Chapter Summaries


In this, the opening chapter, the reader meets the four main characters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. The girls are trying to decide what to get each other for Christmas. This year, however, their father is away at war and funds are limited. The girls finally decide that they will each by a gift for Marmee instead of a gift for themselves. When Marmee returns home, the girls learn that she has received a letter from their father. The girls and their mother gather in front of the fire and read the letter.

The girls wake early on Christmas morning to discover that their mother has placed a different colored book under each of their pillows. They prepare breakfast and then sacrifice it to another family in need down the street. The girls then give Marmee her gifts and perform a play, Operatic Tradegy. Dinner comes as a surprise to the girls when they learn that old Mr. Laurence has provided them with ice cream, bonbons, and flowers.

Jo and Meg attend a New Year's Eve party at Mrs. Gardiner's house. There is much commotion getting the two girls ready as they try to make the best of their old dresses and gloves. Jo tries to curl Meg's hair but only burns the ends off in a great tragedy. At the party, Jo meets Laurence, the grandson of old Mr. Laurence. He tells Jo that he would like to be called Laurie instead of his given name, Theodore, because classmates had teased him in the past. The girls return from the party and share their experiences with their sisters.

In this chapter, the reader learns a great deal about each of the personalities of the little women. The narrator tells the reader that Mr. March lost his property while trying to help an unfortunate friend and because of this, Meg and Jo had found work outside the home to help support the family. Meg spends her days teaching small children as a governess, but could not help but yearn for a life in which she could go to parties, concerts, and spend her time in gossip. Jo spends time reading and caring for her Aunt March and wished that she could read all the books in her Aunt's library. Beth, the shy one, wishes that she could spent more time playing the piano instead of doing housework. Finally, Amy simply wishes that her nose was less flat. The narrator also shares that Meg was Amy's close friend and mother, while Beth and Jo were equally as close.

Jo can barely stand still and wishes to go next door and visit Laurie. She feels terrible that she has such wonderful sisters to keep her company and that Laurie has no one. She ventures next door in order to read to the sick Laurie but ends up talking with him for hours. She tells him all about her sisters and the adventurous things they do, she wishes that he could join in their fun.

The girls spend much time over at the Laurence's home. Beth, however, fearing old man Laurence refuses to visit. Mr. Laurence speaks privately with Mrs. March about the possibility of Beth visiting the house and playing the piano, alone and undisturbed. Eventually Beth is able to visit the house and plays wonderful music for all to hear. In gratitude for Mr. Laurence's generosity she makes him a pair of slippers. Touched by her sincerity, Mr. Laurence gives Beth a small piano which once belonged to his deceased granddaughter. From this point on Beth and Mr. Lawrence shared a special bond.

Amy explains to her sisters that she is deeply in debt with her classmates. It seems that a popular pastime of Amy and her classmates is the trading of pickled limes and Amy has not been able to provide her fair share. Meg gives Amy some money to purchase limes and Amy proudly announces to her classmates that she has 24 limes. After refusing to share her limes with the young Jenny Snow, Amy's secret stash of limes is discovered by Mr. Davis and she is punished before the class. When Mrs. March learns that her youngest daughter was smacked with a ruler and humiliated in front of the class she sends Jo with a note to Mr. Davis and decides that Amy will be taught at home. Laurie gives Beth a great compliment on her piano abilities.

Laurie invites Jo and Meg to watch The Seven Castles of the Diamond Lake and Amy wishes to come along. Jo is angered and annoyed at Amy and tells her that she cannot come. As Jo leaves Amy swears revenge on her. Upon arriving home Jo learns that Amy has burned a book that she has been working on for many years. Jo is so hurt and crushed that she cannot ever forgive Amy. The next day Jo and Laurie go skating and Amy follows behind them in the hopes of telling her sister how sorry she is. As Jo and Laurie are racing on the ice, Amy slips through and Laurie rescues her. Jo feels terrible for not forgiving her sister sooner and the two sisters make up. Jo and her mother discuss their tempers and Jo vows to try to control hers more.

Meg leaves the family for a fortnight and stays with the Moffats. While staying with these girls Meg is introduced into the life of a young lady. She attends dinners, goes to the theater and trys on many new airs. Meg, however, is ashamed that her family is poor and that she cannot afford a new dress like the other girls. The Moffats dress Meg up for a ball and Meg places herself on display. Laurie attends the party and is not pleased with Meg's appearance or behavior. When Meg returns home she confesses to her mother that she was made to look foolish and that many gossipy things were said about her and her family. Mrs. March tells Meg to never mind the gossip and to be true to herself by not pretending to be something that she is not.

