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Free Study Guide: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

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LITTLE WOMEN: BOOK SUMMARY / ONLINE NOTES

Chapter 7: Amyís Valley of Humiliation

Summary

Meg performs a kindness for Amy by giving money she needs to participate in a school fad, but the deed backfires, leaving Amy too humiliated to return to the school.

Pickled limes are the current fad. The girls treat each other to them and trade off pencils and various trinkets for a lime to suck on. Amyís predicament is that she has accepted limes from other girls but has not had the means to pay them back. Meg gives her a quarter which is more than enough to buy a dozen limes.

Amy takes the limes to school and hides them in her desk, but canít resist flaunting them a little before tucking them away until recess. The word gets around and a certain Miss Snow who has treated Amy badly suddenly becomes very polite in hopes of getting her share. When Amy tells her that she wonít get any, Miss Snow finds a way to report the limes to the teacher, Mr. Davis, who has declared the limes a contraband article and vowed to punish any girl caught with them. Amy is forced to take her limes to the teacherís desk, then toss them out the window. After that, Mr. Davis slaps her hand with his ruler, then makes her stand on a platform until recess.

Too humiliated to finish the day, Amy goes home and reports the incident to her mother. Marmee is not entirely sympathetic with Amy as she believes Amy should not have broken the rules. However, she does not agree with Mr. Davisís method of correction either. Jo goes to the school to get Amyís things and wipes the mud off her boots onto the floor mat before leaving. Marmee agrees to let Amy have a temporary vacation from school as long as she studies each day with Beth.


Notes

The limes seem like a truly harmless fad; Mr. Davis is domineering and enjoys his power over a class of girls. The girls do not pass the limes during class, so one must assume that he forbids them just because he can. It is something the girls like, so he can exert power over them by forbidding them to have any. The narrator hints that he regrets his harshness, but is determined to follow through with the entire punishment routine once he has started. The punishment does not fit the crime however; it should have been enough to make her toss them out the window without also striking her with his ruler as well as making her stand in disgrace before the front of the class. Marmee seems a little helpless in this incident. One might expect her to go to the school and speak to Mr. Davis himself, but it is left to Jo to go back and get Amyís things. Amy herself will not have to attend school until her father gets home to find a new school for her.


Chapter 8: Jo Meets Apollyon

Summary

Laurie has invited Jo and Meg to go with him to the theater to see The Seven Castles of Diamond Lake. When Amy finds out where they are going, she begs to be taken along. Meg would relent, but Jo refuses, saying that Amy wasnít invited, and that it would not be fair to Laurie to bring along an unexpected person.

Amy takes revenge on Jo by burning a book of stories she has been laboring over. Jo is outraged, and in spite of Amyís plea for forgiveness, vows never to forgive her. The following day, Jo is still angry, and the rest of the family are in equally sour moods, so she decides to go ice skating with Laurie as a way to put herself "to rights." Amy follows, wanting to join them, but Jo tells her to go back, then ignores her. Amy continues to follow, but is too far back to hear a warning about thin ice in the middle of the lake. She skates out and falls through the ice.

Laurie and Jo rescue Amy and get her home safely. Amy is none the worse for her experience, but Jo is properly chastened, realizing that if Amy had died, she would have blamed herself all her life. Jo and Marmee discuss Joís bad temper and Marmee confides that a bad temper was once her own fault, but that she learned to control it. Jo determines to work harder on hers and asks for her motherís help.

Notes

Marmeeís former bad temper is hardly believable as she seems to have no temper at all. She gives credit to her husband for "teaching" her to control her anger and overcome her failures. Mr. March is introduced via description; Marmee describes him as a man who "never loses patience, never doubts or complains, but always hopes and works and waits so cheerfully, that one is ashamed to do otherwise before him." This statement reflects the way LMA had been taught to regard her own father, but belies the action of both her own real life and of the novel. Mr. March is like an icon, someone to uphold and revere, someone to seek out for advice, but a truly helpless individual in any practical sense. If he were actually so positive and hopeful after losing his own fortune, why does he leave a family of five women to fend entirely for themselves while he does a "noble" thing for the war effort. Mr. March is truly aggravating in absentia.


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