An excerpt from John Bunyan's  novel The Pilgrim's Progress indicates the novel will be a guide for young girls.


Chapter 1: Playing Pilgrims 

Sisters Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March expect no Christmas presents this year but discuss what they would like to get. They decide to buy presents for their mother, Marmee, and discuss Jo's play they are performing on Christmas. Marmee arrives with a letter from Mr. March, who is a chaplain in the Civil War.

Chapter 2: A Merry Christmas 

On Christmas morning, when Marmee asks them to give their breakfast to a starving family, the sisters agree. That evening, they perform Jo's play and find a feast, sent by their neighbor, Mr. Laurence, after hearing of their charitable morning. 

Chapter 3: The Laurence Boy 

Meg announces they have been invited to a party at the home of Meg's friend, Sallie. Meg is excited; Jo isn't but agrees to go. They decide on codes to ensure Jo behaves properly. At the party, Jo runs into Mr. Laurence's grandson, Laurie. The two chat and dance away from everyone. Meg sprains her ankle, and Laurie takes them home. 

Chapter 4: Burdens 

The sisters entertain each other with stories from their day, and Marmee talks about being grateful for one's blessings. 

Chapters 5: Being Neighborly 

Laurie tells Jo he is lonely, longs to befriend her family, and shows her his grandfather's library. Laurie’s grandfather comes in and Jo inadvertently makes a disparaging comment about a painting of him. Mr. Laurence enjoys her candor and they become friends. 

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Preface & Chapters 1–5

Chapter 6: Beth Finds the Palace Beautiful 

The sisters start spending time at the Laurences' house. When Mr. Laurence learns that Beth is afraid of him, he tricks her into coming to play the piano during the day, as she reminds him of a granddaughter who passed away. Beth makes Mr. Laurence some slippers as gratitude, and he sends her his granddaughter's piano.

Chapter 7:  Amy's Valley of Humiliation 

Meg gives Amy money to buy fruit. When Amy tells her enemy at school that she will not get any limes, the girl tells the teacher of Amy's hoard. The teacher makes Amy throw the limes out and punishes her. Amy goes home and tells her family what happened.

Chapter 8:  Jo Meets Apollyon 

When Jo tells Amy she cannot come to a play Laurie invited only her and Meg to, Amy burns Jo's manuscript. Jo says she will never forgive Amy, even after Amy apologizes and Marmee advises Jo not to sleep on her anger. When Jo, Laurie, and Amy go skating, Amy falls through the ice and is rescued by Laurie. Jo makes up with Amy.

Chapter 9:  Meg Goes to Vanity Fair 

While Meg is staying with her wealthy friend and wearing simple clothes, she hears people gossiping that Marmee must intend to marry her to Laurie for his money. At the next party, the girls dress Meg in fine clothes. When Meg tells Jo and Marmee about the gossip she heard, Marmee says she has no such plans for Meg and only hopes the girls are happy and good.

Chapter 10:  The P.C. and P.O. 

The sisters hold meetings of the Pickwick Club. They produce a weekly newsletter with ads, poems, and stories. When Jo proposes inviting Laurie to join, Laurie bursts out of a closet and presents the club with a postal box they can place between their houses to pass things back and forth. 

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters 6–10

Chapter 11: Experiments 

During the summer, Meg and Jo are free from their duties and decide to do nothing. Amy and Beth also take a break from their studies. After the girls neglect their chores for almost a week, Marmee and Hannah, their maid, take a day off as well and the girls fail to run the household, discovering the importance of everyone doing at least a little work.

Chapter 12: Camp Laurence 

Through the postbox, Meg receives a glove and a song translated by Mr. Brooke, Laurie's tutor. The sisters are invited by Laurie to a picnic the next day, which they attend with others. Jo notices Fred cheating in a game but controls her temper; Kate is rude when she discovers Meg is a lowly governess; and Mr. Brooke defends Meg and has a long conversation with her.

Chapter 13: Castles in the Air 

Laurie asks to join the sisters as they sit on a hill. They agree to admit him if he contributes something useful, and Laurie reads a book to them. They discuss their dreams.

Chapter 14: Secrets 

Jo secretly takes the manuscripts for two stories to a newspaperman in town but meets Laurie as she leaves the news office. She tells him her secret, and Laurie tells her Mr. Brooke kept Meg's glove and carries it with him, which upsets Jo. After a week behaving strangely, Jo reads her family a story from a paper and reveals it is hers. 

