As a fan of Little Women (all four books) I wanted to adress something that really bothers me in the whole Fritz/Laurie debate. If you´ve read my previous LW posts you´ll know that for me the only happy ends for Jo are either with Friedrich or the single Jo. Those are my ships and I don´t care who other people ship. Even though Friedrich is my favorite character that doesn´t mean that I hate Laurie. Quite the contrary I think Laurie´s character arch is one of the most interesting ones in the books (many film adaptations sadly ignore it). I don´t like the debate because it is not only about people fighting over who they think Jo should end up with. It´s about people consciusly choosing to hate certain characters because these characters or even their favorite characters don´t behave like they want in the books
There some very vile individuals who share false information online about Louisa May Alcott and all the sequals. There are people who make fun of Jo because she doesn´t want to marry Laurie and there are people in #teamlaurie who make fun of Friedrich because he is older and poor and they ignore all those wonderful qualities that make Jo fall in love with him or they hate Amy for marrying Laurie. Not to mention certain feminists who make fun of Meg because she is a domesticated godddess. My inner feminist thinks that is pretty harsh since that was the traditional role of the women in 19th century and yes, both Jo and Amy are better rolemodels for modern day girls. That does not mean that it is okay for women to make fun of other women. Whole premise of feminism is about woman´s right to make their own choises and Meg is quite content with her life. Some people also make fun of Jo because she is not as aggressive as an adult as she was as a teen...I call that growing up (do these people remember their own teen-age years?) Even if Jo is not as aggressive as an adult, she remains as her sassy unapologetic self throughout the book series (I just read the part from Little Men where she justifies Nat the importance of pillow fights). It is not only vile people in #TeamLaurie. There are also people in #TeamBhaer who only point out all the faults that Laurie has.
THIS IS ALL SO STUPID!
I couldn´t hate any characters in Little Women or Louisa May Alcott for writing one of my favorite books. Many people tend to forget that Little Women is a coming of age book not a love story. It was targeted for young girls in the late 19th century offering advices on good marriage and moralities. The debate itself completely minimizes author´s messages:
There are different types of marriages and roles of men an women can be more fluid.
Women can remain independent while being in a loving relationship when they are with a right partner.
Women can have a fullfilling career and a family.
We should not make fun of spinsters or those who choose to be alone or ladies who take more traditional roles.
Most importantly money and looks should not matter in the affairs of the heart. Marmee gives this advice to her daughters. She would rather see them happily married with poor men than unhappily with a rich ones.
Debate completely ignores the fact that both Jo and Amy are stepping stones in the process of Laurie turning from a boy into a man and that both Laurie and Friedrich represent Jo´s growth as and individual. It completely ignores Amy´s character arch growing from a vain child into a mature caring woman and the change of dynamics in Amy´s and Jo´s relationship. After Beth´s death sisters actually become closer (which I always thought was very realistic and beautiful). Book centers around Jo and her sisters maturing but it is also a story about Laurie and Friedrich.
Laurie who lost his parents on a young age and has been living in different boarding schools in Europe moves to Concord to live with his distant grandfather. He is an outsider and that is one of the reasons he has no problems becoming best friends with four girls. Because his grandfather can be very distant Laurie does became fixated with the March family. There are times when he is just wonderful and supportive like during the time of Beth´s illness but he can be very immature at times. Jo never has any romantic feelings towards Laurie in the books and she is totally frightened and angry when Laurie develops a crush on her. They are both alphas with high tempers who work great as friends but anything else than that they bring out the worst in each others. Laurie becomes rather obsessed with Jo and his behavior is very intrusive. It is also rather unhealthy and it is his way of avoiding growing up and taking responsibilites. He might be closer to her age but Jo was always the mature one. She has rejected all his romantic efforts but he jus continues. When Laurie proposes it is all about him. He doesn´t consider Jo´s feelings at all.
Jo had a tendency to mother Laurie. Whenever Laurie had difficulties with his grandfather Jo was usually the mediator between them. She was always reminding him not to speak slang and to behave well especially when Laurie was in college. Even when she knows that she can never love him the way he would like to, she is afraid of the confrontation and hurting his feeling and Laurie needs to hear that in order to move on with his life. Amy is not afraid of confrontations. She meets Lazy-Laurie drifting in Europe being all whiny and pitiful but she wont have him either if he doesn´t get his act together and he does. The emotional roller-coaster with both Jo and Amy is what makes him to grow and become a man. I especially like Laurie in the following sequels where he is a loving husband and a father. Good Wives/Little Women II is one of my favorite books, mostly because of the romantic fluffiness but I like it when two people grow to love each others and they don´t even notice it at first.
I love this part where Laurie goes to see Amy after Beth´s death
"She did not hear him cross the courtyard beyond, nor see him pause in the archaway...He stood a minute, looked ath her with new eyes, seeing what no-one had ever seen before - the thender side of Amy´s character. Everything about her mutely suggested love and sorrow - the blotted letters in her lap (his letters), the black ribbon that tied up her hair, and she wore it as her only ornament.
