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Little Women

Little Women

by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women Chapter 42 Summary

All Alone

  • In the wake of Beth's death, Jo finds it difficult to keep her promise to comfort her parents and take her sister's place in the home.
  • Jo often wakes up in the night and cries, grieving for Beth. Her mother hears her and comes to comfort her each time.
  • During the day, Jo has long conversations with her father. She tells him how difficult it is for her to cope with losing her sister and with resigning herself to her domestic tasks. He consoles and counsels her. They're finally able to talk about things as equal adults, as well as father and daughter.
  • Jo is also comforted by doing simple domestic chores and thinking of the way that Beth did them.
  • Hannah thanks Jo for taking Beth's place as a housekeeper.
  • One day, Jo and Meg are sitting together and sewing. Jo realizes how much Meg has grown as a person after her marriage.
  • Another day, Jo is helping Meg in the nursery, making kite for Demi. She asks Meg if marriage would suit her, too.
  • Meg thinks that marriage would be great for Jo and that it would help bring out her softer, more feminine side. She thinks Jo is like a chestnut burr – prickly on the outside, but soft on the inside.
  • Jo and Meg continue to have lots of sisterly chats about marriage and children. As Jo watches Meg's domestic life, she starts to wish that she were also married and that she could have kids of her own.
  • The narrator notes that, if Jo was a heroine in a moral story, then at this point she'd do everything perfectly and be happy and content. But she's not a heroine – she's a regular person, and so things are more difficult for her.
  • Marmee suggests that Jo take up writing again, because it always made her happy in the past. Jo agrees to try writing, although she intends to write something personal this time, not for a wider audience.
  • The story that Jo writes is published in a magazine and receives rave reviews. She doesn't understand why, and her father says it's because the story is so true to life.
  • Jo thinks that her life experiences – her love for Beth, her grief at Beth's death, and her closer connection to her parents – have made her a better writer. She keeps writing stories and they continue to be received well.
  • Amy and Laurie write to the Marches to announce that they are engaged. Marmee worries that Jo will be upset by this, but she's pleasantly surprised to discover that Jo is happy for them.
  • Jo says that she can be happy with the kinds of love in her life – love from her parents, friends, and family – but that she wouldn't mind a romance, too.
  • Jo and Marmee read Amy's description of the selfless love that she and Laurie feel for one another. They feel very happy for the young couple, and Jo hopes to experience that kind of love herself one day.
  • Jo feels restless and goes up into the attic. She rummages through her possessions and comes across some notebooks from the winter she spent in New York.
  • In one of the notebooks, she finds a message from Mr. Bhaer, saying that he is going to be late but will eventually come. Originally, it was just a note to let her know he'd be late for something in New York, but now it seems like foreshadowing! Jo, full of complicated feelings, begins to cry.

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