HomeLiterature Study GuidesLittle WomenPart 2 Chapters 2426 Summary

Little Women | Study Guide

Louisa May Alcott

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Little Women | Part 2, Chapters 24–26 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 24: Gossip

The second part of the novel opens on the eve of Meg's wedding, and the narrator catches the reader up on the past three years. It is now 1866 and the war is over. Mr. March is a minister of the parish as well as a scholar—a person to whom everyone turns in times of sorrow or doubt. Mrs. March is tending the veterans. Mr. Brooke served a year at the front and was wounded and sent home. He refuses Mr. Laurence's help and has become a bookkeeper. Ned Moffat married Meg's friend Sallie, who now leads a rich life of ease. Amy has replaced Jo as Aunt March's companion after her aunt "bribes" her with drawing lessons. Jo is receiving a dollar per column for her "rubbish"—romances produced for pay. Laurie is mostly away at college. Mr. Brooke has prepared a tiny but charming home for Meg, and her friends and family are helping equip it.

Chapter 25: The First Wedding

Meg has a June wedding and makes her own simple wedding dress, surrounding herself only with the people she loves. Her sisters dress in their best silver-gray gowns, "happy-hearted girls, pausing a moment in their busy lives to read with wistful eyes the sweetest chapter in the romance of womanhood." Aunt March attends despite her previous disapproval and sends a gift of wine, which Mr. March passes on to the Soldier's Home after reserving a little for Beth. Meanwhile, Meg asks Laurie to renounce alcohol, and he agrees. Mr. Laurence tells Laurie he'd be pleased if he marries one of the remaining girls, and he answers seriously he'd be happy to gratify his wish. After the celebration, the couple begin their married life.

Chapter 26: Artistic Attempts

Amy is trying her talent in every branch of art—from pen-and-ink and charcoal portraits, to clay and plaster sculpting and sketching. She pursues her craft with determination and patience. She also works on becoming "an attractive and accomplished woman," which she succeeds at better than becoming a great artist. At one point Amy invites the fashionable women from her drawing class to her home for lunch and an afternoon of sketching outdoors, but this outing is a disastrous failure when only one girl shows up after Amy spends a lot of money on elegant food. She takes the failed attempt in stride.

Analysis

Part 2 picks up three years later, and the narrator notes that Mr. March has resumed his role as the dispenser of wisdom to both his family and the parish, although it is not entirely clear whether he is, in fact, an actual minister. Ann Murphy describes the novel's vision as one of "self-containment and Bunyanesque self-denial," and this view appears to emanate from Mr. March, although he stays firmly in the background and hardly appears as a character.

Amy has now become Aunt March's favorite, and Jo is able to devote herself to writing. She describes her work as "rubbish" even though she is receiving a dollar a column, which is more than $14 in today's money; it can be presumed that each story took up many columns. Thus, the novel once again both showcases Jo's accomplishments as a writer while simultaneously denigrating them. Meg's wedding takes place in June 1866, and the narrator juxtaposes Jo's and Amy's artistic aspirations against the alleged summum bonum (greatest good) of a woman's life—matrimony.

The ambiguous attitude toward the theme of woman as artist continues in the chapter, which comically discusses Amy's trials with a number of artistic mediums. Amy clearly devotes herself as strenuously to her art as Jo does to hers. The narrator notes that "it takes people a long time to learn the difference between talent and genius," an idea that will surface again with regard to Amy, as if a woman has to be a genius to justify spending time developing her art. Amy's forays into "every branch of art" are described as failures, yet early on in the novel, she is described as having a significant talent for drawing. Moreover, the narrator notes that she has more success at becoming a refined young lady, seemingly comparing Amy to Michelangelo: "If 'genius is eternal patience,' as Michelangelo affirms, Amy had some claim to the divine attribute, for she persevered in spite of all obstacles, failures, and discouragements, firmly believing that in time she should do something worthy to be called 'high art.'" Thus, both Amy and Jo are belittled as artists despite clear indications that they both possess significant talent.

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