Guten Tag Little Women fans!
Today´s comment shoutout goes to a fellow Finn. This is a quote from the blogger @loveformovingpictures
"Nowadays any kind of racism towards someone´s nationality should not exist, how is making fun of someone´s German accent any different than making fun of someone who is for example in the autism spectrum since in both cases person has no control over it. It seems that Gerwig uses all the possible excuses trying to convince the audience that Friedrich is not the right man for Jo, but that Laurie is a better option A decent director or someone who wants to adapt a story should be able to separate themselves from the feelings of the characters. Perhaps Gerwig hates Germans and German accents but she should have allowed Jo to have a different opinion since her character has existed over a hundred years and that she says that she is respecting Alcott by leaving Jo as a spinster or even suggests that Jo wants to be with Laurie, goes against that she makes fun of those qualities in a person, that Louisa May Alcott herself was attracted to.".
Earlier in this podcast we did an episode about Laurie being half Italian and having brown skin and what it meant in the 19th century America. It´s only fair that we discuss about Friedrich´s character as well and the fact that he comes from Germany and same ways as Laurie has never been played by a brown skin actor in a major adaptation, Friedrich has never been played by a German actor and for this I am joined by Little Women blogger Christina Scott.
I used to study German in school and when I was 17 I was in exchange in Berlin, of all cities and I remember that before I left I had re-read the Little Women series and I was so inspired by the part where Jo was learning German. It was my first time travelling alone abroad and I was like "if Jo, who is one of my heroes, can manage to study German I can manage to live abroad and speak German. That Jo wanted to study another language gave me confidence.
Then some years later when I went back to read Little Women again, I realized that the reason why Jo wanted to study German in the first place was because she was crushing on Friedrich, and then I just had to think that maybe somewhere in the back of her mind she was unconsciously thinking that she wants him to be a part of her life, because why else would she bother. One of the scenes I remember very vividly is the one when Friedrich comes to court Jo and Jo suggests that they perform a German song together and just the fact that Jo knows what his favorite song is, it shows how much not only how much she loves him, but how much she respects his culture.
I was really surprised that when I started to do research on Friedrich´s character I would come across some highly respected Alcott scholars (maybe not so respected after this episode comes out) who would have lots of hostility of Friedrich being German and having a German accent. It was such a huge contrast to all the other studied that I found that handled Louisa May Alcott´s admiration and love for German culture and literature, which were a lot more closer to the truth and then even just as recently as 2019 film tour Greta Gerwig was saying how much she was horrified that Jo would marry an old German guy who speaks with a terrible German accent and I´m like, first of all he is 39 years old, Gerwig herself is about the same age, so why you are calling him old and one of the first things that Jo says about Friedrich in the novel is that she found his accent very attractive and even calls it musical.
I would not call myself as a Germanophile same way as Louisa May Alcott was, but I think my fondness for German culture and history actually might have started from Friedrich´s character because I was always very fond of him, even as a child. If I think about the way American media portrays Germans it is mostly rather negative. In Europe relating to other cultures tends to be a lot more neutral, because it is a lot easier to travel between countries, and there is over 50 countries in Europe, so there is more exposure and in most countries you study at least 2 or 3 other languages in school. Here in Finland, we tend to take our free education system for granted but by the time when I was 13, that I could say something in three different languages, in English, German and Swedish in my case, that´s actually really impressive.
Germany as a country, they have worked a great deal with their past and in Germany, at least in Berlin, it´s illegal to make any references to Nazis or things of that sort and Hitler wasn´t even born in Germany. He was born in Austria and he actually had difficulties to get German nationality because he had such a long criminal record (I just watched a documentary about this).
So to me when a scholar or a film maker use Friedrich´s germaniness against them, it shows how little they know or care about Louisa May Alcott, because her favorite books came from Germany and if I quote Christine Doyle´s essay on this topic "when a large part of Americans discriminated German immigrants in Jo´s and Friedrich´s marriage Louisa May Alcott took her favorite elements from the German culture and combined that into American culture, promoting her ideas of a transnational family".
This is Small Umbrella in the rain Little Women Podcast "Where is the German Friedrich Bhaer?"
Niina: One of the things I wanted to ask from you, we have this shared goal that we want a German actor to play professor Bhaer at some point. I have read quite a few stories from German readers and people who are German descendants who love Friedrich´s character, because he represents such a wonderful German character and I am not German. I did study German in school and I have been doing this research about Louisa May Alcott´s obsession with Germany and it´s in every single page in Little Women. How do you feel about that? why Hollywood doesn´t hire great German actors?
