Little Women – Complete Summary

A passage from John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, an allegory novel about living a Christian life that was written in the seventeenth century, serves as the prologue to Louisa May Alcott’s novel Little Women. The four March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, are seen in the opening scene of Alcott’s narrative lamenting their family’s financial situation while sitting in their living room. The girls come to the conclusion that the best way to cheer up their Christmas is for each of them to get a present for themselves. They soon, however, come to a different conclusion and determine that, rather than purchasing presents for themselves, they will instead purchase things for their mother, whose name is Marmee. When Marmee returns home, she brings with her a letter that the girls’ father, Mr. March, who is fighting in the Civil War as a chaplain for the Union, had written to them. The letter encourages the girls to have a more positive attitude toward their hardships and to refrain from whining about their lack of resources.

The girls wake up on Christmas morning to find books, most likely copies of the book The Pilgrim’s Progress, tucked away under their pillows. Later on that same day, Marmee encourages them to offer their breakfast to a family named the Hummels who are struggling financially. Their elderly next-door neighbour, Mr. Laurence, who the girls have never had the pleasure of meeting, rewards them for their philanthropic deeds with a feast that he brings over. Meg and Jo will soon receive an invitation to a New Year’s Party that will be held at the mansion of Meg’s affluent friend, Sally Gardiner. During the party, Jo takes a break in a secluded area, and it is there that she comes face to face with Laurie, the son of Mr. Laurence. Meg hurts her ankle while dancing, which causes the injury. The sisters are escorted back to their house by Laurie. After the excitement of the holidays, the March family is disappointed that they must get back to their normal routine.

When Laurie is ill, Jo goes to see him, and while she is there, she meets Laurie’s grandfather, Mr. Laurence. She accidentally belittles a portrait of Mr. Laurence while he is standing right there in front of her. Jo and Laurie’s grandfather end up becoming friends as a result of Laurie’s grandfather’s admiration for Jo’s independent spirit. As time goes on, Mr. Laurence gets to know each of the sisters, but Beth quickly becomes his favourite. Mr. Laurence bestows upon her the piano that belonged to his late granddaughter.

The girls participate in a variety of exciting experiences. Amy receives a physical blow from her teacher as a consequence for being discovered dealing limes at school. As a direct consequence of this, Mrs. March takes her daughter out of school. Jo will not consent to her friend Amy accompanying her to the theatre. Amy destroyed the manuscript that Jo had been working on as an act of retribution, and Jo, in her fury, nearly caused Amy to drown when she was ice skating. After allowing the other girls to dress her up in high style, Pretty Meg discovers that appearances are not everything by going to her friend Annie Moffat’s party and realising that appearances are not everything. She finds out when she is at the party that others believe she is only interested in marrying Laurie because of his wealth.

In that year, the Marches establish the Pickwick Club, which is a family newspaper that they create together. In the spring, Jo sneaks Laurie into one of the club meetings, and he eventually becomes a member. As a welcome gift, he gives a mailbox to his new circle of friends. The Marches make the decision at the beginning of June to put off their chores around the house. Marmee gives herself a day off at the end of a sluggish week just like everyone else. The girls make a complete mess of the supper, but in the end, it makes everyone chuckle. One day, Laurie invites several of her English friends around, and the Marches end up joining them for a picnic. After some time has passed, Jo finally manages to get one of her stories published.

The family gets a telegram on a gloomy day informing them that Mr. March is sick and being treated at a hospital in Washington, District of Columbia. Marmee leaves to take care of him, and Jo decides to sell her hair to help raise money for the journey. When Marmee leaves, she leaves a trail of chaos behind her since the girls have once again neglected their chores. Only Beth travels to see the Hummels, and during one of her visits, she becomes ill with scarlet fever, which was passed on to her by the newborn Hummel child. In the moments before Marmee’s return, Beth is on the verge of passing away. In the meantime, Amy hides out at her Aunt March’s house in an effort to avoid contracting the disease. Beth makes a partial, but not full, recovery, and Laurie’s tutor, Mr. Brooke, falls in love with Meg, much to Jo’s chagrin. Meg is also the object of Mr. Brooke’s affection. At the conclusion of Part One, Mr. Brooke and Meg have decided to become engaged.

Before the events of Part Two begin to unfold, three years have passed. Both Laurie and Mr. March have returned safely from the war, and Laurie is almost finished with her education. Meg will soon wed Mr. Brooke and begin a new life together in their newlywed house. Amy makes the plan one day to host a lunch for her fellow art school students, but the day is marred by unfavourable weather conditions. Jo’s novel is eventually accepted for publication, but the editors insist that it be shortened in order to meet their standards. In the meantime, Meg is having a difficult time managing the responsibilities of housekeeping, and she soon gives birth to twins named Demi and Daisy. Jo had planned to accompany Amy on their vacation to Paris; however, due to Amy’s more refined demeanour, their aunt Carroll has decided that she would rather have Amy as her travel partner.

Jo starts to get the impression that Beth has feelings for Laurie. Jo decides to travel to New York in order to distance herself from Laurie’s feelings for her and to give Beth a better chance of winning his affections. There, Jo comes into contact with Professor Bhaer, an incompetent German language professor. Jo is counselled by Professor Bhaer not to write sensationalist pieces, and she heeds his words of wisdom and adopts a more straightforward approach to her writing. When Jo gets back to her house, Laurie makes a marriage proposal to her, but she rejects it. Beth shortly dies.

When Amy and Laurie run into each other again in France, love blossoms between them. They tie the knot and then head back. Jo is starting to hold out hope that Professor Bhaer would come looking for her. He agrees, and a year later the couple is married. Beth, the kid that Amy and Laurie have, suffers from several illnesses. After inheriting Plumfield from her aunt March, Jo makes the decision to turn the property into a boys’ boarding school. The book comes to a close with the happy gathering of the family, with each sister expressing gratitude for her own personal blessings as well as for the other sisters.



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