Chapter 15: A Telegram 

Marmee receives a telegram saying Mr. March is ill and she must go to be with him. Marmee sends Laurie to ask Aunt March for money and Beth to ask Mr. Laurence for wine. Mr. Laurence offers Mr. Brooke as a travel companion. Jo returns home with money from selling her chopped hair, horrifying Amy, and later cries for her lost hair. 

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters 11–15

Chapter 16: Letters 

Marmee departs, and the sisters, Laurie, Hannah, and Mr. Laurence all write her letters in their own styles.

Chapter 17: Little Faithful 

Marmee asked her daughters to visit their poor neighbors every day, but only Beth does and ends up getting scarlet fever from their baby. Hannah sends for a doctor, who confirms Beth's illness. As Jo and Meg are immune, they decide to send Amy, who is vulnerable, to Aunt March's.

Chapter 18: Dark Days 

As Beth is more seriously ill than imagined, Jo breaks down in front of Laurie, who admits having telegraphed for Marmee and expects her to arrive soon. That night, as Beth starts to recover, Marmee arrives.

Chapter 19: Amy's Will 

During Beth's illness, Aunt March makes Amy work hard, despite liking her. The servant, Esther, tells Amy stories, helps her set a small shrine, and reveals Amy will receive her aunt's ring. Amy prays at the shrine and decides to make a will, with Esther and Laurie as witnesses, in case she falls ill and dies.

Chapter 20: Confidential 

Marmee asks Jo if she thinks Meg cares for Mr. Brooke and reveals he has confessed an interest in Meg, which saddens Jo. Marmee evaluates Meg’s reaction to discussions of Mr. Brooke, concluding Meg doesn't love him yet but will soon.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters 16–20

Chapter 21: Laurie Makes Mischief, and Jo Makes Peace 

Laurie sends Meg letters allegedly from Mr. Brooke. When Meg, Jo, and Marmee realize Laurie's prank, he confesses and apologizes to Meg, and the girls ask him to keep it secret. When Laurie refuses to tell his grandfather what bothers him, they quarrel. Jo explains Laurie's actions to Mr. Laurence, and he apologizes to his grandson.

Chapter 22: Pleasant Meadows 

At Christmas, everyone is merry, especially as the Laurences and Mr. Brooke bring Mr. March home. Jo, however, is upset as she feels Meg is slipping away from the family in her preoccupation with Mr. Brooke. Mr. March praises each of his daughters for their accomplishments.

Chapter 23: Aunt March Settles the Question 

Mr. Brooke professes his love for Meg. When Aunt March says she should marry someone for wealth, Meg defends her right to love and marry Mr. Brooke. Mr. Brooke hears their conversation and asks Meg to marry him in a few years – which she and her parents agree with. Jo is unhappy at losing her sister.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters 21–23


Chapter 24: Gossip 

When the war ends, Mr. March and Mr. Brooke are back, Amy takes over Jo's job caring for Aunt March, Jo continues to write stories for the newspaper, and Laurie is in college. As Meg's wedding nears, the sisters work on her new house.

Chapter 25: Artistic Attempts 

Amy invites her girlfriends over for a luncheon and an afternoon of sketching, offering to prepare and pay for everything. She ends up spending more than she planned, must reschedule the party because it is rainy, and is disappointed when only one person shows up.

Chapter 26: 

When the war ends, Mr. March and Mr. Brooke are back, Amy takes over Jo's job caring for Aunt March, Jo continues to write stories for the newspaper, and Laurie is in college. As Meg's wedding nears, the sisters work on her new house.

Chapter 27: Literary Lessons 

Jo wins a prize for a sensationalist story for a newspaper and uses the money to send Marmee and Beth to the seashore to improve her sister's health. Jo keeps writing and making more money to provide for her family. She publishes a novel.

Chapter 28: Domestic Experiences 

Meg learns to tend house, being careful with money as she and Mr. Brooke are poor. Meg spends too much money shopping with Sallie, preventing Mr. Brooke from getting a coat. She sells the fabric back to Sallie and buys him a coat. Soon they have twins: John Laurence and Margaret, nicknamed Demi and Daisy.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters 24–28

Chapter 29: Calls 

Amy and Jo go out visiting, and Amy makes Jo dress up and behave nicely. When they arrive at Aunt March's, Aunt Carrol is visiting, and Amy is charming while Jo is curt.

