Chapter 47 Summary
Jo and Friedrich struggle to earn the money they need for marriage, but then Aunt March dies and leaves her house to Jo. The family expects Jo to sell the place, and they are surprised when she announces that she intends to live there. Laurie tells her that the mansion is far too big for a couple to manage alone, but Jo explains that she will have plenty of helpers. She and Friedrich are going to open a small boarding school for boys. She will care for them, and Friedrich will teach them. In that way, they will earn a living.
Jo and Friedrich marry and put their plan into action. A few wealthy families send their sons, and Mr. Laurence pays the tuition of a few poor boys who need a good place to grow up. Soon Aunt March’s estate is filled with little fellows who scuff her floors and abuse her furniture. The barn is full of pets, and all the space in the gardens is occupied.
Running the school is hard work, and Jo and Friedrich do not earn a fortune from it. However, they are happy and secure in the knowledge that their lives are useful. The boys love them dearly, and that makes them very happy. As the years pass, Jo gives birth to two boys of her own, Rob and Teddy, who grow up happily in the rough-and-tumble world of the school.
On Marmee’s sixtieth birthday, the whole family gathers in the apple orchard with all the boys of Jo's school. Marmee receives presents made by her five grandchildren: Daisy, Demy, Rob, Teddy, and Amy’s sickly little girl, Beth. After the gift opening, the boys from the school climb into the apple trees and sing a song for Mrs. March.
When the song is over, each of the living March girls reflects on her childhood dreams. Meg is not rich as she once longed to be, but now she feels that her modest life with John and the children is exactly right for her. Jo is not a famous author, but her adult life is far better than the lonely writer's life she once imagined. Amy is not a famous artist, but she is happily married and glad to have her little Beth—although she fears that the child may not live long.
Marmee listens to her daughters’ thoughts and clearly approves of what she hears. Her girls have grown into women who understand that the key to happiness is not achieving glory but serving others. As Little Women ends, she says, “Oh, my girls, however long you may live, I cannot wish you a greater happiness than this.”