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Chapter 24: Gossip
Three years have passed. Meg has worked and prepared for the wedding; her sisters and mother have enthusiastically helped prepare Dovecote, the little house where Meg and John will take up residence. Mr. March has recovered his health although not his fortune. He seems to spend most of his time absorbed with his books while the women run the household.
John has served some time in the war, been wounded and returned home to recover. Since he has not been allowed to return to the army, he takes a job as an underbookkeeper, refusing Mr. Laurence’s offers of help.
Jo’s position with Aunt March is taken over by Amy whom Aunt March bribes with art lessons. Jo continues to write little romances for the paper while secretly working on a novel. Beth has recovered from the fever but has never regained her strength and remains very frail. Laurie has been attending college to please his grandfather.
The chapter ends with Jo admonishing Laurie to be serious during the wedding and avoid behaviors that might cause embarrassment or make her laugh. Laurie tries to flirt with Jo, but she will have no part of romantic notions for herself.
The narrator defends Mr. March’s role of "grey haired scholar" as if wisdom alone were enough of a contribution for him to make to the family. To a reader knowing LMA’s own history and the fact that her mother eventually left and made a home for the girls on her own, the devotion to Mr. March by his fictional daughters seems forced, as if something good must be said of him. This view is of course from a perspective of historical criticism and could be objected to if viewing the story from a New Critical view. It is still obvious, however, that Marmee and the girls "rule the house." Mr. March seems to be a man who has nothing left but ideals and precepts to which he holds his family responsible while he himself has no obligation other than to comfort, give occasional advice and devote himself to his books while the women take care of the details of real life.