Amy spies Jo and Meg getting ready to leave the house one Saturday afternoon, and demands to know where they’re going. Jo snappishly bids her to mind her own business, and Amy quickly guesses that they’re going to the theater with Laurie. Meg explains that Mrs. March wants Amy to go another time, given that Amy’s recovering from a cold. Jo snorts that she won’t go to the play if Amy comes along, given that she’ll only be a nuisance. Amy weeps as Jo and Meg depart, and she vows to avenge herself.
Apollyon is the demonic antagonist of the novel Pilgrim’s Progress, whom Pilgrim must defeat in his journey. In this case, Jo’s moral demon is her fiery (and some might say unwomanly) temper. The sisters forget their familial love and each indulge in the moral failings of pettiness and vengeful behavior.
The play is delightful, but Jo can’t banish her guilt at losing her temper with Amy. Jo and Meg return home and everything seems normal. The next day, however, Jo discovers that her “book” – a diary containing a number of stories she’s been painstakingly working on – has gone missing. Amy reveals that she threw Jo’s book in the fire. Jo is furious, and she vows to never forgive Amy.
Amy has given in to her sinful vengeance and the damage can never be undone. Jo realizes that her battle with Apollyon has only just begun – her refusal to forgive goes against her family’s Christian beliefs. In indulging their vices, the girls go against their father’s advice to “conquer” themselves in an effort to become more womanly.
Amy at first begs for Jo’s forgiveness, but soon grows to resent Jo’s anger. The following day, Amy spies Jo and Laurie departing to go ice-skating. Meg encourages Amy to join them, with the hope that Jo will be in an amenable mood thanks to Laurie. Amy runs after them, and only manages to catch up with them after Laurie has skated away around the river bend. As Amy struggles to put on her skates, Jo hears Laurie warn that the ice near the middle of the river is thin. Amy doesn’t hear this, and Jo is too full of lingering resentment to utter a word to Amy.
Jo continues to indulge in boyish pursuits, this time by going skating with Laurie. Her refusal to forgive Amy leads her to behave in increasingly immoral ways. This notion of small sin leading to larger sin will be revisited later on in the book.
Jo skates away from Amy. Amy skates out over the middle of the river and falls through the thin ice. Jo hears her cry out and is paralyzed with fear. Laurie rushes by her and hauls Amy out of the river. They rush Amy home, where she’s bundled in blankets and parked in front of the fire. Mrs. March assures Jo that Amy will be perfectly fine. Jo, however, is shaken, and is ashamed that her temper led her to act so spitefully. Mrs. March reveals that she, too, grapples with her temper. Mrs. March urges Jo to turn to God for help controlling her temper. Amy wakes, and Jo embraces her. All is forgiven.
In spite of her bravado and gender-bending antics, Jo and Amy are depicted as damsels in distress in this scene. Jo is only able to mutely stand by as Laurie performs a manly rescue. Alcott seems to imply here that women are necessarily not creatures of action – a view that conforms with the gender norms of her time. Once the sisters return home, Mrs. March again acts as a loving moral compass and guides her daughters back to God.