Christina: I don´t know if it was at first because of accessibility. It sort of started in it´s making at the late 1910s early 1920s. Talkies were very new in the 30s. I don´t know if this is very true but this is what I can imagine is that maybe at first when they were doing them, they didn´t have lots of German actors. They could barely get regular actors. They were pulling them from the stage and tried to show how to perform in front of the camera. I almost want to say that they probably didn´t get German actors because during that time there was the rise of Nazism and I feel like that stereotype has gone forward. For anyone who does not know I am of German descent. My grandmother on my dad´s side came over from Germany and she was in her early 20s or so, when she came over, the story was that she, and this just I think proves that not every German was horrible, like every-time someone associates Germany they go "Nazis" and it´s like "No". They lived in East Berlin and comparatively East Berlin was worse than West Berlin. People were trying to get into West Berlin and she and her family had to be smuggled into West Berlin because her father who would be my great-grandfather was the postmaster general and he was smuggling information between the Nazis and the Russians to the alleys and they´re like "okay we got to get you to the west to protect you".
It´s very difficult because I am German from my dad´s side, I´m few other things and on my mom´s side it´s Italian-Armenian.I feel like whenever someone asks you and if you say like "Oh I´m Italian" they´ll go "pasta, mafia!" or do funny stereotyping with an Italian accent but as soon as you say "I´m part German" they go like "were your family like Nazis?" It does immediately go to Nazis or someone bad and I feel that most of the time when you see Germans portrayed in the media it´s Nazis or the villain/ cold unapproachable person or I try to say it the nicest way possible, like weird fetish person that maybe borderline illegal, like that kind of weirdo and it´s like why? why all the time that?
So I really was robbed to find characters that felt were very pro-German that just were nice or normal and gave a positive image to Germany and I was like "really the only person that I could think of is Friedrich". He is really a genuinely good person and he is smart. He is respectful and it is such a shame because the things that I have read about Germany are like "wow you guys are great". There is a movie that Germans did that is from.. I want to say 1910s it´s called "Different from the others", that is way before anyone´s time being pro-gay, pro LGBT. That´s incredible. He also did another movie which was pro-abortion, where it is a woman´s choice if she wants to have a kid or not and there is nothing psychologically wrong with that, like that is incredibly progressive. Unfortunately the country has been so-overshadowed by what the Nazis have done and it´s like not every German person was a Nazi. Not everyone agreed with it. So over the years I felt little bit more over-protective of my German side because I feel like I lean to be more German. Friedrich for me, first of all, he is like my dream man. I want to be with someone like him and the fact that he is German, why not? and it just bothers me that now, now that we have a lot more accessibility to actors from all around the world why there isn´t more German actors playing the part and I am allowed to forgive what William Shatner and oh I´m forgetting his name?
Niina: Gabriel Byrne?
Christina: No, the BBC version one
Niina: Mark Stanley?
Christina: Yes. I can forgive those because even though they are American/British they are still putting on a German accent and totally not forgetting that the character is meant to be German. Whereas the Gerwig version you have a French man playing a German character with a very German name. It´s not even like you are trying to change it sort of to be "alright let´s try to include his nationality a bit more" but I am hearing a French accent saying that he is Friedrich Bhaer! Very German name! it´s so confusing and it´s just boggles my mind. On one hand her statement, and this can go into a whole can of worms, when she was like "well, you know, why not give Jo a handsome man to fall for because I am tired of seeing these attractive girls to fall for these unattractive guys" and it´s like, on one hand you are right in some cases, but that is not the point here, because one, again you didn´t read the book, Jo is not suppose to be conventionally attractive and then neither is Friedrich.
Niina: She is not giving me a good enough reason, for not hiring a German actor.
Christina: If you could see me my hands are just moving all over the place for frustration.
Christina: How...am I allowed to swear?
Christina: How in the hell do you sit there and go I need to find an attractive German actor...hmm...they don´t exist but Daniel Brühl is right there! He has been right there for so many years. How do you not see him? I just, I can´t believe it and there are other great German actors. He is the first one that comes to mind. How? Why? that is the thing that boggles me the most. As someone pointed out, they were like "well, as much as I do want them to be Friedrich, the way the Gerwig story comes out I would not have wanted them into that one".
Christina: and I think that´s fair because that would have been a total disservice to him and the character.
Niina: We need a long series, with Daniel Brühl as professor Bhaer or a movie with sequels.
Christina: I´ll take it whether it is time period canon or modern day because I am just one of those people, that I like to day dream and think what would I do if I was ever given the chance to make my own version. I have it all planned out and he would definitely be one of the actors and in my version it would be like a miniseries and set into the modern day but pretty much the section with him would be all just German Friedrich. It would be practically nothing else. I think it is a shame, that you know in general Hollywood doesn´t do much with foreign actors because there are so many wonderful foreign actors and so underutilized I feel. I get it when some people are asking "what would a German be doing in America at this time? or "how could you make me believe this?" and I´m like well, that is the magic of movies. You can stretch your belief for a little bit or writes can be a little bit smarter and make it work but yeah it´s such a shame. In some movies I am like "Oh this actor is going to be in it. I remember them from this movie" and it´s like "Oh they are only in it like 5 minutes, that´s hmm..that´s a shame". They sit there and stay and America is suppose to be the land of everybody where immigrants can come over and it´s like, it seems just ..unamerican. Why there can´t be a German living in New York city? what´s wrong with that? I know quite a few British actors who are living in LA like Ben Barnes and Dan Stevens. They´v made a home in America and few other actors in other places. It would work! it would make sense. It is not totally crazy. I had gotten into the "Alienist" with Daniel Brühl obviously, and it makes sense, you know if someone was like "how could they be born in America but still have an accent?" well his character is raised in a home, where his parents are German-Hungarian and he was raised with being taught German and if that was pretty much what you spoke for most of the time, you would grow to have that accent. I think there are ways to utilize foreign actors in American media. I just don´t think that they are smart enough how to use it outside of German = Nazi. Italian = Mafia. Let´s be little bit smarter and better about that.
