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Free Study Guide: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

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LITTLE WOMEN: LITERATURE NOTES / CRITICISM

Chapter 18: Dark Days

Summary

Beth has a severe case of the scarlet fever. As the days pass she gradually worsens until she lapses into an unconscious state. Finally the doctor announces that Mrs. March should be sent for. Jo races off to the telegram office, but on the way home finds out the Laurie has already sent a message and that Mrs. March is expected that night.

Around midnight the crisis point is reached and Bethís fever breaks. Mrs. March arrives home early in the morning.

Notes

Jo cries on Laurieís shoulders. She feels as though she has the heaviest burdens of all the family. She doesnít really, although she is the one closest to Beth. Itís just that she reacts to everything that happens on a more deeply personal level than the others. This is another symptom of her drive to have control over everything.



Chapter19: Amyís will

Summary

Amy has a rough time at her auntís house although the elderly lady doesnít mean to be harsh. She gives Amy numerous chores with very little free time. During those short respites she goes riding with Laurie and, under the watchful eye of the maid, explores the house, examining and arranging her auntís wardrobes and jewel cases.

During one of these sessions, Esther asks Amy which piece she would choose for herself if she could. Although she first selects a string of gold and ebony beads, Esther tells her that Aunt March has already declared that Amy will get the turquoise ring. This prospect gives Amy the courage to endure her auntís discipline. She becomes a model of obedience and creates a prayer room for herself where she goes when she needs additional fortitude.

The concept of Aunt Marchís will and the worry over Bethís survival inspires Amy to create a will of her own. She promises something to everyone with one of her most precious possessions going to Jo because of the burned book episode.

Notes

Amy is either not as self-centered as she has seemed at times, or else she is capable of making great personal sacrifices if there is the possibility of arriving at a desired goal as a result.


Chapter 20: Confidential

Summary

The girls along with Laurie and Mr. Laurence enjoy the reunion with Marmee. Marmee visits Amy at the Auntís house and encourages her to hang in there a bit longer. Amy displays the ring which Aunt March has already given her and begs to be allowed to wear it as a reminder to keep from being selfish.

Mrs. March confides in Jo, telling her that Mr. Brook-whom she now calls "John"-has asked permission to court Meg. Jo is not the least bit happy about it as she had planned for Meg to marry Laurie. Her argument is that Laurie is handsome and rich, but in reality she simply isnít willing to "let go" of any of her sisters, nor is she really quite ready to grow up herself.

Notes

Marmee makes a mistake in thinking that she can confide in Jo about Johnís feelings. Jo is not nearly as grownup as her mother thinks she is, and she certainly is not ready to give up her sister to someone who might take her away. More than that, however, Jo has heard Megís complaints about their current poverty and her desire for some of the things their wealthier friends have; Marmee has never been subjected to these complaints. Thus, although her motives are partly selfish, Jo is sincere in wanting Meg to marry someone with money.


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