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Little Women

Little Women


by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women Chapter 39 Summary

READ THE BOOK: Chapter 39

Lazy Laurence

  • Laurie stays in Nice for a month hanging out with Amy. He enjoys her company and sisterly affection...or is it just sisterly?
  • As Amy and Laurie get to know each other better as adults, they start judging each other, too. Laurie realizes just how great Amy really is, but Amy's disgusted with Laurie's laziness and selfishness.
  • One day at noon, Laurie comes over to see Amy and she suggests that they go to Valrosa to sketch. They drive to the rose garden together in a small carriage, moving through the picturesque Italian countryside.
  • They arrive and walk through the garden admiring the roses. Amy comments on the beautiful roses, and Laurie comments on their thorns. Amy tells him to look for roses lower down on the bushes that don't have any thorns. Laurie thinks about how symbolic this is – the thorny, inaccessible red rose reminds him of Jo, and the little, thornless white roses below it are like...you get the idea.
  • Amy asks Laurie when he is going to go back to Paris to be with his grandfather. Laurie feels lazy and isn't in any hurry to go, but Amy chides him for delaying.
  • Laurie tries to cut off the conversation by flirting with Amy, but she won't flirt back. She asks him what he's doing with his life these days, but he just makes jokes in return.
  • Amy starts making a sketch of Laurie lying on the grass. She works hard and energetically, contrasting with his laziness.
  • Amy mentions Jo, and Laurie gets distracted and bitter. Amy tells him that he looks like the effigy of a knight on a tomb, and he says he wishes he was. He seems to mean that he wishes he was dead, and Amy tells him that's ridiculous.
  • Laurie softens a little and tells Amy he's OK. Amy is relieved – she was worried he might have been gambling, or taken a mistress.
  • Amy tells Laurie that they should confide their secrets to each other. He tells her to start, and she says she doesn't have any secrets.
  • Laurie asks Amy when she is going to start on her first great artistic work. She says never – after going to Rome and seeing all the great art there, she realized that she had talent, but not genius. Now she plans to be "an ornament to society" instead.
  • Laurie asks Amy about Fred Vaughn. Amy confesses that she isn't engaged yet, but hopes to be soon. She admits that she doesn't love Fred, but he is rich and gentlemanly and she's decided that someone in the family needs to make a good marriage. Laurie feels strangely disappointed.
  • Amy tells Laurie that he needs to wake up and get his life together. He doesn't take her seriously and suggests that she get it together for him. She rolls up her sleeves (metaphorically speaking, that is) and gives him a lecture he's not going to forget anytime soon.
  • Amy starts her lecture by telling Laurie that she and her cousin Flo call him "Lazy Laurence." She says that she despises him, because he's rich and has every opportunity of being happy and useful, but instead he's just wasting his time and money being miserable.
  • Laurie tries to joke around and flatter Amy, but she's serious and angry. He puts a hand across her sketchbook and pretends to promise to be good, but she points out how soft his hand is and asks if he's ashamed that he doesn't do any work or anything useful.
  • Amy happens to mention the little ring Laurie wears that Jo gave him. He's immediately hurt and withdrawn.
  • Amy finally figures out that Laurie has proposed to Jo and been rejected, which nobody told her. She becomes more apologetic and says that now she realizes why Laurie has changed so much.
  • Amy tells Laurie that, if he can't make Jo love him, he should at least make her respect him by doing something meaningful with his life.
  • Laurie starts to realize that he's being childish and sulky, and that he should do more to make his life worthwhile.
  • Amy ends her lecture by showing Laurie the sketch she has been making of him, which she's just finished. In it, he lies in the grass with his hat over his face, a perfect image of laziness. Then she shows him another sketch that she made a long time ago of him taming a horse. The drawing isn't as good, but the contrast is clear – Laurie used to be energetic and hard working, and now he just lays around and mopes.
  • Laurie and Amy leave Vevey and drive home in the carriage. Laurie is somewhat cold to Amy, who is saddened by this, but glad that her lecture is having an effect.
  • Amy and Laurie say goodbye. She asks him to stay for dinner, but he says he's busy.
  • The next morning, Amy gets a note from Laurie saying that he has gone to Paris to be with his grandfather. Amy reads it and realizes how much she will miss him.

READ THE BOOK: Chapter 39

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