Little Men, or Life at Plumfield with Jo's Boys, is a novel by American author Louisa May Alcott, first published in 1871. The novel reprises characters from Little Women and is considered by some the second book in an unofficial Little Women trilogy, which is completed with Alcott's 1886 novel Jo's Boys, and How They Turned Out: A Sequel to "Little Men". It tells the story of Jo Bhaer and the children at Plumfield Estate School. It was inspired by the death of Alcott's brother-in-law, which reveals itself in one of the last chapters, when a beloved character, John Brooke, from Little Women dies. It has been adapted to a 1934 film, a 1940 film, a television series, and a Japanese animated television series.
First edition title page
|Author||Louisa May Alcott|
|Preceded by||Little Women|
|Followed by||Jo's Boys|
The book recounts six months in the life of the students at Plumfield, a school run by German Professor Friedrich and Mrs. Josephine Bhaer (née March). The idea of the school is first suggested at the very end of Little Women, Part Two when adult Jo inherited the estate from her late Aunt March.
The story begins with the arrival of Nat Blake, a shy young orphan who used to earn a living playing the violin. We are introduced to the majority of the characters through his eyes. There are ten boys at the school already; Nat, and later his friend Dan, join them, and soon after Nan arrives as companion for Daisy, the only girl. Jo's sons Rob and Teddy are younger than the others and are not counted among the pupils, nor are the two girls, Daisy and Nan.
The school is not run on conventional lines. All the children have their own gardens and their own pets, and are encouraged to experiment with running businesses. Pillow fights are permitted on Saturdays, subject to a time limit. Children are treated as individuals, with a strong emphasis on gently molding their characters.
Daisy Brooke, Meg's daughter, is at the school with her twin brother Demi, but is somewhat isolated with no other girls her age, until Nan's arrival. Nan is even more of a willful tomboy than Jo was as a teenager while Daisy is interested mainly in dolls and in her own mini kitchen, purchased by Jo's brother-in-law, Laurie, husband of her youngest sister Amy. During the book Daisy's father, John, dies quietly one night.
The other new student, Dan, is introduced by Nat. Dan originally decides the other boys are "molly-coddles" and leads them in experiments with fighting, drinking, smoking, swearing and playing cards, which results in his being temporarily removed from the school. He returns eventually with an injured foot, and redeems himself by standing up for Nat when Nat is falsely accused of theft by the other boys. He also becomes curator of the school's natural history museum.
Personal relationships are central to the school, and diversity is celebrated. Daisy is deeply attached to her twin brother, to shy Nat, and to tomboy Nan. Nan and Tommy are also close and intend to marry when they grow up. Dan, already friends with Nat, is unexpectedly drawn to the pious Demi and the toddler Teddy. While Franz, Emil, Daisy and John are all related to the Bhaers, they are not treated with favoritism and are encouraged to overcome their faults just the same as the other pupils.
Little Men was first adapted into film in 1934 starring Erin O'Brien-Moore and Ralph Morgan. Another film followed in 1940 with Kay Francis. In 1998, a Canadian feature starring Mariel Hemingway and Chris Sarandon was released.
In 1993, an animated television series based on this novel ran in Japan, Little Women II: Jo's Boys, and has been translated into several other languages with new cast members to voice the characters. A Canadian television series, Little Men, aired in 1998 to 1999 for two seasons. The plot is somewhat altered and acts more as a continuation of the novel.