Amy continues to desire a more luxurious life, and she spends time and money attempting to impress the rich girls from her art class with a fancy party. As usual, the failure of her party provides the opportunity for Amy to learn a lesson about pretending to be something she is not. Alcott stresses that women living in poverty should hold fast to their dignity. She considers living beyond one’s means extremely undignified, since the people one tries to impress by doing so can see through this facade and can recognize poverty and pretending for what they are. Dignity is only attainable, Alcott suggests, by accepting one’s financial situation gracefully and refusing to be embarrassed by it.
Jo continues to develop into an independent woman. It is perhaps significant that when she goes to the lecture on the pyramids, she sits behind two women discussing women’s rights. Although Jo does not discuss women’s rights directly, she does believe that she can do anything she likes, even if that means foregoing the traditional woman’s role as housewife. Jo revels in her independence and in her ability to provide financially for herself and her family. The whole family also supports her in her pursuits. Alcott quietly emphasizes the responsibility Jo bears. Her father urges her to wait for her book to ripen before she publishes it, but the unsavory truth of the matter is that the family desperately needs money, and Mr. March is doing little to provide it. Jo decides to sacrifice artistic ideals in order to provide for her family, and Alcott supports her in this endeavor.
In contrast to Amy and Jo, Meg submits wholeheartedly to being a good wife and homemaker. But her lapses into desire for luxury remind her that, married or not, she is still growing up. Alcott portrays marriage realistically, not as the happily-ever-after end of the story, but as one step in a lifetime, a step that does not drastically change the personality of either husband or wife. This realistic portrayal of marriage is heightened by the fact that Meg’s wedding, though a happy event, breaks up the cozily cloistered feeling of Part One of the novel. The realities of life are setting in, and, perhaps sadly, the sisters have begun to scatter.