Chapter 43 Summary

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On the day before Jo’s twenty-fifth birthday, she sits alone by the fire, thinking about how little she has accomplished so far in her life. She is sure that she is going to be an old maid, with no husband except her pen and no children except her stories. She tries to tell herself, as she always has, that she wants this freedom and independence—but somehow she cannot help feeling sad at the prospect.

Jo falls asleep on the couch and awakes to find Laurie standing over her. She greets him happily, and the two of them chatter excitedly. In the midst of this conversation, he refers to Amy as “my wife.” In this way, Jo learns that Laurie and Amy have already married. She calls this a “dreadful thing,” but she does not really mean it. She immediately makes Laurie sit down and tell her all about it.

Laurie explains that, not long ago, he and his grandfather were all set to come home from Europe with Amy and Aunt Carrol’s family. Suddenly Aunt Carrol and her family decided to stay abroad for a few more months. Laurie and Amy did not want to be parted, and Amy felt desperate to see her family. However, she could not travel with her fiancé and his grandfather without arousing a scandal. Only marriage could make it socially acceptable for them to travel together, so they begged Aunt Carrol to let them marry right away. Amy had already received letters from her parents that stated their approval of the match, so Aunt Carrol allowed the couple to do as they wished.

After he finishes this story, Laurie says that he loves Jo as much as ever. However, he realizes now that it would have been a mistake to marry her. He loves her like a sister, and he loves Amy as his wife. “You and Amy changed places in my heart, that’s all,” he says. Jo says that she understands and believes this. She promises to remain his good friend, and she declares her expectation that she and Laurie will help and appreciate each other forever.

That evening, the family gathers to celebrate the couple’s return home. Jo’s grief about Beth’s death fades a little, but her loneliness seems to grow. When everyone goes upstairs after dinner, Jo hangs back, feeling left out because she alone is not married. As she lingers in the hall, she hears a knock at the door. Mr. Bhaer has come at last.

Jo shows Mr. Bhaer into her family’s parlor, and they welcome him. At first they do this for Jo’s sake, but before the evening is over they all like him for himself. His kindness and generosity are obvious. Meg’s twins go to him “like bees to a honeypot,” and the men gather around him to talk. Only Laurie hangs back, seeming suspicious for a moment, but even he soon decides to like the newcomer.

Mr. Bhaer claims he has business in town, but he says nothing about the details. When he goes away that evening, Jo admits to herself that she cares about him. But she does not yet know if he cares for her.

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Chapter 44 Summary