Little Women

Little Women Summary and Analysis of Chapter 42 through Chapter 47


Chapter 42 All Alone

Despite her preparation, Jo is devastated at losing Beth, and feels despair at spending life attending only to household worries. She is comforted by her Mother, who shares her sorrow, and by her Father, whose ministry and counsel she seeks out. Through her work she tries to adopt Beth’s spirit of cheerful housekeeping, taking care to make home cozy and comfortable. Jo sees how improved Meg is through her marriage, particularly her children, and wonders if it might in fact be enjoyable for her.

In the meantime, Mother suggests writing as a way for Jo to find more joy. Jo is wary, but finds herself writing a simple story that is greatly received by family, then friends, and even newspapers. Jo wonders at her success, but Father explains that rather than writing for money, Jo is simply writing the truth, with a direct simplicity that speaks to people's hearts.

When Laurie and Amy write of their engagement, Jo is genuinely happy for them, but begins to wish to find the love and joy they have. She wanders to the garret, where she comes across reminders of her winter in New York and Mr. Bhaer’s friendship, and wishes to see him again.

Chapter 43 Surprises

The day before her twenty-fifth birthday, Jo laments that she will be a literary spinster. The narrator here urges readers to be kind and respectful to spinsters, as there is tragedy and sacrifice often in their histories, and remember the kindnesses that countless Aunts have shown them. Jo is surprised out of her reverie by Laurie, who has returned from abroad with Amy. They are awkward for a moment, but they are delighted to see each other and rekindle their exuberant friendship, and Laurie lets slip that he and Amy had gotten married, so that she could accompany him and Grandfather back home while the Carrols stayed another year abroad. Laurie explains to Jo that he does still love her, as a brother, and that it would have all come about naturally if he had been sensible and not proposed, as Jo urged. He asks if they can go back to being best friends as they were, and Jo assures him that they can be friends, but now as man and woman, and not as children as they were before. Having Laurie nearby is a great cheer to Jo, and when the entire family troops in, joy is plentiful all around, with gentle sad reminders of dear Beth, as when Mr. Laurence asks Jo to be his girl now.

After tea, the party goes upstairs, leaving Jo to feel lonely again just for a moment, when there is a knock at the door, and she finds Mr. Bhaer has come to visit. She invites him in and proudly introduces him to the family, where is he is a quick favorite. Mr. Bhaer and Father are kindred spirits, the babies enjoy his pockets of treats, and even Laurie overcomes his brotherly suspicion of the man's intentions. Mr. Bhaer looks wistfully and Laurie and occasionally at Jo, until he learns that Laurie has married Amy, to his delight. The evening ends with Amy leading them through Beth’s old songs, and Mr. Bhaer and Jo singing a duet. Mr. Bhaer promises to come again, for he has business in town, and all pronounce their approval of him.

Chapter 44 My Lord and Lady

Laurie and Amy discuss the potential of Mr. Bhaer marrying Jo, and wish they could help his poverty without hurting their pride. Laurie reassures Amy that he will be fully glad for Jo, without remorse, and Amy reassures Laurie that she would have married him if he were a pauper. They lament that there are girls who do marry for money, and gentleman and ladies who are ambitious but poor, to proud to ask for help. They commit to sharing their blessings with others less fortunate, particularly young women with artistic talents, and feel their love strengthened by their wish to share it.

Chapter 45 Daisy and Demi

The narrator insists on describing Daisy and Demi. Both are quite precocious, with Daisy modeling housekeeping and Demi energetically modeling machine making. Daisy is a sweet creature, whose angelic nature reminds the family of Beth, though she is not shy. Demi loves to understand how things work, including his own body and mind, and reasons with his Mother about their rules. Both love Jo, or “Aunt Dodo,” and are saddened when Mr. Bhaer’s visits take her time and attention away from them, though they enjoy his company and chocolates. Seeing Mr. Bhaer give Jo a chocolate, Demi asks him if great boys like great girls, to the embarrassment of all. It is then that Mr. March realizes that Mr. Bhaer has not been visiting entirely to speak with him about philosophy, but also to woo Jo, though neither Jo nor Mr. Bhaer have spoken of it.

Chapter 46 Under the Umbrella

During Mr. Bhaer’s frequent visits from town, all realize the love that is growing between him and Jo, and see Jo’s spirits rise, though no one says a word. Jo, though, is afraid that after years of denouncing love, Laurie especially will tease and laugh.