The reader learns of the secret society which the girls have contrived. The Pickwick Club was a literary club formed by the four girls in their play. It featured a newsletter containing writings of the girls. Each girl assumed a separate identity, Meg was Samuel Pickwick, Jo was Augustus Snodgrass, Beth was Tracy Tupman, and Amy was Nathaniel Winkle.

The girls decide to take a break from their work and try to experiment with laziness. The house falls into disrepair and the girls find being lazy, boring. Pip, the pet canary is discovered dead by Beth. All gather for the burial. Jo cooks a terrible dinner but everyone tries to be polite.

Laurence invites the girls to go camping with him and some of his English friends. The children enjoy a few nights in the forest.

The girls head off to the forest dressed in large hats to play Pilgrims Progress. Laurie seems them and follows. The girls explain to Laurie about Delectable Mountain and the Celestial City. Each of the children talk about what their dream castle would look like and how their dream lives would be. Laurie and Meg get into a small argument because Laurie insists that he does not need to go to college as his grandfather insists. Meg believes that he should obey his grandfather. The two resolve their quarrel and then all the girls decide that Laurie can be a member of the Busy Bee Society.

Jo goes into town to see the dentist and runs into Laurie. The two of them decide to tell secrets. Jo tells Laurie that she has given two of her stories to the newspaper and is waiting to hear whether or not they will be printed. Laurie tells Jo that her sister Meg has given one of her gloves to his tutor, Mr. Brooke. Jo is angry that her sister would do such a thing and she becomes very upset at the thought of Meg having a boyfriend. Jo fears that Meg will be taken away from the family and is in a mood for several days.

The March family receives a telegram that Mr. March is seriously ill. Mrs. March decides to leave at once to be by his side. Old man Laurence wishes to offer himself as Mrs. March's escort but because of his advanced age he offers Laurie's tutor, Mr. Brooke instead. Jo goes and has her hair cut off and sold so that she can provide the family with $25.00.

Each of the little women write a letter to their mother.

Beth goes to visit the poor Hummel family to bring them food and supplies. Upon her visit she discovers that the baby is very ill and takes care of it while the older sister rests. While watching the child, it dies. The doctor is called and announces that the baby died of scarlet fever. He tells Beth to go home at once and take medication. Beth returns and is confined to bed, Amy is sent to Aunt March's house because of the fear of her contracting the fever. Amy does not wish to go but Laurie promises to visit her everyday. Meg and Jo begin caring for Beth.

Beth's conditions becomes very grave. Mrs. March is sent for because the doctor believes Beth will die. Finally, the fever breaks.

Amy suffers at Aunt March's house but finds a friend in Esther, the maid. Esther tells Amy of the things she will receive when Aunt March dies. Amy decides to make a will of her own so that she can leave something to each of her sisters.

Mrs. March returns home and visits the banished Amy who is overjoyed at seeing her mother. Jo and Marmee have a private talk about Meg and Mr. Brooke. Marmee tells Jo that while with him in Washington DC., Mr. Brooke told her that he means to get a job and then ask Meg to marry him. Jo is very upset at the prospect of loosing her sister, but Marmee tries to comfort her.

Laurie plays an evil prank on Meg by sending her a supposed "love letter" from Mr. Brooke. Laurie apologizes to Meg and her sisters, they forgive him. Laurie is also punished by his grandfather and decides to run off to Washington, DC. He asks Jo to go with him but she refuses. Jo gets Mr. Laurence to apologize for punishing Laurie and all is well.

Christmas Day arrives and Mr. March returns home. They girls are happy to see him. Sickly Beth plays and sings at the piano.

Meg and Jo discuss Mr. Brooke. Mr. Brooke visits the Marches and asks Meg if she will have his love, she refuses him and he leaves dejected. Aunt March talks with Meg and tells her that if she decides to love Mr. Brooke, she will inherit nothing. Meg is so angered that she decides to love Mr. Brooke. The first section of the book ends.


Here we meet the March family three years later. Mrs. March as aged a bit, Mr. March has come home to teach, and the entire family is awaiting Meg's wedding to Mr. Brooke. Beth, although no longer sick, does not retain her energy as she used to. Jo is pursuing her writing career, Amy has become quite the young lady, and Laurie is off at college. Meg and Mr. Brooke have just bought a house and are trying to furnish it. Laurie tells Jo that she will be the next to marry, Jo says she will never marry.

The wedding guests arrive and Meg has her simple wedding. Not needing all the fancy trimmings but preferring a small quiet wedding, Mr. March acts as minister and the family gathers round to see young Meg married. All have a wonderful time, even Aunt March.

Amy spends much time trying out different mediums for her art. As a member of an art class she wishes to have her class over to the house for lunch. Realizing that the family cannot support a lunch for 14 girls, Amy agrees to make arrangements and pay for the affair herself. The lunch is rained out the first day and on the second, only one friend is present. Although Amy's day is a disaster, her family consoles her.

