Work is wholesome, and there is plenty for everyone; it keeps us from ennui and mischief; is good for health and spirits, and gives us a sense of power and independence better than money or fashion.
The March sisters attempt to live a summer without doing any work, but they quickly discover their house does not function unless they contribute to it. If they do not get groceries, they don’t have food to eat. If they neglect to mend their clothes, they have nothing to wear. When they neglect to care for their pet bird, it dies in its cage. Marmee reminds the girls at the end of the experiment that, although work is not always pleasant, the results are worthwhile. She emphasizes the agency it gives the girls over their lives when they put in work for themselves and their community.
To the inspiration of necessity, we owe half the wise, beautiful, and useful blessings of the world. Jo enjoyed a taste of this satisfaction, and ceased to envy richer girls, taking great comfort in the knowledge that she could supply her own wants, and need ask no one for a penny.
Jo is industrious in writing and distributing her stories to newspapers who will pay her for them. She enjoys and benefits from writing long before it provides her with an income, but when she realizes what she can do if she has resources, she writes even more. Her work allows her to send Beth and Marmee to the seaside as well as fund purchases she would not otherwise be able to make for herself. Jo’s work allows her to have independence as a woman. That independence inspires her to reach for bigger successes in turn, giving her the confidence and ability to make her hopes reality. Alcott uses Jo to show how hard work will almost always produce some kind of reward.