[Meg] had her girlish ambitions and hopes, and felt some disappointment at the humble way in which the new life must begin.
Although Meg’s marriage is a joyful event in the novel, John’s lack of money means she will not have the life she once imagined for herself. The question of whether it is acceptable to marry for money comes up several times throughout the novel, and the March family decides it is not a sustainable option. Meg struggles to make do without the comfortable life she hoped for, but she ultimately succeeds in keeping a loving home. This success comes by devoting her time and energy into providing what she cannot buy. Marmee believes Meg is happier than she would have been had she married for money, even though it means a lifetime of constant work for Meg.
I may be mercenary, but I hate poverty, and don’t mean to bear it a minute longer than I can help. One of us must marry well . . . so I shall, and make everything cozy all round.
When Amy realizes the wealthy Englishman, Fred Vaughn, has become interested in her, she makes up her mind to accept if he proposes. Amy tells Marmee she is not in love with Fred, but she gets along with him and thinks they would do well together. She reasons that their family would be more comfortable with more money, and therefore one of the daughters must marry into wealth. As Amy has her mind made up to marry Fred, she is more resigned than excited. Amy intends to fulfill what she believes is her daughterly duty of providing for her family through marriage rather than promoting her own happiness. In the end, she marries Laurie for love but ends up with his money as well.
You I leave to enjoy your liberty till you tire of it; for only then will you find that there is something sweeter.
Marmee is proud of Jo for her writing and her independent spirit, but she believes Jo’s personal ambition will last only as long as Jo remains unmarried. Marmee claims marriage is better than independence and implies that Jo will inevitably agree and choose to get married. While Jo does marry Professor Bhaer, she does so as an heiress and with plans to build a school of her own. It is not marriage that brings Jo back from her life in New York, but her duty to the family she already has. When Beth’s health takes a turn for the worse, Jo prioritizes all the time she has left with her sister over her ambitions.
Be everything to father and mother when I’m gone . . . and if it’s hard work alone, remember that . . . you’ll be happier in doing that, than writing splendid books, or seeing all the world; for love is the only thing that we can carry with us when we go.
For the duration of her life, Beth’s main goal is to serve her family and community. When she is near death, she tells Jo their parents will need her at home to take Beth’s place. This is a large request from Beth, but she reminds Jo that her accomplishments and accolades are temporary compared to her relationships. As an unmarried daughter, it would’ve been expected for Jo to fill the role of supporting her parents, despite Jo’s own grief and her previously established life. The novel does not pretend this is an easy choice for Jo, but honoring her familial duty allows Jo to heal with their support instead of returning to New York and trying to resume life on her own.