Laurie has lazed about most of the day. Lying in his hammock, he spies the March girls trooping through the garden. He follows them at a distance, and spies them sitting in a forest glade. Meg is sewing, Jo is knitting, Beth is sorting pinecones, and Amy is sketching ferns. Laurie asks if he can join them, and Meg agrees on the condition that he keeps busy. “It’s against the rules to be idle here,” she says. It turns out he’s stumbled upon the girls’ “Busy Bee Society.”
Feminine virtue, hard work, and the simplicity of the natural world offer an antidote to Laurie’s sinful idleness. It’s worth noting here that the girls are engaged, for the most part, in traditionally feminine tasks (sewing, knitting). Similar to Chapter 10, Laurie once again finds he has to prove himself worthy of joining feminine society.
Jo explains to Laurie that the society is part of the girls’ game of acting out Pilgrim’s Progress. “We call this hill the Delectable Mountain, for we can look far away and see the country where we hope to live some time.”
The pious daydreaming that the girls are engaging in here offers a contrast to Laurie’s slothful daydreaming at the beginning of the chapter.
The girls and Laurie then go on to imagine what it would be like if their “castles in the air” were to come true. Laurie mentions that he wishes to go to Europe and become a famous musician. He then sighs that he’s “got the key” to his castle in the air, but he won’t be able to do it because his grandfather wants him to go to college. The girls advise Laurie to obey his grandfather. That night, as Laurie listens to Beth playing piano for his grandfather, he resolves to do the right thing. “I’ll let my castle go,” he says to himself, “and stay with the dear old gentleman while he needs me, for I am all he has.”
The girls (and particularly Beth) fulfill the traditional patriarchal notion of femininity in this chapter insofar as they exemplify simple, natural virtue. Their feminine virtue (not to mention their sisterly love) serves to encourage Laurie to be more virtuous. The girls’ influence has taught Laurie about the value of familial love, as well as the virtue of hard work and sacrifice.