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The narrator tells us that it takes people a long time to learn the difference between talent and genius, and Amy is learning it the hard way.
Amy tries every kind of art, from clay sculpture to pen-and-ink drawing to woodburning, then oil painting, and then charcoal portraits, and finally sketching. Each art form ends in hilarity or disaster.
Amy is patient and persevering, but it doesn't seem like she's really cut out to be a great artist. However, she's also becoming a graceful, accomplished woman; everyone likes her, and she always seems to say the right thing.
Amy's biggest flaw is that she tries to be a social climber. She confuses money, power, and aristocracy with real values and principles.
One day, Amy asks her mother if she can invite the girls from her drawing class over to her house for lunch and an opportunity to sketch the countryside.
Mrs. March agrees and suggests a modest menu. Amy insists that the girls, who are mostly more wealthy than her family, have to have a really fancy meal.
Mrs. March asks how many girls there are in the group, and Amy says around a dozen, but she thinks only half of them will come.
Mrs. March thinks it will be too expensive, but Amy has everything planned out and has saved her own money so that she can pay for it.
Mrs. March still thinks it's a mistake to throw a party beyond their means, but she decides to let Amy learn by experience.
Meg agrees to help Amy. Jo refuses at first, but finally Amy convinces her that she's defying convention just for the sake of being different, and she agrees to help.
They send out the invitations, and almost all the girls accept.
Hannah is cranky because the preparations for the lunch interfere with her regular household routine.
Everything seems to go wrong: Hannah's cooking turns out badly, things are more expensive than Amy thought they would be, Beth is sick, Meg is busy, and Jo keeps breaking things.
Amy has told the girls to come on Monday, and if the weather is bad on Monday to come on Tuesday instead. On Monday, the weather is drizzly and nobody shows up.
On Tuesday, the food is getting a little stale and Amy's also tired of the idea.
Tuesday morning, Mr. March comes in and says he wasn't able to buy a lobster, so they'll have to go without salad. Amy goes into town herself to get one.
Buying a lobster is a pretty low-class errand and Amy doesn't want to be seen doing it, so she carries a big basket with a lid and covers her face with a veil.
Amy gets her lobster and takes the bus home. There is only one other passenger, an old lady, so Amy takes off her veil.
At the next stop, one of Laurie's college friends, Tudor, gets on the bus. He recognizes Amy and sits by her to chat.
Amy ignores the basket with the lobster while she talks to Tudor. Unfortunately, when the old lady gets off the bus, she knocks the basket over and the lobster falls out.
Tudor thinks the lobster must belong to the old lady and starts to hand it back to her. Amy blushes and explains that it's hers.
Tudor makes a polite comment about what a fine lobster it is, and Amy saves the day by joking that Tudor probably wants to see the girls who are going to eat it.
Amy finally gets home, although her dress has been damaged by the lobster's dressing. She gets everything ready by noon.
Finally, Amy orders Mr. Laurence's carriage and goes to meet her guests. But as Mrs. March watches at the window for them coming back, they discover that only one girl has come!
Jo and Beth help Hannah clear some of the place settings, so that it won't look too ridiculous when there's only one guest.
Amy entertains her only guest, Miss Elliot, calmly and politely, and her family helps her as best they can. Finally, the party is over.
Amy comes home alone. Her family tries to be polite and don't mention any of the problems.
The Marches sit down to eat – dinner, of course, is some of the leftovers from the party. Finally Amy gives up and decides not to make her family eat leftovers for days, and sends the food to the Hummel family.
Amy starts to tear up, and Jo admits that it was pretty funny that only one girl came. Mrs. March tries to be comforting.
Amy says that she is satisfied – she did what she meant to do. She asks her family not to mention the episode.
Nobody brings it up for a few months, but Laurie gives Amy a coral lobster charm for her birthday!