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Little Women

Louisa May Alcott

Chapters 29–33

Chapters 24–28

Chapters 29–33, page 2

page 1 of 2

Summary — Chapter 29: Calls

Amy and Jo go out visiting, and Amy makes Jo dress up and behave nicely. At the first house, Amy reprimands Jo for being too reserved and for hardly speaking at all. To tease her sister, Jo imitates a social butterfly named May Chester at the second house they visit. Amy grows even more mortified as Jo reveals secrets of their poverty. At the third house, after Amy tells her to stop this new behavior, Jo amuses herself by playing with a group of young boys, telling them stories. As Amy and Jo walk to Aunt March’s house, Amy declares that poor young women should be pleasant because they have nothing else to give. Disagreeing, Jo says that she will probably be crotchety all of her days. Aunt Carrol is at Aunt March’s house when they arrive. During the visit, Amy is charming, but Jo is curt. Alcott indicates that something good will happen to Amy because she is so delightful that day.

Summary — Chapter 30: Consequences

Amy is to work at the art table at the Chesters’ upcoming fair. She works hard to put the display together. The night before the fair, Mrs. Chester hears how the March girls insulted her daughter, May, and tells Amy that she should work at the flower table instead, while May will work at the art table. Amy is insulted, but she maintains her composure, taking her art with her to the new booth. The next day, hoping to smooth things over, Amy offers her art back to May. Over the course of the day, few people go to the flower table. That night, however, the Marches send over a brigade of young men led by Laurie. These boys surround Amy and buy all her flowers. Then, to kill May with kindness, Amy sends the boys to May’s booth to buy the vases that May has made. Amy returns home to find the vases filled with flowers for her. She then receives a note from Aunt Carrol, telling her that she is going to Europe and wants Amy to accompany her. Amy is thrilled, but Jo is very disappointed, having hoped that she would get to go on the trip. Before Amy sails for Europe, she asks Laurie to come comfort her if something should happen. He agrees to do so.

Summary — Chapter 31: Our Foreign Correspondent

Amy sends several letters from Europe, detailing her romps through England, France, Germany, and Switzerland. She says that she is trying to absorb every beautiful attraction. Along the way, she runs into Fred and Frank Vaughn, Laurie’s English friends. She and Florence, Aunt Carrol’s daughter, spend a lot of time with them, and it becomes clear that Fred is interested in courting Amy. She decides that she will accept him if he proposes. She is not madly in love with him, but she likes him and thinks that his fortune will help the whole family. But Fred finds out that Frank is very ill, and must leave abruptly. Fred asks Amy to remember him, and tells her meaningfully that he will return to her soon.

Summary — Chapter 32: Tender Troubles

Marmee asks Jo to find out if something is troubling Beth, for Beth’s spirits seem low. After thinking, Jo concludes that Beth might be in love with Laurie, but Jo is afraid that Laurie is in love Jo herself. Jo asks her mother if she might go away for a while in an attempt to broaden her horizons and to escape Laurie’s growing love. She hopes that Laurie will fall in love with Beth while she is gone. Marmee agrees that Jo and Laurie are unsuited for each other because they are too similar, with their strong wills and frequent quarrels. Jo decides to go to New York to live with a woman named Mrs. Kirke and to teach her children. When Jo tells Laurie of her decision to leave, he responds by telling her, teasingly but seriously, that she will not get out of his grasp so easily.

Summary — Chapter 33: Jo’s Journal

Jo sends letters from New York. She reports that the children are fine and that she is enjoying her little room in the big boarding house. She also writes about another boarder, a German professor named Frederick Bhaer. Professor Bhaer does not have much money, and tutors children in order to make a living. He is not particularly good-looking, and is around forty years old. Jo watches him doing good for everyone around him and is impressed by his kindness. They become friends when she mends some of his garments for him. Soon, he begins teaching her German. At Christmas, he gives her a beloved volume of Shakespeare from which he hopes she will learn. She gives him many trinkets in return. For New Year’s Eve, the boarding house has a masquerade, and Jo goes as Mrs. Malaprop, a character from a Restoration comedy by Richard Sheridan called The Rivals. Bhaer goes as Nick Bottom, from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Jo thoroughly enjoys herself.

Analysis — Chapters 29–33

In Part Two of the novel, Alcott uses a narrative technique slightly different from the one she employs in Part One. Whereas the first part of the novel is didactic, tending to teach us lessons, the second part is sentimental, tending to steer the novel in an emotionally satisfying direction. Alcott addresses her audience more frequently here than she does in the first part; this direct address is a common device in sentimental literature. These direct and sometimes syrupy appeals to the reader are supposed to inspire emotion. This shift in genres may be due partly to audience response and artistic choices. It may also be due to the fact that Alcott is no longer writing about the cloistered, all-female household that so closely mimics her own early womanhood, but now writes about strictly imagined events. In particular, Jo’s resemblance to Alcott lessens in the second part of the novel.

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