A friend of mine has a theory that you can tell a lot about someone from which of the Little Women she preferred. The trouble is, most people I know picked Jo. With her tomboyish ways and authorial ambitions, she was clearly a more thrilling model than Meg (too housewifely), Beth (too virtuous, and doomed besides), or Amy (vain and bratty). Still, for a lot of us avid readers, Marmee and her four girls were a profound early influence. Their struggles to make do, to be good, and to realize their dreams seemed contemporary to me in the 1950s, even though Louisa May Alcott's story took place almost 100 years earlier.
I never thought much about Mr. March. Perhaps the notion of an absent father and an al