Little Women: The Sequel!

So a peculiar packaging issue faces the publisher of Little Women: is it two books or one? Way back in 1868, Part I was titled Little Women and included the first two dozen chapters. Part II was a completely separate book titled Good Wives, and was published a year later after the first volume became wildly popular. Both books have been packaged as one for more than a hundred years, but that does not mean they are a single entity, meant to be considered as a seamless work of fiction. The first novel that I know of to address this issue of the original/sequel package deal is Don Quixote. Don Quixote is two books published ten years apart. The sequel was substantially different from the original, taking on a more serious and philosophical tone.

Another example is Goethe’s Faust, which was also published in two parts, a quarter century apart. Like Don Quixote, Faust‘s second part is less picaresque, less light-hearted, and more philosophical in its nature. 


Though hardly in the same league as those two books, Little Women is more like them in its composition history than, say, a Lord of the Rings, which was divided for the publisher’s sake and not the author’s. Part I of Little Women is a coming-of-age novel that has a tight narrative arc centered on the tension of both the sickness of Father and Beth and a love interest of Meg. The first chapters of Part II get that marriage out of the way, but what will happen throughout the rest of the book? Will it be more serious, like Don Quixote and Faust were in their sequels? Or will it continue the light-hearted vignettes of Concord life found in Part I? 


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