As always, Ritsumei has summarized the chapters beautifully. However, there were a few things in here that I wanted to add to our Vocab Section:
Precipitately: to hasten the occurrence of; bring about prematurely, hastily or suddenly.
"Undine and Sintram" - from the context, this is clearly a book that Jo has been wanting for a while, but I was curious what it was about. After a little online research I discovered that it was a Christian fantasy from that era written by Friedrich de la Motte Fouque.
There has been some debate whether "the little book" the March sisters have been reading is the Bible or Pilgrims Progress. In Chapter 22 (pg. 226) Ms. Alcott dispels the mystery when, in talking with Jo, Beth out and out says, "I read in 'Pilgrims Progress' to-day..." And now we know :)
I really like the consistency of Ms. Alcott's writing. I feel like that consistency is demonstrated well in this chapter. In the previous couple chapters, Ms. Alcott introduces a little glimpse of darker thoughts with Beth's sickness, Laurie's mischief and Jo's disgruntlement with Meg's pending wedding.
Now, we've already mentioned that Ms. Alcott is writing our story in a style of Realism and, in real life, dark things do happen. She could have continued with the darker thoughts like some authors do today (read: the Harry Potter series that is so irritatingly inconsistent, especially in this sense, that I cringe every time people laud it as "great" writing and I hope nobody ever groups it in the same category of "Classic" as 'Little Women')
However, she brings us back to the light and cheery feel that we've gotten so familiar with by saying illustrative things; skillfully using words to paint a renewed picture: "Now and then, in this work-a-day world, things do happen in the delightful story-book fashion, and what a comfort that is (pg.222)." And also: "...for the full hearts overflowed, washing away the bitterness of the past, and leaving only the sweetness of the present (pg. 223)."
In writing, I think it is good to have an ebb and flow; stories are uninteresting if there is no conflict or trouble. However, it is a sign of skillful writing when the author is able to keep the tone of the book consistent.
Ritsumei spent some time talking about the dichotomy that Ms. Alcott seems to present between happiness and wealth. I agree that it seems that Meg, in choosing to fall in love with a poor man, is having to choose happiness over money. I, myself, didn't really notice this. Rather, I thought it was interesting how Ms. Alcott captured the idea in words that sometimes people need the impetus of an (sometimes unexpected) outside force to help us to realize truths within ourselves, or make decisions that may be difficult or outside our comfort zone.
That and, I was mostly just amused because it seemed that Aunt March had inadvertently done what she didn't want to. By forcefully telling Meg that she was making a foolish decision she, by accident, caused Meg to acknowledge the feelings that she already had been developing but hadn't admitted yet. Since Aunt March is such a crotchety old bird, I thought it was funny that she herself undid her own wishes.