2-4 | “Fun Forever”?


“Fun Forever”?
Toys, Games, and Play in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women

Anne K. Phillips


Nineteenth-century literature offers insights into the history and sociology of play in American life. Louisa May Alcott's novel Little Women contains especially rich period depictions of childhood games and amusements and provides some of the earliest scenes of American girls at play. The author discusses the various depictions of play in the novel, places these in the context of Alcott's life and work, and contrasts them to other works of the period. She contends that Little Women, detailing and celebrating play from start to finish, demonstrates how play was both valued for itself and served a socializing function. She also presents scenes from Little Women to illustrate specific aspects of nineteenth-century American play—its use of furniture and the place of dolls, for example. In short, the author treats Little Women as a privileged example to discuss play more generally, and she uses the study of play to look more carefully at the novel itself.