Chapter 24 Gossip
The narrator begins Part II with some “gossip” about the March family. Three years later, the war has ended, and Mr. March is a minister and still quietly heads the household as its conscience and guide. John Brooke served in the army, was wounded and discharged, and is working as a bookkeeper to earn a home for Meg. Meg is preparing for married life, learning housekeeping, and she is greatly in love, although occasionally envious of the grand wedding and life had by her newlywed friends Sallie and Ned Moffat. Dovecote, Meg’s new home, is modest but fitted out with great care and love from family and friends. Even Aunt March, who swore not to give a penny, found a way to give a full set of linens through another relative.
Jo has devoted herself to writing and Beth, who was weakened permanently by the scarlet fever, and is forever struggling to get well. Amy works as a companion for Aunt March, who tempted Amy with drawing lessons. Laurie, at college to please his grandfather, spends a good deal of time frolicking and enjoying and helping friends, with the love of his grandfather and the Marches his best talisman against idle indulgence. Laurie often brings his college friends home, who enjoy Jo's boyish camaraderie and Amy's pretty and charming companionship. Laurie occasionally implies that he has feelings for Jo, but she spurns his overtures.
Chapter 25 The First Wedding
Meg’s wedding is simple, as she wants everything plain, honest, and surrounded with love. She made her own wedding dress, with only flowers for accessories. Aunt March is scandalized when she arrives and is welcomed by the bride herself. During the ceremony, the vows are said with great earnestness and love, Meg gives the first kiss for Marmee and her sisters.
In the three years passed, Jo’s face and tongue have softened and her hair has grown long. Beth is pale and thin, still weak, but cheerful. Amy has truly blossomed, now sixteen, and full of poise. The luncheon is simple, with the wine sent by Mr. Laurence and Aunt March nowhere to be found, of which Mr. and Mrs. March disapprove. Meg tells Laurie this, and upon learning that he occasionally drinks, she uses the occasion to ask Laurie to avoid drinking in the future by making a temperance pledge, which he does.
After the wedding, all exclaim what a beauty it was, despite the simplicity. Mr. Laurence tells Laurie that if he ever wants to marry, he hopes Laurie will choose a March girl, and Laurie says he will do his best. Meg’s married life begins.
Chapter 26 Artistic Attempts
Pursuing her ambition to become a great artist, Amy has tried various forms of art to the entertainment of her family, from poker sketching to painting to charcoal to sculpting, which ends in when an attempt to make a plaster mold of her foot goes awry. Meanwhile, she also strives to be an accomplished lady, which is easier for her, being naturally tactful and pleasing.
In an effort to be aristocratic, Amy plans a small party for her classmates in drawing school and insists on offering the comforts to which her rich friends are accustomed, including an expensive lunch. Marmee tries to advise her to stay in keeping with their circumstances, but Amy refuses, saying she will pay for it herself, and Marmee allows experience to be the teacher. Unfortunately, the party does not go as planned. The first attempt is postponed to the next day due to rain after all the preparations have been made. The following Amy has to go buy a lobster, and is embarrassed when she runs into one of Laurie's college friends. After preparing for the party, she is dismayed when only one girl comes. Amy is an excellent host, and the girl is very kind, but after she leaves the family has a good laugh about Amy's misadventure.
Chapter 27 Literary Lessons
Jo, wishing to be a writer, spends great time in the garret when she feels inspired, often foregoing meals and sleep to translate her imagination into stories. One day, while accompanying Miss Crocker to a lecture, she learns that sensational stories like those by Mrs. S.L.A.N.G. Northbury have quite an audience, and a newspaper is having a competition for such stories with a prize of $100. Jo secretly writes a story about an earthquake in Lisbon and submits it to the competition. Six long weeks later, Jo receives a note of encouragement and the grand prize, for $100. Her family celebrates, though her unworldly Father says that she can do better, and should aim higher, disregarding the money. Jo, however, continues to write, and takes great pride in assisting with the family’s bills. Her $100 sends Beth and Marmee to the shore for relaxation and recovery, and several more stories pay for the butcher bill, groceries, and new carpet. Jo cherishes her independence and ability to help her family.