After a fortnight of such visits, Mr. Bhaer stays away for a few days. Feeling cross, Jo goes into town on the pretense of doing errands, though she walks by the shops instead, hoping to see him. When it begins to rain, Jo chides herself, until she finds an umbrella above her, and Mr. Bhaer holding it. He asks if he may walk with her, and she agrees happily. In an effort to stay calm, Jo gives Mr. Bhaer the mistaken impression she does not have feelings for him, and he tells her that he has found a place teaching at a college in the West, and he will leave tomorrow. Jo hides her disappointment while Mr. Bhaer stops to buy treats for his last visit to the Marches.

After shopping, Mr. Bhaer proposes to go to the house, for which Jo is grateful. The rain and long day, and the prospect of Mr. Bhaer’s leaving make her quite sad, and she quietly begins to cry. Mr. Bhaer asks her why she is crying, and she confesses that it is because he is leaving. He is cheered by this, and says that he had come to see if she could care for him, and she says she will. They enjoy the long walk home, in their rainy and muddy state, hands and hearts full, and begin opening their hearts to each other. Friedrich, as Jo now calls him, asks if Jo ever loved Laurie, and Jo explains that she did not. Jo asks why Friedrich decided to visit, and he produces a poem that ran in a newspaper that he recognized as Jo’s, and which gave him a glimmer of hope. He intends to go to the West and work, so he can return and provide a home for her, and Jo says she does not mind the wait, or his age, or their poverty, as long as he will help her contribute. Disregarding all social propriety, Jo kisses him on the spot.

Chapter 47 Harvest Time

Jo and her Professor work and wait for a year, writing letters and cultivating their love. When Aunt March dies, she lives her large estate Plumfield to Jo, who has the idea of turning it into a school for boys. She long had the dream of having a school, particularly for orphan boys whom she would love to mother, and shared it with Friedrich, and they agreed to do it once they got rich. Now, with Plumfield, they have the space, Friedrich to teach and Jo to mother, with Father and Mother's advice. Everyone finds it a lovely idea, though Laurie advises that Jo will need rich pupils too, to fund the place. Jo agrees, noting that she already has success raising one such boy to be a successful and admirable man who is accomplished and philanthropic, and says she will make Laurie the model for all her students. Jo is thus married and settled at Plumfield, with a crop of boys rather quickly. Mr. Laurence finds a way to help despite Jo’s pride by sending her the poor or orphan boys she wishes and paying their way. Jo has her fill of the boylike life she has always cherished, befriending them and inventing stories for their benefit alone. She and Mr. Bhaer have two sons of their own, Rob and Teddy.

Five years later, the entire family gathers at Plumfield for picking apples and celebrating Mrs. March’s sixtieth birthday. The evening ends with a great surprise, with all the pupils singing like angels in the trees a song Jo wrote and Laurie set to music. Afterwards, the sisters all sit together and remember their castles in the air, as well as how differently their lives have turned out. Meg’s life is closest to her castle, though her simple home is not full of luxurious things. Jo’s life is quite different her dream of being a genius author, though she thinks she may still write a great book yet, informed with all her life’s experiences. Amy’s castle is also different, but she is blessed by her life and her sweet daughter Beth, although Beth is fragile and weak. The thought of losing her has brought her and Laurie even closer. All agree that they are deeply happy, and Mrs. March is thankful for her happiness and theirs.


Despite her promise to Beth, it is difficult for Jo to do her duty to her parents. Jo feels that her sacrifice goes unrewarded, while Amy enjoys her trip abroad. Jo takes comfort in work and in her parents, and Hannah foreshadows that Jo, too, will be rewarded. Indeed Jo is, as marked by the final stage of her growth in womanhood and through Mr. Bhaer’s love for her.

This section celebrates the generosity of the Laurences, recalling Marmee saying that money could be used nobly, and Jo telling Laurie in college that if he only spent money helping friends, no one would think the less of him. Now he and his father are exceptionally generous and derive great joy from sharing their wealth. Laurie and Amy's dedication to help "poor gentlefolk" reflect on the situation of the March family - and the Alcott family, who often benefited from the generosity of others.

Part II, in addition to Part I, closes as the beginning of Part I opens, with the March sisters discussing their wishes. Now they are reflecting back on their lives, rather than looking forward. The family is still their core orientation, but the family has grown even more to include children. Even Aunt March has found a place of welcome in the family, through remembrance of her generosity, albeit used differently than she imagined. The granddaughters Daisy and Beth are both reminiscent of the sister Beth, as is Jo's more tempered spirit.

At the close of the book, all feel happy regardless of wealth. Jo is determined to contribute to her household and works in partnership with her husband. She has grown into a "little woman," but enjoys her boys immensely as a mother. The harvest metaphor the girls use to discuss their families in the final paragraphs of the book signifies the hard work and patient cultivation that has one into creating the family's blessings.