Study Guide

Little Women Chapter 28

By Louisa May Alcott

Chapter 28

Domestic Experiences

  • At first, Meg tries to make her home with John Brooke a perfect domestic paradise. She's so anxious to please, however, that it's also very stressful.
  • However, Meg and John are very happy, and they stay happy even after the honeymoon period, when their relationship has a more everyday quality.
  • Meg goes through different cooking fits – sometimes she tries to make lots of fancy food; other times she feels economical and makes really inexpensive, frugal meals.
  • Meg decides to try and save money by making her own jelly with the currants that grow on her bushes. She has John buy extra sugar and a bunch of little pots.
  • One day while John is at work, Meg sets to work trying to make the currant jelly. She's never actually done it herself before – she's only watched Hannah. Somehow, she can't re-create the process. She makes a sticky fruit mess, but the jelly won't set – it remains liquid.
  • Meg wishes she could run home and ask her mother for help, but she and John agreed a long time ago that they wouldn't bother other people with their domestic problems. At 5:00, she gives up on the jelly and sits down and cries at the kitchen table.
  • At the beginning of their marriage, Meg told John that he should always feel free to bring friends home to dinner with him. He has taken her up on the offer today and brought his friend Mr. Scott – without giving Meg advance notice.
  • When John and Mr. Scott arrive at the Dovecote, the house is dark and locked and looks completely inhospitable. John asks Mr. Scott to wait in the yard while he finds out what's wrong.
  • John goes around back and finds Meg in the kitchen, surrounded by a sticky jelly mess, crying. The hired girl, Lotty, is calmly eating bread and drinking currant wine.
  • John asks Meg what's going on, and she explains about the jelly disaster. He laughs it off and tells her to pull herself together so they can entertain their dinner guest.
  • Meg is horrified by the presence of Mr. Scott and tells John there's no way she can entertain someone. She tells John to take Mr. Scott over to her mother's house for dinner instead.
  • Meg retreats to her bedroom to lament her domestic disaster on her own. When she comes downstairs later, she's horrified to discover that John and Mr. Scott basically had a picnic in the house. Now they've strolled away – John is walking Mr. Scott home.
  • Meg longs to go and tell her mother what happened, but she's ashamed of her failure, so she keeps it to herself. She dresses up and waits for John to come home.
  • When John comes back, both he and Meg feel like the other person should apologize first. They are polite but cold to each other.
  • As Meg sits sewing and John looks out the window, she remembers that her mother cautioned her against waking John's temper. The Marches tend to be hot-tempered and their anger blows over quickly, but John is different – once he's angry, he's angry for a long time.
  • Meg goes over to John and kisses him on the forehead. This is enough to break the ice, and John apologizes for laughing at her problems with the jelly.
  • Later, Meg and John have Mr. Scott over for a nice dinner – at which Meg serves a wonderful meal and there are no tears anywhere!
  • In the fall, Meg develops a different domestic problem. She and Sallie Moffat start hanging out a lot again, and Meg envies Sallie's wealth and all her nice things. John has always trusted Meg with their money, and she's never abused that trust. But now she starts buying lots of things she doesn't need.
  • John is busy and doesn't balance the household books for a few months. When he gets to the end of the fiscal quarter, though, he needs to go over everything.
  • Meg's most extravagant purchase is a length of silvery silk for $50. (Remember, the dollar was worth a lot more in the nineteenth century – this would be like buying the materials for a wedding gown today.) The worst part is that the silk is just a length of material; it hasn't even been made into a dress yet!
  • John is appalled to discover how much money Meg has frittered away. He doesn't yell at her or get angry, though; he's just quietly upset, which is almost worse.
  • Meg tries to make excuses for her behavior, talking about how difficult it is to watch Sallie spend money while she is poor. John gets very quiet and Meg is ashamed that she reproached him for their poverty when he works so hard.
  • Because Meg has spent so much money on the silk, John can't get a new winter coat this year.
  • The next day, Meg goes to Sallie and tells her the whole story, and asks her to buy the silk as a favor. Sallie is only too happy to help.
  • Meg uses the money to get a new coat made for John. When it arrives, she tries it on and asks how he likes her new silk dress!
  • Things go on happily for a while. The next summer, Laurie comes into the Dovecote on a Saturday afternoon and is greeted by Hannah, who asks him to wait downstairs. Hmm, what could be going on here?
  • Jo comes downstairs with a little bundle – Meg's newborn baby! She makes Laurie close his eyes while she hands him his "nephew."
  • When Laurie opens his eyes, he finds himself holding two babies instead of one! The assembled family laugh at his surprise when he realizes Meg has had twins.
  • Jo explains that the babies are a boy and a girl. She and Laurie discuss names – the boy is going to be called John Laurence, after his father and the Laurence family, and the girl is going to be called Margaret, after her mother and grandmother. (This is the first time we've learned for sure that Marmee's first name is Margaret.) They will call the girl Daisy (a common nickname for Margaret at the time) so that there's no confusion.
  • Laurie proposes calling the boy "Demijohn" so that the twins can go by "Daisy" and "Demi." Everyone thinks this is a great idea, and the little twin Brookes are known by those names from now on.