Jo attends a lecture where she gets the idea of writing stories for publication. She sends one of her manuscripts to a publisher and receives $100.00. She decides to send Beth and Marmee to the beach. Her other stories provide for the family as well, "The Duke's Daughter paid the butchers bill, A Phantom Hand put down a new carpet, and the Curse of the Coventrys proved the blessing of the Marches in the way of groceries and gowns". With this new found talent, Jo decides to wear her "scribbling suit", a black woolen pinafore and matching cap with a red bow, and write a book of some sort for money.

Meg learns that married life is not as peaceful and easy as she might have imagined. She tries desperately to keep a good house and make jelly but these matters seem to get away from her from time to time. One night John brings home an unexpected dinner guest and Meg spends the evening sobbing. She spends too much money on a silk dress and a patient husband forgives her but she only insults him by declaring that she does not wish to be poor anymore. But, the couple works through their problems and 2 beautiful twins are born at the end of the chapter. John Laurence and Margaret "Daisy" are introduced into the world.

Amy and Jo make the social scene and visit several families. The reader gets a first hand glance at the differences in Jo and Amy's personalities. Amy, who has been looking forward to this outing has to convince her sister Jo to come with her. Eventually, an unhappy Jo agrees. The two visit from house to house where Amy is quick to guard her manners and behaves like a perfect lady. On the other hand, Jo enjoys telling stories and chatting with the boys more than talks about gossip with the ladies.

Mrs. Chester decides to throw a fair to show off the girls artistic ability. May Chester shares with her mother her jealousy of Amy and her talent. Therefore, Mrs. Chester sees to it that Amy's table is moved away to a farther corner so that her girls can enjoy the spotlight. Amy tries to make the best of it and Jo convinces Laurie to bring his friends to buy all of Amy's floral arrangements. Even Jo attends and tries her best to fit in and make Amy happy. Aunt Carrol decides to take Amy to Europe instead of Jo and Jo is disappointed but Beth is happy that her favorite sister will remain home.

Amy writes several letters to her family and sisters. She is enjoying herself in Europe and traveling to many places. While abroad she runs into Fred Vaughn, whom she met the summer of Camp Laurence. In a private letter to Marmee, Amy says that if Fred should offer his love, she would not hesitate to take it so that the family could have a good marriage. She says that she does not love him, but would in time. In addition, she is quite impressed by his monetary worth since Meg made such a "poor" marriage, Amy does not wish to do the same.

Beth seems upset and Marmee wonders why, so she asks Jo to see if she can use her influence to find out. Although Beth does not tell Jo exactly what is vexing her, Jo believes that Beth has fallen in love with Laurie. Fearing that Laurie may like her instead, Jo asks her mother if she may move to New York for the winter. She thinks that the time away would be good for her writing and allow Laurie ample time to forget her. Marmee agrees and Jo tells Laurie that she will be leaving. He tells her that he shall not forget her so easily.

Jo recounts her adventures in New York by writing several letters to her family. She is having a wonderful time living with Mrs. Kirke. She also meets for the first time, Professor Friedrich Bhaer and begins to learn German.

Jo is enjoying her life in New York as a writer. She decides to take a story she has written to the Weekly Volcano. She explains to Mr. Dashwood that her "friend" has written a story and hopes that it will be suitable for publishing. He tells her that her will look at it and get back to her. Jo hears from him later and sees that her story has been completely changed but they are offering $25.00 for it so she accepts. She continues to write sensational stories for the paper but refuses to have any name attached to them. Jo and Professor Bhaer continue their friendly relationship. He is still teaching her German and one night comes to teach her wearing a paper hat which the children made for him but that he forgot to remove. Jo lets him discover the hat himself and when he does, they begin a discussion of the sensational story in the paper. Jo is thankful that it was not one of her stories and she decides to never write those kinds of stories again. Jo returns home for the summer.

Jo returns and hopes that Laurie has gotten over her. She discovers in a walk through the woods that he has not and she feels that she has to tell him that she does not love him and will never marry him. Laurie is crushed and returns home to his grandfather. Wishing to have taken Jo on a trip to Europe, Laurie now finds comfort in the fact that his grandfather will accompany him. Laurie tries to recover from a broken heart.

Jo takes Beth to the beach in the hopes that it will lift her spirits. Beth tells Jo "her secret", namely, that Beth is very sick and fragile and believes that she will die soon. Beth explains that she believes she was never meant to live long and that at 19 she is ready and willing to go. Beth hopes that Jo will tell their parents of Beth's secret so that they can prepare. Upon arriving home, Jo realizes that she will not have to tell her parents because it is clear from looking at Beth that her time is nearing.

