As is only to be expected in a narrative dealing with four “Little Women,” the theme of love and marriage figures prominently in the story. The author comments on the different kinds of love and the criteria for a successful marriage. Meg is courted by John Brooke and marries him early in the story. Beth tragically passes away. Amy is finally paired with Laurie and Jo goes on to marry Professor Bhaer. However, it the relationship between Jo and Laurie which constitutes the strong undercurrent which runs throughout the story. In fact, it may be considered to be the moving factor in the development of the plot. Jo’s relationship with Laurie begins as companionship, moves on to a romantic plane and ends again on a note of friendship.
Jo and Laurie develop an instant rapport for each other right from the start of their acquaintance. The warmhearted Jo draws the lonely boy into the warmth of the March family. They go on to become fast friends, the tomboyish Jo sharing in Laurie’s pursuits from skating to croquet....
However, as the story progresses, Alcott’s depiction of their relationship changes. There are many signs that their friendship is heading towards romance. Jo’s relationship with Laurie is increasingly painted in romantic colors. Right from the beginning of their acquaintance, Jo is clear about her attitude towards her friend saying, “Laurie's a nice boy and I like him, and I won't have any sentimental stuff about compliments and such rubbish” (Alcott, 5). Jo persists in this attitude. However, it is increasingly evident to the reader that Laurie is in love with Jo. When Laurie meets Jo in the town and asks her, “Do you worry about me, Jo?” (Alcott, 14) it is obvious that the question is loaded with emotional undertones. Just as any young girl would be, Jo is aware of Laurie’s romantic interest in her. In almost every conversation with him, Laurie does his best to convey his love to her: he complains, “Sensible girls for whom I do care whole papers of pins won't let me send them `flowers and things', so what can I do?” (Alcott, 32). Jo does her best “to fling cold water on the slightest provocation” (Alcott, 24). This does no good and Jo is finally forced to confess to her mother that “I'm afraid Laurie is getting too fond of me” (Alcott, 32). Jo’s moving to New York to keep a distance from Laurie proves futile. Finally, Laurie categorically declares his love – “I've loved you ever since I've known you, Jo” (Alcott, 35). Jo turns down his proposal of marriage, saying I “shall always be fond of you, very fond indeed, as a friend, but I'll never marry you, and the sooner you believe it the better for both of us so now!” (Alcott, 35). The heart-broken Laurie leaves