Symbolism In Little Women

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In Louis May Alcott’s Little Women, four young girls in nineteenth-century New England live in a society where marriage comes before profession, and passivity is valued over independence. Financially challenged, the March sisters struggle to fit in when they are exposed to lavish events or are treated condescendingly on account of their family’s income. In Little Women, Alcott utilizes the symbols of gloves, burns, and flowers to explore the contrast between abiding by the traditions of society and staying true to oneself. Gloves portray the girls’ obstacles as they strive to comply with the social standards of being young women. While Meg constantly stresses the importance of having proper gloves, Jo’s refusal to wear them illustrates her…show more content…
At Annie Moffat’s house, Meg senses the pity that the other girls feel for her, and is ashamed of her modest attire. One evening, a box of flowers is delivered while the girls are getting dressed. Everyone assumes they are for Belle, and are deeply intrigued when they are in fact addressed to Meg from Laurie. Meg immediately cheers up, and turns the flowers into bouquets for her new friends. However, her newfound content does not last as she later overhears the girls discussing her family’s friendship with the wealthy Laurences. One girl exclaims, “Mrs. M has made her plans, I dare say, and will play her cards well”. (Alcott 92) Meg is both hurt and furious that the girls would consider her superficial, and the flowers she had generously offered them before now only made her feel foolish and over-trusting. Flowers also convey the difficulties of poverty whenever the March sisters use them to complement their old and worn-out clothes. They envy other girls who have precious jewelry and embellishments on their dresses. However, they remain satisfied with adorning their dresses with flowers, and over time begin to see beauty in their simplicity. Alcott uses Meg’s experience at the Moffat ‘s and the girls’ substitution for jewelry to exemplify the March sisters’ modesty and sincerity despite the need to constantly keep up with society’s expectations. In Little
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