Encouraged by her success, Jo writes her first novel. After much effort, she finds a publisher, but he insists that she remove 1/3 of the story. In her redrafting, she tries to please everyone, and thus pleases no one, least of all herself. It is published, and she receives $300 and heaps of criticism and praise, furthering her confusion, but she is glad for the trial.
Chapter 28 Domestic Experiences
Meg and John have a wonderful but trying time adjusting to married life. Their first big fight comes about after Meg tries to make currant jelly. After a day of boiling, sugaring, and straining their entire crop of currants, Meg is unable to make the jelly, and ends the day crying with exhaustion. Unfortunately, on this day John brought home a colleague for dinner, as Meg had often encouraged him to do. Finding the house in disarray, dinner uncooked, and Meg tired and cranky, John has to play host with an impromptu dinner. Both Meg and John feel betrayed and hurt, and neither wants to apologize first, until Meg gives in. John also apologizes and their first real disagreement is smoothed over.
Meg also struggles with envying the luxurious items Sallie Moffat has. On her shopping ships with Sallie, she begins to buy a trifle here, and a trifle there, and then spends fifty dollars on silk for a new dress. Meg feels deeply guilty, even more so tells John. He is angry, and Meg tries to justify herself, saying she is tired of being poor. Meg immediately regrets her comment, and though John quickly forgives her, she feels awful. John works later hours and cancels an order of a coat for himself to cover his expenses. Meg and John have a long, open conversation about their poverty and the strength of character it gives them. The next day Meg swallows her pride and asks Sallie to buy the silk from her, then uses the money to buy John’s coat, and never again wastes his money.
Several months later, Meg gives birth to twins, Daisy and Demi, which are nicknames for Margaret and John.
Chapter 29 Calls
Amy and Jo prepare to make formal calls to families around town, to Jo’s great consternation. Amy dresses Jo and instructs her in how to carry herself and behave at each house so she will be liked, but Jo, annoyed by the exercise of trying to win others’ approval, acts inappropriately at every home. Jo imitates one of Amy's friends May Chester, and then she is rude to a titled gentleman. At their final call on Aunt March, they also find her engrossed in conversation with Aunt Carrol. They discuss a fair that the Chesters are having to support the freedmen, at which Amy has been offered a chance to volunteer, and of which Jo disapproves. Aunt Carrol and Aunt March appreciate Amy’s gratitude toward the Chesters, and Jo pronounces that she does not like favors. Aunt March and Aunt Carrol look at each other knowingly then ask the girls if they speak French. Amy does, a little, but Jo refuses to learn. Jo proposes they leave promptly, and the two Aunts seem quite decided about something.
Chapter 30 Consequences
After spending long hours preparing to work the art table at the Chesters' fair, making her own pieces and soliciting ones from others, Amy is asked by Mrs. Chester to move to the flower table. May Chester is jealous of Amy, whose art was prettier, who was danced with more often. May also heard rumors that Amy mocked her recently, though in fact this was Jo. Amy understands the slight, but accepts politely, removes her artwork from the table, and spends the entire evening setting up the previously neglected flowers.
At home, Amy explains that she does not wish to be mean simply because the Chesters were, and her mother agrees that kindness is often our best weapon against our enemies. The next morning, while reading a book of sayings she illustrated, she is reminded to “love thy neighbor” and inspired to return her artwork to the art table where May now works. Amy is proud of being generous in the face of meanness, despite the long day spent alone at the flower table, looking wistfully at the busy and popular art table.
At home, Jo conspires to get her revenge. She asks Laurie to send over some fresh, new flowers, and to have his troupe of friends shower Amy’s table with attention. Laurie agrees wholeheartedly, though giving Jo such plaintive and suggestive looks that she shuts the door in his face. The troupe indeed makes Amy’s table a great success. Jo learns that May has seen her error and made sure all of Amy’s works sold, so Amy sends the troupe to May’s table to do their duty. Jo admires Amy’s generous spirit and gives her great respect, and Amy explains that, for her, being a lady means being truly well mannered, in behavior as well as speech. Jo trusts that Amy will be rewarded in time for her efforts.
