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Free Study Guide: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

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LITTLE WOMEN: FREE LITERARY ANALYSIS / LESSON PLANS

PART II

Chapter 24: Gossip

Summary

Three years have passed. Meg has worked and prepared for the wedding; her sisters and mother have enthusiastically helped prepare Dovecote, the little house where Meg and John will take up residence. Mr. March has recovered his health although not his fortune. He seems to spend most of his time absorbed with his books while the women run the household.

John has served some time in the war, been wounded and returned home to recover. Since he has not been allowed to return to the army, he takes a job as an underbookkeeper, refusing Mr. Laurence’s offers of help.

Jo’s position with Aunt March is taken over by Amy whom Aunt March bribes with art lessons. Jo continues to write little romances for the paper while secretly working on a novel. Beth has recovered from the fever but has never regained her strength and remains very frail. Laurie has been attending college to please his grandfather.

The chapter ends with Jo admonishing Laurie to be serious during the wedding and avoid behaviors that might cause embarrassment or make her laugh. Laurie tries to flirt with Jo, but she will have no part of romantic notions for herself.


Notes

The narrator defends Mr. March’s role of "grey haired scholar" as if wisdom alone were enough of a contribution for him to make to the family. To a reader knowing LMA’s own history and the fact that her mother eventually left and made a home for the girls on her own, the devotion to Mr. March by his fictional daughters seems forced, as if something good must be said of him. This view is of course from a perspective of historical criticism and could be objected to if viewing the story from a New Critical view. It is still obvious, however, that Marmee and the girls "rule the house." Mr. March seems to be a man who has nothing left but ideals and precepts to which he holds his family responsible while he himself has no obligation other than to comfort, give occasional advice and devote himself to his books while the women take care of the details of real life.


Chapter 25: The First Wedding

Summary

Meg and John get married in a simple ceremony in the March home. There no elaborate ritual; in fact, Aunt March is scandalized by the fact that the bride herself is greeting people at the door and running around helping with odds and ends in her gown.

After the marriage, the family and friends celebrate with food and dancing. The crowning moment of merriment comes when Mr. Laurence and Aunt March join up to dance-German fashion-in a circle around the newlyweds.

Notes

Aunt March has always seemed rather brisk and impatient, but the wedding festivities give her a chance to "let her hair down" and show that she is capable of having fun in spite of her earlier denouncement of John Brooke.


Chapter 26: Artistic Attempts

Summary

Amy has been experimenting with one media after another in her artistic creations. Although she is never satisfied with her own attempts, her artistic endeavors have brought her into contact with many people. She seems to come by social graces naturally and makes many friends. Amy’s greatest weakness is that "she wants to move about in the best society without knowing what the best really is."

Amy’s attempts to be a socialite lead to a minor disaster. She decides to throw an expensive party for the girls in her drawing class. She buys expensive food and plans to rent a fancy carriage to take them all riding. The first day is somewhat rainy, so when no one shows, it is assumed that everyone decided to wait for the next day as had previously been arranged in case of inclement weather. But on the second day, only one girl comes. Amy entertains Miss Elliot valiantly as her sisters quickly hide away half of the prepared food. When it is over, Amy admits that it was a failure and asks everyone to refrain from mentioning it for at least a month.

Notes

Amy displays a charming dignity in spite of the failure of her attempt to put on a classy party. The most important lesson she has learned-and one more effective because the narrator doesn’t lecture the reader about it-is that wealth can’t be pretended and acting like one is a part of high society doesn’t make it so, nor does it gain inroads with those who really are.


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