Chapter 30: Consequences 

Aunt Carrol invites Amy to accompany her to Europe, disappointing Jo, who expected to go on the trip. Before sailing for Europe, Amy asks Laurie to take care of her family, and he agrees, adding that, if anything happens he will come and comfort her.

Chapter 31: Our Foreign Correspondent 

Amy sends letters from Europe detailing her trip. Along the way, she runs into Fred and Frank, and Fred begins to court her. When Fred discovers Frank is seriously ill and needs to leave, he asks Amy to remember him and promises to return soon.

Chapter 32: Tender Troubles 

To broaden her horizons and make Laurie focus his love on Beth rather than on her, Jo decides to go to New York. When Jo tells Laurie about her decision, he says she will not get out of his grasp so easily.

Chapter 33: Jo's Journal 

In letters, Jo writes she is enjoying her work in New York and has befriended a middle-aged German professor named Frederick Bhaer.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters 29–33

Chapter 34: Friend 

In New York, Jo begins to write sensationalist stories for a publication that gives her a lot of money but doesn't make her proud. When Mr. Bhaer finds out about her stories, she quits writing them. When Jo tells Bhaer she is going home to see Laurie graduate, he seems jealous.

Chapter 35: Heartache 

All of the Marches, except for Amy, go to Laurie's graduation from college. Laurie confesses his love to Jo, but she refuses his marriage proposals, making him jealous of Mr. Bhaer and later leaving for Europe with his grandfather.

Chapter 36: Beth's Secret 

As Jo finds Beth sicker than before and takes her to the seashore, Beth says she knows she will die soon.

Chapter 37: New Impressions 

Laurie meets up with Amy in France, and each finds the other has changed, and they grow more interested in each other. Laurie escorts Amy to a ball and she confesses what she does to make herself pretty despite her poverty.

Chapter 38: On the Shelf 

When Mr. Brooke starts spending less time with his children and Meg is saddened by his absence, Marmee suggests Meg try to be more interested in her husband's affairs. Meg follows her mother's advice, and John begins sharing the childrearing responsibilities and spending more time at home.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters 34–38

Chapter: 39: Lazy Laurence 

Laurie ends up staying for a month in France to enjoy Amy's company, and she lectures him on being more attentive to his grandfather and keeping himself busy. Laurie sends her a note saying he has heeded her advice and is going to see his grandfather, making her miss him.

Chapter: 40: The Valley of the Shadow 

As Beth's health fails, the family sets up a lovely room for her, with her piano and Amy's sketches. Meg brings the babies, and Jo writes a poem about everything Beth has meant to her. Beth asks Jo to take care of their parents and then passes away.

Chapter: 41: Learning to Forget 

Amy turns down Fred’s marriage proposal. When Amy and Laurie hear about Beth's death, he goes to comfort her, they fall in love, and he asks her to marry him, which she accepts. 

Chapter: 42: All Alone 

Jo grows lonely at home, missing Beth, and when she finds out Amy and Laurie are engaged, she wishes to find a love of her own. She begins to write stories with her own style and to think about Bhaer, hoping he will come for her.

Chapter: 43: Surprises 

As Laurie and Amy come home married, Mr. Bhaer arrives unexpectedly. Everyone likes him very much, and he asks if he may come back as he is in town for some days, and Jo agrees.

Chapter: 44: My Lord and Lady 

Amy and Laurie discuss how to help the impoverished Mr. Bhaer and other people who are ambitious and in need of money.

Chapter: 45: Daisy and Demi 

At age three, Demi is already interested in mechanics and philosophy. Daisy lets herself be dominated by her brother and loves helping Hannah make food and keep house. Demi asks Jo and Bhaer if big boys like big girls, to which Bhaer says he thinks they do, delighting Jo.

Chapter: 46: Under the Umbrella 

When Bhaer stays away for a few days, Jo goes out to run some errands and, as rains begins, bumps into him. He covers her with his umbrella, and they shop together. When Bhaer says he has gotten a job in the West, Jo cries. They confess their love for each other and decide to marry.

Chapter: 47: Harvest Time 

Jo and Bhaer spend some time apart, pining for each other. Aunt March dies and leaves Jo her house, which she decides to turn into a school. Several years later, the school is successful. At a festival, the Marches, Brookes, Laurences, and Bhaers celebrate Marmee's sixtieth birthday. 

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters 39–47