Amy gets her reward just one week later, in the form of an invitation to accompany Aunt Carrol to Europe. Jo is shocked and hurt that Amy has been invited rather than Jo, feeling that Amy is too young. However, Aunt Carrol writes of Jo’s disinclination toward favors and French that Jo had thoughtlessly shared during their call. Marmee urges Jo not to spoil Amy’s happiness, and Beth is grateful that Jo will stay at home near her. Jo tries, and is helpful and happy getting Amy ready to go, at which point she sobs with regret and frustration. Amy is also cheerful until she leaves her family, and begs Laurie to watch over them. He promises to do so, and to come comfort her if anything should happen, not realizing he would truly need to.
Alcott begins Part II by addressing her readers, continuing her ongoing conversation with them. She knows her young readers will not object to the "lovering" for she has received countless letters from them demanding exactly that. She is also clear in foreshadowing the events to come, giving the readers' greater insight than her characters have, particularly when Jo and Amy are calling on Aunt March and Aunt Carrol. The interactions between Laurie and Jo also hint at developments to come.
Flowers, particularly roses, are a recurrent motif in Part II of Little Women. At Meg's wedding, Alcott personifies the roses. Meg's choice of wearing John's favorite roses rather than fashionable orange flowers symbolizes her wish for a genuine and simple marriage. This shows Meg's growth since she went to "Vanity Fair." At the Chesters' fair, Amy is relegated to the flower table, but through the help of her friends and family, she beautifies it nicely.
Family is still the primary concern for the characters in the book, although their attentions begin to turn outward. Meg's concern is also familial, although she is focused on making a happy family of her own, and she and John work through their concerns independently, utilizing the advice but not interference of the Marches. This outward shift in focus is reflected in the difference in the allusions Alcott makes, compared to Part I. Alcott abandons the Pilgrim's Progress allegory, which her characters have outgrown. Laurie alludes to "Jupiter Ammon," signifying his advanced education, Amy is compared to foreign artists, and Marmee to Maria Theresa, a Roman-German empress. Jo often alludes to Shakespeare as well as Keats and Tennyson, noting her more literary focus.
The characters are still concerned with morality, though not necessarily in the views of society. Laurie feels the conflict between what is socially easy and what is moral when Meg asks him to take the temperance pledge. His choice falls within the March's moral code and within Alcott's, as she advocated temperance. Jo devises her own moral guide to her calls with Amy, wishing to be polite to those she likes and rude to those she does not, regardless of what is proper.
Amy's attempted dinner party is also an example of the failure of her efforts to please society. When Jo agrees to help, Alcott alludes to Mrs. Grundy, a character in a Thomas Morton play who represents propriety and society's good opinion. Despite Marmee's advice, Amy tries to meet society's expectations, rather than those suited to her poverty, with laughable results. When Amy is being pleasing to society by being kind and gracious, however, she is highly rewarded. Her polite calls and generous behavior at the Chesters' fair are rewarded with a trip abroad.
Jo's discovery of the audience for sensation stories written by Mrs. S.L.A.N.G. Northbury is a parody of the writer Mrs. E.D.E.N. Southworth, who published stories in the mid-nineteenth century. By drawing on her own experiences and alluding to contemporary authors, Alcott continues to make her story realistic and timely.
Jo's first try at a sensation story does not contradict her moral code, as the earthquake in Lisbon in 1755 was considered punishment for the sinners of that city. In trying to please society with her book, however, Jo gets the worst of it. Alcott alludes to Aesop's fable of the donkey and the old man, where the old man, trying to please everyone, ends up drowning the donkey. This experience was based directly on Alcott's experience -- not with Part I, which was largely published as written, but rather with Moods, published in 1864.