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Free Study Guide: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

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LITTLE WOMEN: PLOT NOTES / BOOK REPORT

Chapter 21: Laurie Makes Mischief and Jo Makes Peace

Summary

Laurie wheedles the secret about Meg and Mr. Brooke out of Jo, then plans a retaliation for having been left out. He composes a series of letters, ostensibly from Mr. Brooks. In one letter he confesses his love, and Meg answers by saying that she is too young to marry and prefers to be friends for a long while. In the next letter, Laurie-under the absconded identity-writes that he never wrote the first letter and regrets that her "roguish sister" has taken liberty with their names. Laurie is summoned and admits to the deviltry. He is chastised by Mrs. March who swears him to silence about the whole affair.

Jo refuses to forgive Laurie for what she considers a crude joke, but she later relents and goes to the Laurence house under the pretext of returning a book. She finds Mr. Laurence in an angry mood and Laurie shut up in his room. The two have been quarreling over Laurie’s silence about the letter affair. Mr. Laurence thinks Laurie is just being impudent. Consequently, Laurie is pondering the idea of running away and refuses to come out of his room until he receives an apology from his grandfather.

Feeling that if she can handle the young one, she can handle the old one, Jo talks Mr. Laurence into writing a formal sounding apology to Laurie.


Notes

Jo is a true diplomat. Regardless of which Laurence she is talking to, she can find a way to be sympathetic without totally agreeing. Thus she can enable each individual to look at a situation from a different perspective.


Chapter 22: Pleasant Meadows

Summary

The girls and Marmee celebrate another Christmas along with Hannah and Laurie. Mrs. March has a letter from her husband saying he will soon be with them. While occupying themselves with such blessings as they have, however, they are surprised by the appearance of Mr. Brook and Father at the door. He still has some convalescent time ahead of him, but is able to sit in an easy chair along with Beth and enjoy the company of the family. Laurie, Mr. Laurence and Mr. Brooke dine with them. In spite of the happiness of the occasion, Jo cannot resist glaring at Mr. Brooke.

Notes

The family is all together again. Although Mr. March will remain a fairly useless character, his observations of his girls provide us with a midpoint summary on his daughters’ maturity at this point. He notices that Amy takes less choice pieces of meat for herself and willingly runs errands for her mother. Jo is acting more like a lady, dressing more neatly, refraining from slang and using chairs rather than lying about on the floor like a tomboy. Meg has abused and roughened her hands with housework, but Mr. March values such "womanly skill" more than "white hands or fashionable accomplishments." Beth is not as shy as she once was, although her father is afraid to say much about her for fear she will "slip away altogether." His observations thus give the reader a concise way of comparing the girls of the first chapter with the girls of this second Christmas of the novel.


Chapter 23:Aunt March Decides the Question

Summary

Dec 26. Laurie torments Meg about his impression of Brooke’s courtship. Meg confides in Jo, declaring that she would turn Mr. Brooks down because she is too young to think of marriage. Nevertheless, Mr. Brooks approaches Meg before the day is over and tries to ask permission to court her. In a sudden urge to be coy, Meg refuses him, telling him to go away and stop thinking of her at all. Just when Meg is enjoying a sense of power, Aunt March wanders in and immediately assumes the Brooke has proposed. Aunt March forbids the arrangement, telling Meg that she will not get a penny of her money if she marries that "cook." Aunt March accuses Mr. Brooke (John) of wanting Meg for money he thinks she will have. Meg takes offense and defends John, declaring his honor and her love for him.

Of course, the entire exchange has taken place in front of John and he is touched by Meg’s defense and her true feelings for him. The chapter ends with the two in each other’s arms while the rest of the family-except for Jo- bask in the overflow of the lovers’ happiness.

Notes

(none needed for this chapter)


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