"O Laurie, Laurie, I knew you´d come to me"
It is a shame that so many film versions ignore Amy´s and Laurie´s story. It is beautifully written in the books. I hope that the up-coming film do them justice.
Elizabeth Taylor is my favorite Amy
From the four sisters Amy and Jo were the most similar both having a temper and Jo did envy Amy since it was so effortless for her to get everything she wanted. Burning Jo´s book wasn´t right and Amy did regret it all of her life. She also did look up to Jo and admired her determination, even though Amy´s ambitions were in other things. At the age of 16 Amy already had a better control over her temper than Jo and because of that she was the one who got to go to Europe. I personally love the adult Amy in the books. Jo is definitely a feminist hero but we should give more credit for Amy as well. Amy never copes well with being poor (very much like her creator Louisa May Alcott) and unlike Jo, she cares a great deal about her appearance. This is why from a very young age she knows that she will marry a rich man but Amy grows to realize that marrying for love is much better. I love the part where she scolds Laurie. It does not come from a bad place. She cares about him deeply and even more when he turns out to be worthy of her trust.
I found it very interesting in the books when Amy comes to the conclusion that she is never going to be a professional artist. I felt really bad for her and she was way too hard on herself comparing herself to the great masters. She did continue with her art as a hobby and always enjoyed it. It is hard for me to say if that was a good or a bad thing. She could have reached higher and become very successful but maybe letting go of that dream made it easier for her to create without pressure. As a full-time artist myself Amy´s struggles finding the balance feels very relatable.
I don´t know anyone who has read Little Women and hasn´t identified themselves with Jo at some level. Jo is filled with contradictions. Shy and impulsive. She doesn´t want to be with Laurie, she wants to be Laurie and have all those liberties that were granted for men but not for women of the time. Jo March does things her own way. Jo always had a bit of a Peter Pan complex. She did not want to grow up and things to change yet at the same time she was always very mature herself. She started to take responsibilities of an adult very early on by selling her writings. Jo never writes because of fame or fortune. She writes to suppor her family. Adult Jo worked as a governess in New York. Occupation that was often frowned upon during the time. Once Jo heard two young men making fun of her being a governess:
”I felt angry at first, and then I didn´t care, for a governess is as good as a clerk, and I´ve got sense, I I haven´t style, which is more than some people have, judging from the remarks of the elegant beings who clattered away, smoking like bad chimneys. I hate ordinary people”.
Tomboy Jo is also very good at taking care of others. This can be seen especially with her interractions with Beth. I´ve never liked the idea of Jo and Laurie together. Girls don´t´usually fall for guys who they mother and I don´t think it should be Jo´s job to ”fix” Laurie. Friedrich challenges Jo in a whole different level because his personality is total opposite to her. She is impulsive and introverted and he is more calm and extroverted and they compliment each others. When she and Fritz turn Plumfield into a school for boys Jo can nurture them as much as she likes but I think one of the key ingredients to Jo´s and Friedrich´s loving relationship is that Friedrich doesn´t need Jo to mother him.
Friedrich is already a mature man when we meet him for the first time but he as well grows as a person. When he spends time with Jo in New York he doesn´t really want to accept the fact that he is indeed in love with her because falling in love brings out insecurities about their differences. It is a classical case of the opposite attract- troupe in the beginning but they soon find out that they do have many things in common. Eventually Friedrich decides to travel to Concord to see if Jo has feelings for her. Which was a brave thing to do. There is an interesting aspect in Friedrich. I think he felt bit resentment towards his sister. Friedrich had to move to America when his sister Minna became ill and he promised on her death-bed to her to look after his nephews and by doing this he had to change careers from a well-respected philosophy teacher from Berlin to a language tutor in a foreign land. Life happens and Fritz never complains and he loves his nephews. He often misses his homeland but Fritz is one of those people who don´t dwell in the past. When we meet Friedrich in New York he has gotten there through complicated circumstances trying to make most of it but it wasn´t the life he had hoped for himself. In the chapter ”under the umbrella” in Good Wives/LW II both him and Jo reclaim the control of their lives when they agree to build their future together and make it what they want it to be.
My apologies. I´m a total Jo what it comes to Friedrich. I can´t shut up.
There we have it. What it comes to Jo I´m on #TeamBhaer all the way and what it comes to Laurie I´m most definitely #TeamLaurieWithAmy. Both couples bring out the best of each others and I also freaking love John and Meg who are shamelessly neglected by the (at times extremely shallow) Little Women fandom.
Check out my other Little Women articles:
Little Women: Equal Marriage Lost In Translation
Friedrich Bhaer (Why my inner Jo loves him) Tender Masculinity in Little Women
Artist and Illustrator. Folklorist , anthropologist, mythology enthusiastic. Keen traveller. Gryffinclaw. Comes from Finland. Likes cats, tea and period dramas.
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