Little Women

Little Women

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Birds  Symbol Icon
Birds in their little nests agree,” sings Beth in the opening chapter of Little Women. Although birds are sometimes used to refer to her sisters (Meg lives in the Dovecote; Jo is referred to as a wild gull), birds in Little Women are most often associated with Beth. Similar to Little Women’s use of flowers to symbolize natural beauty, birds not only symbolize Beth’s natural beauty, but also her timid, gentle, musical nature.

Birds Quotes in Little Women

The Little Women quotes below all refer to the symbol of Birds . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Role of Women Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Signet Classics edition of Little Women published in 2012.
Part 1, Chapter 9 Quotes

“I don’t like fuss and feathers.”

Related Characters: Theodore "Laurie" Laurence (speaker), Margaret "Meg" March
Related Symbols: Birds
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote of Laurie's is a rebuttal to Meg's central character flaw, her vanity. Meg is always envious of the nice things that others have, and she is protective of her own appearance to a fault. In this scene, she has fallen prey to this impulse, allowing her wealthy friends to dress her in a way that strokes her vanity but is contrary to her values. When Laurie sees her, he recognizes this and tells her so. What Laurie loves about the March girls is their character: their kindness, generosity, and intelligence. Furthermore, Laurie (who comes from a wealthy family) appreciates that the girls are not preoccupied with the shallow concerns of the wealthy (like fashion), but are instead deeply interested in spiritual progress and friendship. Laurie loves that they are down-to-earth, and to see Meg dressed up like a rich woman disappoints him. This quote is not intended to be condescending or judgmental on Laurie's part, but rather it is a well-intentioned criticism from a good friend, and Meg takes it as such. (Although as readers we should note that Laurie, as a man, feels entitled to offer his opinion on how he "likes" women to be.) Because of Laurie, Meg realizes that she has betrayed her values and she is embarrassed.

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Birds Symbol Timeline in Little Women

The timeline below shows where the symbol Birds appears in Little Women. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 18: Dark Days
Christianity, Morality, and Goodness Theme Icon
Genuineness, Simplicity, and Natural Beauty Theme Icon
News of Mrs. March’s imminent arrival spreads throughout the house, and hope is renewed. Beth’s pet bird begins chirping again, and a half-blown rose is discovered outside, which are seen as good... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 36: Beth’s Secret
Genuineness, Simplicity, and Natural Beauty Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Jo implores Beth to not give up on life just yet. Soon after, a small brown sandpiper sits on a rock near them. Beth finds the bird comforting, as it reminds her... (full context)