Little Women is a novel published in 1868. The story concerns the lives and loves of four sisters growing up during the American Civil War. It was based on Alcott's own experiences as a child in Boston and Concord, Massachusetts, with her three sisters, Amy (May), Meg (Anna), and Beth (Elizabeth).
Alcott's original work explores the overcoming of character flaws (many of the chapter titles in this first part are allusions to the allegorical concepts and places in Pilgrim's Progress). The girls' "guidebooks", as they are called, are not specifically labeled — a Bible and Pilgrim's Progress are the candidates for it, though. Each of the March girls displays a major character flaw: Meg, vanity; Jo, a hot temper; Beth, shyness; and Amy, selfishness. They overcome their flaws through lessons learned the hard way. Most of the flaws are in check for a time after lessons are learned, but even as young women the girls must work out these flaws in order to become mothers, wives, sisters, and citizens.