The book is about the four March sisters. It starts on a Christmas morning when the girls wake up to find books, probably copies of The Pilgrim's Progress, under their pillows. The girls then go on to have various adventures. Amy is caught trading limes at school, and the teacher hits her as punishment. As a result, Mrs. March withdraws her daughter from school. Jo refuses to let Amy go with her to the theater. In retaliation, Amy burns Jo's manuscript, and Jo, in her anger, nearly lets Amy drown while ice-skating. Pretty Meg attends her friend Annie Moffat's party and, after allowing the other girls to dress her up in high style, learns that appearances are not everything. While at the party, she hears that people think she intends to marry Laurie for his money. Part Two begins. Mr. March is home from the war, and Laurie is nearly done with school. The girls all grow on their own, away from their family. During the rest of the book, they have less and less adventures together, and more alone. But the novel ends with the family happily gathered together again, each sister thankful for her blessings and for each other. They grow up by the end and learn to accept their realities. .
Little Women is a sentimental, coming-of-age novel. It is set during and after the Civil War. The story is told in the third person, focusing on each character. The book is basically about the March sisters and their struggle to overcome their imperfection and grow, although it does also go into the lives of those around them. The Marchs' are a part of the lower middle class of New England. .
Though it is a simple story about the four March girls' journeys from childhood to adulthood, Little Women centers on the conflict between two emphases in a young woman's life "that which she places on herself, and that which she places on her family. In the book, an emphasis on domestic duties and family slows down the women's personal growth.