The Absent Male In Little Women

This essay The Absent Male In Little Women has a total of 1754 words and 7 pages.


The Absent Male in Little Women
"No gentlemen were admitted" writes Louisa May Alcott in Little Women to describe the all-female private
revue the March sisters perform. And as the novel progresses, one cannot help but wonder if this same
sentiment does indeed echo throughout the novel, as male characters are conspicuously absent while all the
pivotal parts are played by the women characters.

This gender imbalance -- in that there are more female characters than male in Little Women -- is
especially obvious when male authority figures such as Mr March and Mr Lawrence are markedly absent
for most of the novel. When they do appear, they are in need of love and care from the women. Mr
Lawrence, who is nursing a broken heart over the death of his daughter, is healed by Beth's gentle manners,
while Mr March's broken constitution is nursed back to health by his loving wife and daughters.

The only male character who appears prominently in Little Women is Laurie, who, although the richest and
most eligible bachelor for miles, is drawn to the motherly smile and warmth of the little cottage, despite the
luxuries of his mansion next door. John Brooke, Laurie?s tutor and Meg?s husband, too, is drawn to the
homey atmosphere of the March residence, having recently lost his mother.

In a bold move that differentiates Alcott from her contemporaries, the male characters in Little Women are
all not capable of providing sustenance to their womenfolk as they are incapacitated (either by a war injury,
an emotional scar, or an impoverished background). The women are thus forced to take on varied roles in
order to provide materially and emotionally for the family. They are the ones who shoulder the burden in
situations not unlike those of the Alcott family.

Is it by chance, or is premeditation, that most of Alcott?s novels feature an absent father? And when he does
reappear, he is very often silent, ill or injured. It is obvious Alcott has problems portraying strong male
characters, probably from the fact that she hadn?t seen too many of them.

Furthermore, Alcott is not able to describe a situation where love is emoted expressively from men. In all
her novels, the male characters disappoint -- in one way or the other. In many ways, they are very similar to
her own father. Bronson Alcott was a man who preferred dreaming, shirking his fatherly and husbandly
duties, and was prone to going on extended trips without his family. Bronson Alcott deserted his family for
months at a

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