Poor little Amy. This time away from home is rough on her tender, young heart. However, it actually seems to be a blessing in disguise. Through her distance from the strong, positive influence of her mother and sisters, she no longer was able to take them for granted; she came to see the value in those things on a very personal level. Amy still struggled to always remember to do the good things she meant to, but she was "very sincere in all this... [and] she instinctively turned to the strong and tender Friend, whose fatherly love most closely surrounds his little children (Chapter 19, pg. 197)."
Also, her trials led her to decide to bequeath her much beloved items to people whom she realized she cared for so much more than her worldly goods. I think that was a great for Amy, these things are very dear to her heart, but now she is beginning to see that there is more to life and happiness than pretty rings. So she wrote a will and even had Esther and Teddy witness it.
I think the way that Ms. Alcott (and the March family) handles the developing of the possibility of a pending marriage is pretty true to life. It's a large, life altering change that is good and to be sought for, but the reality of it is often viewed with "a mixture of satisfaction and regret (Chapter 20, pg. 208)". I think this especially true for this tightly knit family. Jo is very vocal in her displeasure of what she sees as an inevitable change. As for Mrs. March, while she admires Mr. (John) Brooks and thinks him "perfectly open and honorable about [explaining his feelings for] Meg (pg. 205)", she still struggles with the idea somewhat as well. She says "It is natural and right you should all go to homes of your own, in time; but I do want to keep my girls as long as I can (pg. 206)." Not that I'm a mother or anything, but I feel like that attitude toward marriage is far more positive than the cavalier and very materialistic view we often see portrayed in our current main-stream movies and shows.
Again, Mrs. March is a great example of having one's priorities in the right place when she is explaining to Jo about marrying for money vs. love:
"Money is a good and useful thing, Jo; and I hope my girls will never feel the need of it too bitterly, nor be tempted by too much... I'm not ambitious for a splendid fortune, a fashionable position, or a great name for my girls. If rank and money come with love and virtue, also, I should accept them gratefully, and enjoy your good fortune; but I know, by experience, how much genuine happiness can be had in a plain little house, where the daily bread is earned, and some privations give sweetness to the few pleasures... if I am not mistaken [Meg] will be rich in the possession of a good man's heart, and that is better than fortune (pg. 207)."Chapter 21
I was rather surprised by the nasty undertone of the prank pulled by Laurie. I thought that was surprisingly rough, though I think that the awfulness of the effects of his prank was a little surprising to Laurie as well.
Jo certainly did "manage" those two Lawrence gentleman very smoothly though. I thought that was pretty entertaining. However, I feel like the lack of communication between Laurie and his grandfather and the great pride that Laurie has (that I felt was quite evident in both his prank for not being told something as well as his threatening to run away since his grandfather tried to discipline him) are like the first glimpse of dark clouds on the horizon signifying more trouble to come.
Overall, I feel like the overall theme of these chapters was the importance of humility. Each of the characters have become slightly better people by having a larger portion of humility introduced into their lives.