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Little Women

Louisa May Alcott

Chapters 39–47

Chapters 34–38

Chapters 39–47, page 2

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Summary — Chapter 39: Lazy Laurence

Although Laurie originally intends to spend a week in Nice, he ends up staying for a month in order to enjoy Amy’s company. While he is there, Amy becomes more and more distressed at his laziness and bad humor. One day, they go for a drive to a scenic hilltop villa so that Amy can sketch. While there, Amy decides to lecture Laurie, telling him that he should be more attentive to his grandfather and that he should find a way to keep himself busy. Soon, she figures out that Jo has refused his marriage proposal, and she becomes somewhat more sympathetic. Still, she tells him not to waste his talents by sitting around moping. The next morning, she gets a note saying that he has heeded her advice and is on his way to see his grandfather. Although she will miss him, she is pleased that he has taken her advice.

Summary — Chapter 40: The Valley of the Shadow

Because of Beth’s failing health, the family sets up a lovely room for her. In it they place her piano, Amy’s sketches, and other beautiful things. Meg also brings the babies over to brighten Beth’s days. As time passes, Beth gets weaker, but she is not afraid of death. Jo writes a poem about all Beth has meant to her, which pleases Beth, who worries that her life has been useless. Before Beth dies, she asks Jo to take care of their parents. Beth passes away peacefully.

Summary — Chapter 41: Learning to Forget

Laurie is more active when he returns to Switzerland. He spends some time in Austria working on a requiem and an opera. He tries to make Jo his heroine, but she seems ill fit to be his artistic muse, or inspiration, so he begins to imagine a blonde damsel, although he does not name her. Laurie also begins to correspond with Amy frequently. When Fred Vaughn finally proposes, Amy turns him down because she does not want to marry for money. Amy and Laurie find out about Beth’s death at nearly the same time, and Laurie goes to comfort Amy. They begin to spend much time together and fall in love. One day, Laurie and Amy are boating on a river. Laurie is doing the rowing, and Amy asks to help, telling him that he looks tired. They begin to row smoothly together, and Laurie asks Amy if she will always row in the same boat as him—that is, if she will marry him. Amy responds that she will.

Summary — Chapter 42: All Alone

Jo grows lonely at home, although she tries to make life easier for Marmee, Mr. March, and Hannah. One day, she confides to her father how much she misses Beth. Word arrives that Amy and Laurie are engaged, and Marmee is worried about how Jo will take the news. Jo is calm, though, and pleased that they are in love. She does wish that she could find a love of her own, but she does not begrudge Amy Laurie’s affections. Jo begins to write more, and finds a style that is all her own. It has more truth in it than her previous sensationalist writing, and magazines publish many of her stories. She begins to think about Professor Bhaer sentimentally, hoping that he will come for her.

Summary — Chapter 43: Surprises

Laurie comes into the house, surprising Jo. He tells her that he and Amy have married so that they could come home together without a chaperone. He tells Jo that she was right about her being unsuitable for him, and that he is happy to have Amy as his wife and Jo as his sister. With Amy, Laurie, and Mr. Laurence home, everyone celebrates all day and into the night. Mr. Laurence asks Jo to be his “girl” now that Beth is gone. As the family revels, Mr. Bhaer arrives unexpectedly. He says that he is in town on some business. Jo warmly greets him. Everyone likes him very much. Jo notices that he is all dressed up as if he were courting. After a long evening, he asks if he may come back, as he is in town for a few days. Jo gladly tells him that he may.

Summary — Chapter 44: My Lord and Lady

Amy and Laurie display their happiness at every moment, relishing each other’s company. They discuss Mr. Bhaer, whom they think Jo will marry, and decide that they want to help the impoverished Bhaer financially. They also discuss the kind of philanthropy that they would like to practice, and conclude that they will support people who are ambitious and in need of money. In talking about all the good they will do, they feel closer than ever.

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