Reading Comprehension Activity

Author: Louisa May Alcott

Chapter XXX passage: Words have consequences, as Jo March finds out in this passage from “Little Women.” Her long-dreamed of trip to Europe will go to her sister Amy instead after Jo’s blunt tongue betrays her. Students will read the passage and reply to questions on the theme, the characters, and the language.

Click for the passage & questions on one printable PDF.


Like people everywhere, the four March sisters had to learn many lessons the hard way as they grew up in the 1800s. In this passage, Jo March learns such a lesson. After saying some unfortunate things to her Aunt Carrol, she finds out that sometimes it’s better to be quiet.


A week later Amy did get her reward, and poor Jo found it hard to be delighted. A letter came from Aunt Carrol, and Mrs. March’s face was illuminated to such a degree, when she read it, that Jo and Beth, who were with her, demanded what the glad tidings were.

“Aunt Carrol is going abroad next month, and wants-“

“Me to go with her!” burst in Jo, flying out of her chair in an uncontrollable rapture.

“No, dear, not you; it’s Amy.”

“O mother! she’s too young; it’s my turn first. I’ve wanted it so long-it would do me so much good, and be so altogether splendid-I must go.”

“I’m afraid it’s impossible, Jo. Aunt says Amy, decidedly, and it is not for us to dictate when she offers such a favor.”

“It’s always so. Amy has all the fun and I have all the work. It isn’t fair, oh, it isn’t fair!” cried Jo passionately.

“I’m afraid it is partly your own fault, dear. When Aunt spoke to me the other day, she regretted your blunt manners and too independent spirit; and here she writes, as if quoting something you had said,-‘I planned at first to ask Jo; but as “favors burden her,” and she “hates French,” I think I won’t venture to invite her. Amy is more docile, will make a good companion for Flo, and receive gratefully any help the trip may give her.'”

“Oh, my tongue, my abominable tongue! why can’t I learn to keep it quiet?” groaned Jo, remembering words which had been her undoing. When she had heard the explanation of the quoted phrases, Mrs. March said sorrowfully,-

“I wish you could have gone, but there is no hope of it this time; so try to bear it cheerfully, and don’t sadden Amy’s pleasure by reproaches or regrets.”

“I’ll try,” said Jo, winking hard, as she knelt down to pick up the basket she had joyfully upset. “I’ll take a leaf out of her book, and try not only to seem glad, but to be so, and not grudge her one minute of happiness; but it won’t be easy, for it is a dreadful disappointment;” and poor Jo bedewed the little fat pincushion she held with several very bitter tears.

“Jo, dear, I’m very selfish, but I couldn’t spare you, and I’m glad you are not going quite yet,” whispered Beth, embracing her, basket and all, with such a clinging touch and loving face, that Jo felt comforted in spite of the sharp regret that made her want to box her own ears, and humbly beg Aunt Carrol to burden her with this favor, and see how gratefully she would bear it.

By the time Amy came in, Jo was able to take her part in the family jubilation; not quite as heartily as usual, perhaps, but without repinings at Amy’s good fortune. The young lady herself received the news as tidings of great joy, went about in a solemn sort of rapture, and began to sort her colors and pack her pencils that evening, leaving such trifles as clothes, money, and passports to those less absorbed in visions of art than herself.

Comprehension Questions

Get the passage & questions on one printable PDF.

Interactive Banner 2

Enter description text here.