Chapter 21 Summary

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 551

At Marmee’s request, Jo says nothing to anyone, including Meg, about Mr. Brooke’s feelings. Laurie knows, however, and he uses his knowledge to play a prank. Several days later, Meg suddenly has a fit and accuses Jo of writing a fake letter from Mr. Brooke.

Illustration of PDF document

Download Little Women Study Guide

Subscribe Now

When Meg calms down, she explains that she received a sappy love letter from Mr. Brooke a few days ago. Thinking it was real, she wrote to him and said that she was too young to receive such gestures and that he should talk to Father before speaking of his love to her again. In reply, she received a note from Mr. Brooke saying that he did not send the first letter and knew nothing about it. Now Meg feels totally humiliated, and she is sure Jo and Laurie worked together to disgrace her. Marmee asks Jo to confess, but Jo says truthfully that she had nothing to do with the plan. She is so furious with Laurie that she has no trouble convincing her mother and sister of her innocence.

Jo studies the letters and realizes that the situation is not as bad as Meg thinks. She recognizes the handwriting, and she is sure that Laurie wrote both the letters—not just the first one. Mr. Brooke has no idea they exist.

To resolve this difficult situation, Marmee feels she has to tell Meg about Mr. Brooke’s true feelings. Afterward, she speaks to Laurie in private and makes him understand that his joke was more humiliating than funny. To preserve Meg’s honor, she demands that he tell nobody else about it. As soon as Laurie sees it from the girl’s perspective, he feels terrible. He apologizes and promises not to discuss the matter again.

Meg forgives Laurie, but Jo cannot bring herself to do so. A while later, she realizes that she should not be so mean, and she goes to the Laurence house to apologize. She finds Laurie pouting in his room, refusing to talk to anyone. He says his grandfather figured out that something was wrong and demanded to know what it was. When Laurie kept his promise and refused to speak, the old man grabbed him and shook him. Now Laurie feels humiliated, and he tells Jo he wants to run away. Jo is tempted to join him just for the sake of adventure, but she knows this would be wrong. Instead, she begs Laurie to forgive his grandfather. Laurie thinks it over and insists that his grandfather must apologize first.

Jo goes to see the old man in his study. She teases him a bit, and eventually she manages to convince him to write Laurie a letter of apology. She reveals a little bit about Laurie’s mischief but only in a way that does not give up any information about Meg and Mr. Brooke. By the time she returns home, Laurie and his grandfather are on good terms again.

However, Laurie’s prank has lasting consequences. Meg did not previously think very seriously about love and marriage. Now she realizes that Mr. Brooke loves her, and she begins to think of him in a romantic way. As Jo sees this happening, she inwardly curses Laurie for hurrying a future she would have preferred to delay.

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-hour free trial
Previous

Chapter 20 Summary

Next

Chapter 22 Summary