality traits come out for a while. He becomes lazy, extravagant, possibly licentious. Upon meeting Amy in Europe, he begins to remember the good effects the March girls had on him. The threat of a rival for Amy’s affections finally inspires him to make something of his life and become worthy of her love.

  • After Jo and Professor Bhaer become engaged, Amy asks Laurie if he’s still holding on to any of his former love for Jo, and if he’s jealous of the Professor. He smiles, and replies that he’ll “dance at her wedding with a heart as light as his feet.”


  • Mr. Laurence

  • The most upper-class figure in the play.

  • Loved Laurie’s father dearly, and was deeply hurt when he ran off to marry an “unsuitable” Italian woman. Essentially disowned the pair of them. Once they died, however, he underwent a softening of the heart and took in his grandson.

  • He disapproves of Laurie’s wild ways, largely blaming them on his mother.

  • The March girls remind him a bit too much of what stole away his son.

  • Shut his heart down from that pain, and Beth is one of the first to open it up again.

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