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FREE ONLINE ANALYSIS: LITTLE WOMEN
Chapter 39: Lazy Laurence
Laurie spends a month instead of the planned week in France. He finds
himself drawn to Amy, but she is disgusted with him. She is too lady-like
and he too lazy for them to actually quarrel, but she accuses him of indolence
and of neglecting his own talent and potential. When she discovers that
the reason for his indifference is Joís rejection, Amy is sympathetic
but still cannot accept the changes in him. Laurie tries to affect an
indifference to her scolding, but her words have a profound effect on
This chapter is a typical "boy-meets-girl," quarrels with
her, leaves, then makes up and finally returns to fall in love structure.
Chapters 39 and 41 complete a miniature plot within a plot that follows
the sequence of the heroís journey motif.
Chapter 40: Valley of Shadow
In one of the shortest but most emotionally packed chapters of the novel,
Beth dies. For the last year of her life she is given the best room in
the house and is continuously surrounded by family. Her favorite is Jo
who scarcely leaves the room, but tends the fire and waits on her tirelessly.
In spite of her grief, Jo begins to feel that she will never really lose
Beth, that even death will not be able to separate them.
The death of Beth is a literary technique for getting a character out
of the way who has served her purpose. Beth herself remarks that she alone
has no ambitions, no desire to do anything other than live at home and
be a help and comfort to her parents. While growing up she has had a subduing
effect on Joís impetuous nature and as a character has been a mild foil
to both Jo and Amy. Although it creates an intensely emotional moment
in the story, her purpose has been accomplished and she needs to be moved
"out of the way" in order for Jo to be open to a romantic type
of love for herself.
Chapter 41: Learning to Forget
Laurie takes Amyís lecture to heart and decides that he can make Jo
respect him even if he canít make her love him. He goes to Vienna to work
with some musical friends and tries his hand at composing. He has little
success and finally decides-after attending one of Mozartís grand operas
that "talent isnít genius." He begins to look for some sort
of work to occupy himself even though he doesnít need to work for a living.
In the meantime, he keeps up a lively correspondence with both Jo and
Amy. Laurie soon realizes that he is actually "forgetting" Jo
to the extent that he has to search himself to find the passion for her
that he once had. In a final attempt to verify that she will never be
his, he writes to her once again asking if she can find it in her heart
to love him. Her response is that she is entirely devoted to Beth and
that she does not want to hear the word "love" from him again.
His thoughts then turn more and more to Amy.
Amy finally receives the once expected proposal from Fred- but she refuses
him. She has realized that having money or being the "queen of society"
isnít really what she wants after all. From then on she and Laurie write
several letters a week while Laurie waits for her to ask him to come.
When word comes of Bethís death, he immediately packs up his things and
goes to Velvey to be with Amy. It is soon obvious that they are in love.
Laurie plans a romantic evening when he will tell her his feelings, but
instead the words slip out in a metaphorical way while they are out rowing.
Amy notices how well they "pull" together while rowing the boat,
and Laurie asks her if she will always pull in the same boat with him.
Of course, her answer is "yes."
This concludes the mini-plot begun in Chapter 39.
Chapter 42: All Alone
Jo had promised Beth that she would take her place in being a comfort
to their parents and in helping to keep the home running smoothly. However,
she finds that it is more of a burden than she can handle with Beth gone.
She and Marmee consol each other, and Jo finds some relief in the household
chores that once had been Bethís.
Seeing her loneliness and despair, Marmee urges Jo to take up her writing
again. Jo does so hesitantly, but her first story is enthusiastically
accepted and more requested.
Jo receives word that Laurie and Amy are engaged. Jo is happy for them
both but still feels lonely and unhappy for herself. She wanders into
the garret where mementoes of their past are stored. There she comes across
her old workbooks and a note from Frizt saying that he will be coming.
Jo wishes he would come for she feels like everyone is going away from
her and she would love to see her dear old friend.
The narrator ends this chapter with another not-so-subtle foreshadowing.
"Was it all self-pity, loneliness, or low spirits? Or was it the waking up of a sentiment which had bided its
time as patiently as its inspirer? Who shall say?"
This paragraph could have been left out entirely, and the reader would still
be expecting the professor to appear on the scene.
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