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Little Women

Little Women

by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women Chapter 43 Summary

Surprises

  • Jo is sitting alone in the evening, thinking and having a little bit of alone time. She's almost 25 and feels like she has nothing to show for it. She thinks that she's going to be an old maid, focused on her career as an author instead of on a marriage to a man.
  • The narrator discusses spinsterhood. To a girl in the nineteenth century, who was brought up for the sole purpose of finding a husband, not getting one might seem like the end of the world. But, the narrator says, we should be kind to old maids, because they're missing out on marriage, and because any girl could end up that way if things didn't work out for her. This passage is a little weirder because Louisa May Alcott was herself an old maid, and perfectly happy.
  • The narrator stops lecturing us and returns to the plot. Jo looks up from the soft to see Laurie bending over her. She's excited to see him and gives him a big hug to welcome him back.
  • Jo asks where Amy is, and Laurie tells her that his wife is at Meg's with Marmee. Jo is surprised but happy to learn that Amy and Laurie are already married!
  • Jo and Laurie settle down to talk about this new state of affairs. Things are both more and less awkward between them – Laurie's not trying to make Jo love him anymore, but they can't really be close in the same way.
  • Laurie explains that he and Amy got married early because their travel plans changed. The Carrols decided to stay in Paris for another winter, so Amy didn't have a chaperone home. (It wouldn't have been proper for her to travel alone with gentlemen, even honorable ones like Laurie and his grandfather.) So Laurie and Amy got married to make it proper and free them up to come back to the U.S. together with old Mr. Laurence.
  • Laurie describes their wedding – Amy's aunt and uncle were there, and they knew that the Marches would approve, and his grandfather was also there, so it worked out OK. They had a quiet ceremony at the office of the American consul (like an ambassador) in Paris. It had to be quiet, because they're still mourning Beth.
  • After their wedding, Amy and Laurie spent a month at Valrosa for their honeymoon.
  • Laurie makes one last emotional speech to Jo. He explains that he still loves her, but in a different way – as a sister. He says that she was right that he should have waited to see how his feelings would develop, and that he'd find a wife more suited to him.
  • Jo says that she believes him, but reminds him that they can't be kids together anymore; they have serious grown-up work to do in the world.
  • Jo feels like time is flying; weren't they all playing together as children just yesterday? Laurie reminds her that he's older than she is. She counters by saying that she's aged emotionally in the wake of Beth's death.
  • Laurie realizes how alone Jo has been in her grief – Meg has her husband and children, Laurie and Amy have each other, but Jo has been alone with her parents.
  • Jo quickly distracts herself by wondering how Amy and Laurie get along together. Laurie says they get along very well, and mostly he lets Amy be in charge, but she's very subtle and gentle about it so he doesn't mind.
  • Jo and Laurie are interrupted by Amy, who comes in with her mother, Mr. Laurence, Meg, Daisy, Demi, and everyone.
  • The family members greet each other. Everyone notices how nice a couple Amy and Laurie make, and how nice it is to see how devoted they are to old Mr. Laurence.
  • Meg notices Amy's new European dress and manners. Jo thinks that they make a perfect couple. Mr. and Mrs. March notice that Amy has made a good marriage – not just for money, but for love, too.
  • Daisy and Demi are excited to see their aunt, whom they hardly remember, and their new uncle.
  • Hannah is pleased to see Amy as a wealthy, dignified woman.
  • Everyone talks at once, trying to tell each other about what's happened while they were apart. We find out that Amy and Laurie have been in Europe for three years.
  • The family goes in to have their late evening meal, which they call tea. Everyone is too busy to look after the twins, who steal sweets.
  • After the meal, everyone goes back into the parlor. The family is all paired off, except for Jo, who is left alone. She and Hannah discuss Amy's majestic appearance with satisfaction.
  • Hannah goes back to the kitchen to start preparing tomorrow's breakfast. Jo, left by herself, is feeling especially lonely and sad.
  • Suddenly, there is a knock at the door. Jo answers it and finds Mr. Bhaer on the doorstep!
  • Mr. Bhaer tries to excuse himself, since the family has a party going on, but Jo insists that he come in and join them.
  • Mr. Bhaer asks Jo why she looks so ill. She says she's been tired and sad after Beth's death, and he comforts her.
  • Jo takes Mr. Bhaer into the parlor and introduces him to her family. Everyone greets him pleasantly and he seems to fit into the family right away.
  • Laurie is suspicious of Mr. Bhaer at first, but gradually warms to him. Mr. Bhaer seems to think that Laurie and Jo are a couple.
  • Jo sits in the corner knitting a sock and enjoying the way her family are impressed by Mr. Bhaer. She notices that he is dressed very nicely, especially for him, and wonders if he's courting someone. Then she realizes what that would mean for herself and drops her yarn in surprise.
  • Jo and Mr. Bhaer dive for her ball of yarn at the same time and smack their heads together.
  • The evening passes quickly, and soon the twins are in bed and old Mr. Laurence has gone home. Jo says that the family should sing, the way they used to each evening before bed, before the party breaks up.
  • The idea of singing together makes everyone think of Beth and miss her. Amy plays some of Beth's songs.
  • For the last song, Jo suggests a tune that Mr. Bhaer is especially good at singing, Mignon's song. Jo sings it with him as a duet. Nudge, nudge, foreshadowing! Maybe they'll be "singing" a lot of "duets" together soon!
  • As everyone is departing, Mr. Bhaer realizes for the first time that Laurie is married to Amy. He's pretty excited about this discovery.
  • Mr. Bhaer tells Mrs. March that he is going to be in town on business for a little while and asks for her permission to visit again, which she gives. He leaves with one last look at Jo.
  • Mr. and Mrs. March tell Jo how much they like Professor Bhaer.
  • Jo goes to bed, wondering what Mr. Bhaer's business in town is. Back in his room, Mr. Bhaer is looking at a picture of her. He gives it a kiss before he goes to sleep.

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