Laurie has become quite lazy and his one-week trip to France has turned into a one month stay! Amy asks Laurie to go to Valrosa with her so that she can practice her drawing. While there, the roses remind Laurie of Jo and she figures out Jo has rejected his marriage proposal. Amy lectures Laurie about his behavior and shows him the changes from her own perspective using her sketches. They return to the hotel and Amy worries she has offended him until she receives a note the next morning. Laurie has decided to follow her advice and is returning to his grandfather in London.
Beth’s health continues to weaken, and her family sets up a room just for her. The room contains her piano and sketches from Amy. The March family often visit and do their work while in Beth’s room. One night, Beth discovers a poem Jo has written about her. Beth finds comfort in Jo’s words and is reassured that her life had worth. As Beth nears death, she asks Jo to take care of their parents and Jo agrees to try. Beth passes quietly on a spring morning while sleeping. As her family grieves, they find comfort in knowing Beth’s health can no longer fail her and she is at peace.
After Amy’s lecture, Laurie makes changes in his life. He tries working on a requiem and an opera using Jo as his muse, but he fails. He composes another piece about a golden-haired girl before pursuing a different type of work. Laurie realizes his romantic love for Jo is fading into brotherly love. He writes one last letter to Jo, who responds by encouraging him to write to Amy. He begins corresponding with Amy. Meanwhile, Amy turns down a proposal from Fred Vaughn because she wishes to marry for love instead of money. Amy also learns about Beth’s weak health too late because the letter was lost in the mail. Her family encourages her to stay in France and Laurie prepares to go comfort her. Aunt Carrol has figured out Amy is in love with Laurie and invites him to stay with them. While rowing a boat on the lake, Laurie proposes to Amy and she agrees.
Jo struggles with the loss of Beth and turns to her father for advice. She realizes she cannot replace Beth and finds comfort from speaking with her father and completing Beth’s daily chores. Marmee suggests Jo resume her writing and Meg encourages her to open her heart. Jo takes Marmee’s advice and writes a short story that is well received. Her father explained that her most recent writing was successful because it contained truth and was not written with thoughts of fame or money. During this time, the March family receives a letter from Amy announcing her engagement to Laurie. Jo appears calm at the news but supports their love and wishes for one of her own. She finds a note tucked in one of her books from Professor Bhaer asking her to wait for him and she begins to think of him while she continues to develop her writing.
Laurie surprises Jo on her birthday announcing his elopement with Amy. He admits Jo was right about their relationship and is happy with Amy as his wife. Laurie asks Jo to let things return to before and she warns they must give up their frolicking. The March family celebrates Laurie and Amy’s return and Mr. Laurence joins the celebrations. Jo finds herself alone with feelings of abandonment until Professor Bhaer appears at her door. Jo invites him in, and he is welcomed by the March family. Jo notices Professor Bhaer is dressed nicely and he asks to visit again while he is in town on business. Jo happily agrees.
Laurie and Amy must unpack and resume life at home. Jo asks Laurie and Amy about their future. Laurie announces he will go into business rather than live a life of leisure. Amy wishes to become a good wife before navigating the social aspects of the wealthy. Later that day, Laurie notices professor Bhaer visiting the March house and enters a playful debate with Amy. He suggests Jo should marry someone younger and wealthier while Amy insists on marrying for love. Their discussion soon turns to how they can help Jo and professor Bhaer, should they marry. In the end, they decide to help many people who are capable, like Professor Bhaer, but are struggling in silence to support themselves.
Meg’s children, Daisy and Demi, are the focus of this chapter. Daisy is a loving child who brings smiles to the March family. Demi is a curious troublemaker who enjoys asking Mr. March questions. Jo, or Aunt Dodo, is their favorite aunt and they enjoy playing with her. The children noticed Jo does not play with them as much when Professor Bhaer visits. Demi asks if big boys like big girls like little boys like little girls. This question surprises Professor Bhaer who agrees that they do. His response makes Jo so happy that Demi gets bread and jam from Jo. Demi is confused about why he received the treat and is not old enough to understand the adult’s relationships.
Professor Bhaer has not visited Jo in three days and she decides to run errands in town. Jo hopes to cross paths with Professor Bhaer while she walks in town. It begins to rain, and she realizes she forgot her umbrella. Luckily, she bumps into Professor Bhaer who covers her with his umbrella. While they walk, Professor Bhaer speaks about the job he obtained teaching college in the West. Jo cries and admits she will miss him, and this encourages him. He proposes on the spot and Jo accepts. They decide to marry after he returns from a year of work. Jo promises to wait and welcome him home.
March has passed unexpectedly and leaves Jo her house. Jo surprises her
family by deciding to turn the house into a boarding school for both
rich and poor boys to attend. Professor Bhaer
and Jo marry and open their school. Soon, the school, barn, and gardens
of Aunt March’s estate are full. The family all gather in the orchard
of Jo’s school to celebrate Marmee’s sixtieth birthday. Each of the remaining March sisters reflect on their lives and the happiness they have found. Marmee is glad her girls have found joy in serving others and could not wish for more. This completes the final chapter of Little Women.