Introduction

The extract, ‘Being Neighborly’, is from the novel titled ‘Little Women’ by American writer Louisa May Alcott. The story revolves around the four March sisters Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy and their friendship with their neighbour, Laurie.

The excerpt unfolds how an energetic and sensitive teenage girl, Jo, befriends a shy lad Laurie, who is has no friends and feels lonely due to no social interaction. She also meets Laurie’s grandfather Mr. Laurence and makes him understand the problem that Laurie is going through.

Characters

  1. Jo March: Josephine March, the novel’s protagonist and the second-eldest March sister. The character Jo, who aspires to be a writer, is based on Louisa May Alcott, making the novel semi-autobiographical. Jo has a bad temper and a quick tongue, despite her best efforts to keep both under control. She is a tomboy who is irritated by the many restrictions placed on women and girls.
  2. Meg March: Meg March is the oldest of the March sisters. She is a responsible and caring person. She has a slight weakness for luxury and leisure, but she is primarily gentle, loving, and morally strong.
  3. Beth March: Beth March is the third daughter of the March family. Beth is a gentle and virtuous woman. She only tries to please other people. She enjoys music and is an excellent pianist.
  4. Amy March: Amy March is the youngest of the March sisters. Amy is an artist who is enchanted with aesthetic beauty and has a weakness for nice things. She has temper tantrums and is vain, yet she makes an effort to change herself.
  5. Laurie Laurence: The March family’s next-door neighbour. Theodore Laurence is Laurie’s real name. He is attractive, bright, and kind.
  6. Laurie’s grandfather and the Marches’ next-door neighbour, Mr. Laurence. He appears stern, but he is a loving and caring man.
  7. Marmee: Marmee is the mother of the March girls. Marmee is a good role model for her daughters. She works hard and counsels them through all of their troubles. Her husband is serving in the military.
  8. Mr. March: Mr.March is the father of the March girls and Marmee’s husband. He serves as a chaplain in the Union army.
  9. The Hummels: A family from the Marches region. The Hummels are impoverished and ill.
  10. Aunt March: She is a wealthy widow who is one of the March girls’ aunts. She loves her nieces and wants the best for them, despite being irritable and demanding

Quest on befriending the neighbor

Jo was a friendly, warm and brave person who felt that something was wrong with Laurie, the neighbourhood boy. With the noble goal of soothing Laurie and making him friendly, Jo set off to get to know the kid nearby. Jo decided to go out and dig tracks in the snow on a snowy day.

The Marches’ home was a small, dirty, run-down structure that had lost its greenery. Laurence’s enormous stone residence was separated by a modest hedge. Laurie was sitting near one of the second- floor windows, she noticed. Jo felt pity for the poor, lonely lad. Laurie’s attention was drawn to her when she hurled a snowball at the glass. Laurie confessed that he had been sick with a cold and invited Jo to visit.

Gifts and Conversation

Laurie got an armful of gifts from Jo, including a plate of blanc-mange (a kind of custard) from Meg and little kittens from Beth. Laurie’s lodgings were straightened up by Jo, who volunteered to read aloud to her. Laurie pleaded with Jo to speak with him, so she did, and she informed him about her family. Laurie admitted that he spied on people from time to time.

Jo, on the other hand, observed that he did it because he was orphaned (his parents died when he was a child, so he was now living with his grandfather) and lonely. Laurie stepped out for a while to see his doctor, and while he was gone, Jo was looking at Laurie’s grandpa Laurence’s portrait when he walked into the library and surprised her.

Meeting Mr. Laurence

Believing that it was Laurie who had come in, Jo began remarking on the portrait without going to see whether it was Laurie who had come in. On hearing Jo’s thoughts, Laurence said thanks to her. Jo becomes flushed on understanding that Laurie’s grandfather had heard everything. From the beginning, she needed to flee, however realizing that she would be named as a coward assuming she fled, Jo, chose to remain and confront the circumstance.

Grandpa posed her a couple of questions and appeared to be satisfied with her genuineness. Observing the situation appropriately, Jo strongly presented Laurie’s plight to grandpa and suggested a solution. Grandpa too acknowledged the same. Laurie, Jo explained, needed to spend more time with children his age. Jo was invited to tea by Mr. Laurence. Laurence realized there was some truth to what Jo had told him as he watched Jo and Laurie converse.

Laurie had expressed gratitude for the “medicine” that Mrs March had handed over, and Meg commented that Laurie was complimenting Jo. Jo becomes agitated and chastises Meg for being sentimental when all she wanted was to befriend Laurie. Mrs. March agreed to let Jo invite Laurie over.

Conclusion

Jo’s plan to become friends with Laurie proved to be a good one which helped him form life-long friendship. The enormous mansion serves as a beautiful prison for Laurie, who is locked in a world where he is unable to experience familial affection and feels lonely. After meeting Jo, Laurie feels that womanly affection and turns more sociable.