Laurie catches up with Amy in Nice on Christmas Day. The two spend time getting to know each other all over again. Laurie has grown into quite a young man and Amy has become a refined young lady. The two attend a Christmas part together and Laurie fills up Amy's book with his name for dances all night. The two are discovering new impressions in one another.

Meg and John fall out of sorts as Meg spends more and more time with the children and less with John. He begins to spend a great deal of time at the neighbors because he feels himself to be a burden. At first, Meg enjoys his time away from the house because it allows her the opportunity to care for the children more. Eventually however, she feels neglected and speaks with Marmee about her situation. Marmee tells Meg that she needs to pay more attention to John and allow him to help in the raising of the children. Meg agrees and lets John help to discipline Demi who has gotten out of control. Meg is soon satisfied that John is capable of taking care of the children as well and the marriage returns to its even keel.

Laurie and Amy spend more time together in France. On day at a park Amy has had enough of Laurie's "lazy" behavior and severely reprimands him for it. She tells him that he needs to go back to his grandfather and get on with his life. Amy suspects that Jo is the cause of his troubles as she sees him playing with a ring which Jo had given him long ago. Realizing that Laurie suffers from heartache, Amy tries to be more understanding but insists that Laurie needs to be less lazy. By the end of the chapter Laurie sends word that he is leaving for his grandfather and Amy is pleased.

A special room is prepared for Beth so that she may spend her last days surrounded by beautiful things and wonderful people. She spends her days making small gifts for the children. Jo keeps a constant watch over her sister and writes a special poem about her entitled, "Beth". One night as Jo drifts off to sleep, Beth reads the poem and is touched by her sisters caring words. She realizes that her short life has made a real difference in people's lives and now Beth is ready to leave. Beth dies in her mother's arms.

In an effort to cure his broken heart, Laurie tries to write music like Mozart but finds this task tedious and gives it up. Amy receives word from home that Beth has passed. She wishes to return home but her family urges her to stay, saying that she should spend her time mourning in Europe. Amy calls for Laurie and he packs his things and leaves from Germany to be at Amy's side. The two grow very fond of one another and love blossoms between them. While rowing in a river boat the two share their love for one another.

Jo has a hard time dealing with Beth's death. She is deeply saddened and feels very much alone. Marmee and her father try to comfort her but Jo is still heartbroken. The family hears the news of Amy and Laurie's engagement. Marmee is worried that Jo will be upset at the news, but Jo confesses that she is not at all angry or upset. Marmee suggests that Jo write to help ease her pain and so Jo does. One evening she retires and looks through her old chest, she begins to reminisce about her winter stay with Mrs. Kirke's and her friendship with Professor Bhaer. Jo begins to realize how much she misses him.

Jo is saddened at the prospect of being an old maid, yet her sadness turns to joy when Laurie and Amy return from Europe and announce that the have married. The family is overjoyed, including Jo who is now more than happy to welcome Laurie as a true brother to the family. Yet this is not the only surprise of the evening for Jo soon discovers Professor Bhaer at the front door and invites him in to enjoy the festivities. He tells Jo that he will be in town for a few days on business.

Laurie and Amy discuss their plans for the future. Laurie says that he means to get a good job and stop being so lazy. The two agree that they wish to use their wealth to help others who are less fortunate than themselves.

In this chapter the reader learns more about Meg and John's young twins. Daisy is the picture of beauty and bounces about playing house and confessing her love for everyone. Demi is likewise active and pursues the alphabet with his grandfather. He is very inquisitive and protects his sister from any harm. Both children praise and love their Aunt Jo and are jealous when their playtimes with her are cut short because of visits from Professor Bhaer.

Jo goes on long walks in the hope of running into Professor Bhaer, she has not seen him for several days and wonders where he has gone. She runs into him one rainy day in town and learns that his business is finished and that he will be leaving soon. The Professor has been offered a job in the west teaching and he means to take it and earn some money for himself and Franz and Emil. Jo is crushed by this news and Professor Bhaer seems to take notice. He spends the rest of the day shopping with Jo and eventually the two disclose their true feelings for one another. They agree to be married and Jo feels that she has finally found happiness in her life.

Aunt March dies suddenly and leaves Plumfield, her home, to Jo. Overjoyed by the generosity of the old woman, Jo searches for a way to make the home useful. Finally, she decides that she would like to open a boys home with her and the Professor as teachers. The home would provide a place for both rich and poor boys so that each could learn and grow up in a giving environment. Eventually Jo and the Professor have two little boys of their own, Rob and Teddy. Amy has a sickly young daughter, Beth, who she is constantly worrying over. At the annual apple-picking at Plumfield, the family celebrates the sixtieth birthday of Mrs. March The boys all climb trees and sing to her which makes her very happy. The family gives thanks for having one another and the novel closes.

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