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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
Chapter 1: "Playing Pilgrims"
The March family consists of Marmee and her four girls, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy and Father who is off working as a chaplain in the Civil War. We meet the girls first in Chapter 1 as they sit around the living room bemoaning the fact that they will not be having Christmas presents this year. They each have one dollar which seems too little to help any social cause. The girls discuss what they are going to buy for themselves with their money.
The girls are in the process of warming their motherís ragged slippers before the fire when Beth decides that she will use her dollar to get her mother a pair of new ones. This brings animated discussion as each girl thinks about what she might be able to buy her mother. They all agree to go shopping the next day to buy gifts for Marmee.
Planning and discussion takes place for other Christmas festivities. The girls will be putting on a play, something which seems to be a family tradition. At the end of the chapter, Marmee comes home bringing a letter from Father who sends them news and his love, but reveals that he will be away from home for at least another year.
The first chapter introduces us to each of the March girls and to their mother. The father is absent, as the story begins during the Civil War and Mr. March is preforming the duties of chaplain at a Union post. We get a brief glimpse at the personality of each girl. Meg acts very grownup and scolds the others for immature behaviors; she also feels a little guilty because she is not able to make her sacrifices "gladly." Amy comes across as self-centered and seems to think only of what others are going to be getting. When the girls decide to spend their money on Marmee, Amy makes sure that her present is better than anyone elseís. Amyís passion is her art, while Bethís is her music, although Bethís wishes are so softly spoken that no one hears them. Jo is outspoken and good natured, but is also quick to scoff at Amy for mistakes in "vocabulary" especially when Amy tries to sound cultured and uses words incorrectly.
Religion permeates every aspect of their lives. A story they were taught in early childhood is Pilgrimís Progress; they still act out parts of it and use events in the novel as metaphors for their own lives.
Marmee (Mrs. March) herself sets an example of continuous self-sacrifice. She is never heard complaining about their state, but instead makes daily excursions into the neighborhood to help those who are worse off than the March family.