Little Women

Little Women

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Little Women Part 2, Chapter 40 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Back in the March household, the family is coming to grips with Beth’s imminent death. Beth is given a special room in the house. The family gathers with her here (Daisy and Demi often visit, and Mrs. March, Jo, and Mr. March often do their work in the room), and for the first few months they experience a good deal of happiness.
Familial love serves to offer solace, and even joy, in the face of Beth’s demise. The fact that the family members often do their work in Beth’s room is no surprise, as work (according to Alcott) has the power to soothe and heal.
Themes
Work and Social Class Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Beth eventually becomes weaker and weaker, to the point where she can no longer sew. One sleepless night, Beth comes across a poem written by Jo (“My Beth”) amongst the papers on her desk. She reads it and finds immense comfort in its lines, as Jo writes that Beth was useful and industrious in her life. (Beth has secretly felt that she was worthless.)
Beth’s feelings of worthlessness can be seen either as an extension of her extreme humility (borne of religiousness) or as a symptom of being a woman in a patriarchal society.
Themes
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Christianity, Morality, and Goodness Theme Icon
Work and Social Class Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Spring arrives. Lying asleep on her mother’s chest, Beth dies one day at the break of dawn. Sunlight streams onto Beth’s face, and snowdrops are blooming outside. Her family is glad to know that “Beth was well at last.”
The appearance of snowdrops can be seen as symbolic of the release of Beth’s soul after her long and difficult illness.
Themes
Genuineness, Simplicity, and Natural Beauty Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon