HomeLiterature Study GuidesLittle WomenPart 2 Chapters 45 47 Summary

Little Women | Study Guide

Louisa May Alcott

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Little Women | Part 2, Chapters 45–47 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 45: Daisy and Demi

The narrator notes she will be remiss if she does not devote a chapter to "the two most precious and important members" of the March family, Daisy and Demi. They are now precocious toddlers. Daisy is a loving and captivating child with a strong interest in the domestic arts, while Demi has an inquiring mind and wants to know everything. The children love Professor Bhaer, and Demi asks him if "great boys like great girls" just as "little boys like little girls." The embarrassed professor says he supposes they sometimes do. Mr. March suddenly has a new idea about Jo, which is not entirely pleasant for him. Jo, however, is delighted that Demi has spilled the beans.

Chapter 46: Under the Umbrella

The professor has been visiting for about two weeks, and he and Jo take walks in the evening. When he disappears for three days, Jo goes looking for him in town. She finds him and learns he has landed a position at a college that will provide enough money to support his nephews. Unfortunately, the college is in the West. Professor Bhaer is unsure about Jo's reaction and doesn't know if she is sad. The two of them go shopping to buy presents for the family on the eve of his departure. Finally, he sees her crying, and she tells him it is because he is leaving. He now declares his love, and the two of them walk happily in the rain, forgetting to hail the bus. He now reveals that he came for her because he happened to read one of her published poems in the newspaper. It expressed her loneliness, and he thought she might accept his love. She will have to wait, however, but he plans to come back for her. She then kisses him under the umbrella, heedless of the sparrows, even if they had been human beings, the narrator says, for "she was very far gone indeed."

Chapter 47: Harvest Time

Jo and the professor write to each other for a year and occasionally meet. In the second year of their courtship, Aunt March dies and leaves her large home and property to Jo, who decides she and Professor Bhaer will establish a boys' school at Plumfield. Jo intends to have both paying pupils and poor boys. They marry and settle in Plumfield, developing a homelike school that takes a variety of pupils. Jo also gives birth to two of her own boys, Rob and Teddy.

The last scene in the book occurs during an apple-picking holiday in October, five years after the Bhaers are married. All the family members have gathered at Plumfield, and everyone toasts Mrs. March's 60th birthday. The sisters recall their earlier aspirations—their "castles in the air." Jo says her earlier ambitions seem "selfish, lonely, and cold," although she hasn't given up the idea of writing "a good book yet." Meg says her dream was most nearly realized in her happy home and family. Amy says her artistic ambitions have not been realized, but she is happy with her life and has not entirely given up art. In fact, she is sculpting a model of her baby, Beth. Jo asserts she is far happier than she deserves, and Marmee agrees that her harvest is a good one.

Analysis

Meg's toddlers, probably about age four, are stereotyped almost to the point of parody so that readers cannot help but wonder if Alcott is tweaking them just a little. Demi is interested in all things associated with men—tools and science and philosophy—while Daisy is the perfect little girl doll, loving everyone without discrimination and displaying an interest only in activities associated with the women. It is up to the reader to determine whether Alcott is underscoring her message that women (and men) must be content to fulfill their socially prescribed gender roles or if she is poking fun at such a notion. Demi does Jo the service of bringing Professor Bhaer's interest in Jo out in the open, for which she is most grateful.

After Jo learns Professor Bhaer has accepted a university job that will take him away from her, she finds she must take the initiative in their romance since the professor appears to be too dense to recognize that Jo wants him. After he declares his love, she kisses him openly in public, something that would have been scandalous in the time period in which the novel takes place. This gesture shows some of the old Jo, unafraid to show her feelings or defy convention. Jo also takes the lead in determining their future when she decides they will turn Plumfield into a boys' school and the two of them will work together—he as a teacher and she as a den mother. In this way, Jo contrives a work-life balance for herself and Professor Bhaer and a commercial enterprise in which they will be partners. After her family approves her plan, Jo bursts out saying, "I do think that families are the most beautiful things in all the world!" She reaffirms a major theme in the novel: the family as an ideal society.

The last scenes in the novel evoke a sense of fullness, completion, and accomplishment. Although the lives of the Marches are not over, they have come a long way. The remaining three sisters are happily married and have children. While Amy and Jo have mostly given up art, they both live with the hope of producing something really good—someday.

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