Chapter 22 Summary
As Christmas approaches, the March family grows increasingly cheerful. When they awake on Christmas morning, the girls look outside and see a beautiful girl made of snow. She wears a holly wreath and holds many presents, including a poem, piano music, an afghan, and fruit. Jo and Laurie made this sculpture as a surprise for Beth, whose improving health is a cause for celebration.
After Beth receives her presents from the snow maiden, the other girls receive the modest gifts they said they wanted a year ago. Afterward, they all reflect in amazement on their current happiness in contrast to their gloom last year. Beth says this Christmas is almost perfect. Only Father’s safe return home could make it any better.
A few hours later, Laurie rushes excitedly through the door. He says he has brought a final gift for the family. Before he finishes, Father walks in, assisted by Mr. Brooke. The girls all hug Father and exclaim their happiness. When Marmee finally says that he needs to rest, he collapses into a big chair with Beth on his lap.
Christmas dinner is delicious, and the Marches share it with the Laurences and Mr. Brooke. During the meal, the family discusses the past year: it has been difficult but rewarding. Afterward, Father tells the girls that he is proud to see they have become the little women he hoped they would be. He praises each of them in turn.
First, Father comments that Meg used to be very careful to keep her hands smooth and unblemished because she wanted to look like a wealthy girl. Now, he points out, her fingers are covered with burns and needle pricks because she has spent so much time cooking for Beth and sewing for him. He says it is clear that she is putting the needs of others ahead of her desire to be beautiful. To him, this makes her more beautiful than ever.
Next, Father turns to Jo and tells her that she is far gentler and more womanly than she was a year ago. He is sorry to see how thin and pale she is after her recent experience...
(The entire section is 553 words.)