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Little Women

Little Women

by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women Chapter 5 Summary

Being Neighborly

  • Jo comes in dressed to go outside. Meg asks what she's doing, and Jo says that she's going to get exercise. Meg can't believe that she's going out by choice on such a cold, wet day.
  • Meg goes back to reading Ivanhoe beside the fire. Jo goes from her family's snug cottage to the grey stone mansion next door to see Laurie.
  • Jo has been noticing that Laurie stays indoors studying a lot, and she has resolved to go over and tell his grandfather, Old Mr. Laurence, that he needs to have more fun.
  • After Mr. Laurence leaves, Jo gets Laurie's attention by throwing a snowball at him while he's leaning out of the window. He explains that he can't go out because he's sick and that he's really bored.
  • Jo agrees to come over and read to Laurie and amuse him while he's sick. Laurie smartens himself up a little while he's waiting for her.
  • Jo comes in, bringing good wishes from her mother, a blancmange (a custard dessert) from Meg, and Beth's kittens. These gifts (the kittens are just a loan) cheer Laurie up, and Jo makes him even more comfortable by tidying his room a little bit.
  • Jo offers to read to Laurie, but he would rather talk. What he wants to talk about is her family – he's been observing them from his window, envying their cozy life together.
  • Jo is surprised that Laurie has been watching her family. Laurie is somewhat embarrassed that he's been spying on them, but explains that their domesticity is so picturesque that he couldn't help himself.
  • Jo tells Laurie that he's welcome to watch her family through their front window if it gives him so much pleasure – but she also invites him to come over and hang out with them sometimes. She asks if his grandfather would allow it; Laurie thinks he probably would.
  • Laurie asks Jo about her school, and she explains that she works as Aunt March's companion. She tells a hilarious story about Aunt March's spoiled parrot.
  • Laurie is so cheered up by Jo's story that she tells him more details of her family's life.
  • Jo and Laurie begin talking about books. Laurie invites her to look through his grandfather's library.
  • Jo is blown away by Mr. Laurence's library, but startled when he suddenly returns home!
  • Mr. Laurence has brought the doctor, so Laurie goes off to be examined.
  • Jo is left alone in the library. She examines a portrait of old Mr. Laurence and speculates out loud about what the old gentleman might be like. She thinks he probably has a strong personality, but that he's also very kind.
  • Jo is surprised by old Mr. Laurence himself, who comes in behind her without her noticing. Jo is embarrassed that he caught her judging his portrait, but he doesn't mind because he thinks she was pretty accurate.
  • Mr. Laurence asks Jo what she has been doing with Laurie, and she explains that she's been cheering him up while he was sick. Then he asks after her mother, and she tells him that her mother is taking care of the Hummels.
  • Old Mr. Laurence invites Jo to stay for tea. As he, Laurie, and Jo eat and drink, Mr. Laurence notices how much happier his grandson seems having Jo for a friend.
  • After tea, Laurie takes Jo to the conservatory and shows her his grandfather's collection of hothouse flowers – things that don't usually grow in the climate of New England. Jo is dazzled by the sight and Laurie gives her some flowers to take home.
  • Jo and Laurie go back inside and Jo asks Laurie to play the piano. He does, but it upsets his grandfather, who leaves the room. Laurie says he'll explain this to Jo someday.
  • Jo goes home, accompanied by John Brooke, Laurie's tutor. At home, she tells her mother and sisters about her visit.
  • Marmee explains to Jo that Laurie's father, Mr. Laurence's son, married a musician. Old Mr. Laurence disapproved of the marriage and cut the family off, but then both of Laurie's parents died and his grandfather adopted him. This is why old Mr. Laurence doesn't like to hear Laurie play the piano – it reminds him of the daughter-in-law he disliked who caused the family rift.
  • Meg remarks that Laurie has very good manners and complimented Jo. Jo didn't even realize it and refuses to believe that there is anything sentimental going on.
  • Marmee tells Jo that she is welcome to have Laurie come over and visit anytime.
  • Beth compares the Laurence house to the Palace Beautiful from the allegory The Pilgrim's Progress. The Palace Beautiful is just what it sounds like, but it's guarded by dangerous lions.

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