Laurie works to forget Jo. At first, he tries to bury his sadness in music, attempting to compose a requiem that would “harrow up Jo’s soul.” Failing at this, Laurie next attempts to write an opera. He fails at this, too, given that all he can remember are Jo’s quirks and failings. When Jo fails as his heroine, he then tries to compose it for an imaginary woman – a figment with “golden hair…enveloped in a diaphanous cloud.” Ultimately, this too fails, and Laurie decides he isn’t cut out to be a musician.
The cloud in Laurie’s imagination is eerily similar to the “illusion” Amy was wrapped in at the party. This vision is obviously Amy given that she’s a blonde. Laurie’s attempt to forget his pain in work is well intended. However, it fails because this seems to be the wrong kind of work – it’s frivolous, and so it leads him back to thoughts of Jo.
Laurie realizes that his pain is subsiding far more quickly than he thought it would. He realizes that his love for Jo is subsiding into a “brotherly affection.” Glancing at a portrait of Mozart, Laurie thinks, “Well, he was a great man, and when he couldn’t have one sister he took the other, and was happy.”
Laurie realizes that his infatuation with Jo was fleeting. The interchangeability of the two sisters can be seen as a symptom of a patriarchal society; Jo and Amy are suddenly interchangeable simply because they’re female.
Laurie shakes himself from his growing contentment and writes one last letter to Jo, begging her one last time to marry him. Jo writes back and tells him that she decidedly “couldn’t and wouldn’t.” She encourages Laurie to write to Amy. After some hesitation, Laurie does so.
It is as if Jo intuitively understands that Laurie should pursue Amy. His sudden changes of mood are exemplary of what Jo refers to as his “weathercock” nature.
Meanwhile, Amy has decided to turn down Fred Vaughn, as she “didn’t care to be a queen of society now half so much as she did to be a lovable woman.” She and Laurie take up a lively correspondence, and Amy starts to show signs of lovesickness (she becomes pale and solitary).
In 19th century literature, blushing and growing pale were often signals of deep emotional shifts. In this case, it signals Amy’s realization that she loves Laurie. She realizes that the most virtuous path is to marry for love, not money.
A letter about Beth’s failing health is lost in the mail, and by the time Amy hears about her it’s far too late. The Marches tell her to stay in Europe, and Amy resolves to bear the pain as well as she can. Laurie receives a letter about Beth the same day; he makes preparations to be with Amy (who is currently in Vevay, France) the minute he receives it.
A trip to Europe such as the one Amy is on would have been a once in a lifetime affair for most working class American girls in the 19th century. The trip back to America would have taken weeks. This is why her family encourages her to stay put.
Laurie finds Amy sitting by the shore of the lake, and the minute he sees her he knows that his view of her has changed. The two embrace, and from that moment they know that they are meant for one another.
Note that there’s none of the fiery passion Laurie showed towards Jo. Their love is virtuous and right, insofar as it isn’t passionate.
Aunt Carrol realizes that Amy had been pining for Laurie, and she invites him to stay with them. One day, as Amy and Laurie are rowing on the lake, Amy comments how well the two row together. Laurie turns to Amy and says, “So well that I wish we might always pull in the same boat. Will you, Amy?” Amy agrees.
The notion that Laurie and Amy row well together is to say that they work well together. Their partnership isn’t built on passionate love; rather, it’s built on a desire to get work done as a team. They’re affectionate, true, but their engagement bears resemblance to a business deal.