Niina: There are so many stereotypes about different European nationalities that are so outdated and old fashioned. It´s really a shame. If I think about a Finnish character in a Hollywood film, they just hire us to be vikings. When I lived in Germany many years ago, I do remember thinking that Germans are very family-oriented and very welcoming and I always connected that to Friedrich´s character. Louisa May Alcott she traveled in Germany and she was a full-hearten germanophile. This would really horrify her because she loved Germany and then we get stuff like "Emily in Paris" where you are not honoring the French culture, you are making fun of it. It is so disrespectful. I hope that somebody out there is going to listen our rants and that we will get more sophisticated versions of Little Women, hopefully with Daniel Brühl or other great German actors.
Christina: I think between him and Amy they are the most poorly interpretad characters in media, because I feel like they are the most hated. All the time I hear "how could Amy do that? that was so awful?" like thinking of the burning of the manuscript and it´s like, for one thing, again I blame this on most of the media. You have like 21 year old something actress playing the part that should be a 12 year old, so it comes across more mean-spirited. Especially with the Gerwig´s version, when she very calmly says "what was I suppose to do" "I didn´t have anything else that would make you upset?" I´m sorry but that is too sophisticated of an answer for a 12 year old to say and again coming from a mouth of a 20-something year old. I can´t believe it. It is poorly interpretive, again when you have versions that try to be more Jo and Laurie oriented and yet, add Friedrich in. It almost feels like they are trying to make it "he is stealing Jo away" or "Amy stole Laurie away". I don´t think most people know that the book when it was first published it came out in two separate parts. There wasn´t going to be a second part but it was supposed to end when Meg get´s married but people always seem like "but they made her to have Jo being married, like the publisher made her do it".
Niina: Which is actually not true.
Christina: Right. Some fans may have written to Alcott saying like "Can´t Jo marry Laurie" but there was no pressure to get Jo in general, married and I love that Alcott was like "I will not marry Jo to Laurie to please anybody" and it´s like, yes, you go girl! and they act like as if Friedrich was a last minute addition. Again I think that because people don´t know it´s publishing history, that they think "Oh it was just one book" and then the publisher was like "well you need to have Jo marrying off someone" and then "alright this guy". No! and again I feel like it is disservice to Alcott to say that she just threw Jo with this guy and it´s like "No!" she just didn´t throw Jo to this guy. It is not like he appeared in the last 10 pages and is like "Oh yeah then love and marriage" No! she develops a good and a full-long relationship between these two characters and it rose to become love in which how the novel ends but it is amazing how people just tear that and I think it´s because they see something on the internet that someone writes an article that says "oh what a shame that Jo couldn´t be the independent writer like Alcott originally wanted". That is not the full picture and people just kind of ledge on to that. You got to dig little deeper or at least have someone that is willing to go a little bit deeper such as you and myself that will put it out there for everyone to be like "Oh I didn´t know that. Now all that makes sense". When people say stuff like that, you really don´t seem to have respect for the characters but not for it´s author either.
Niina: I think it has a lot to do with what you said earlier about Jo´s loneliness or that she feels that she is going to be weaker when she wants romance or love or family for herself. She is afraid that it is going to make her look weaker in the eyes of others. This is actually mentioned in Little Women in the "Under the umbrella" chapter. The narrator says that Jo was afraid that she is going to loose her reputation if she reveals to the world that she is like the other girls. That she wants to have family and marriage and she wants to fall in love. What I have studied Louisa´s life, she was incredibly lonely, especially after Henry died and then she had this fling with Laddie Wisniewski, he was one of the real-life Laurie´s. That didn´t turn out very well but then she could not tell that to the public, because she was afraid that people were going to see her weaker. She was always really annoyed when people pitied her because she was a spinster. That has a lot to do with the way the story in Little Women goes because she wrote Jo´s and Friedrich´s relationship to be a wish fulfillment and I always say this in this podcast, because I think that is very true, when you read her diaries and she writes how lonely she is and how she envies her sisters marriages and I think it was actually quite nasty for Louisa to say that her publisher forced her to marry Jo, because Louisa and her publisher Thomas Niles were very good friends and he never asked her to marry her characters and he didn´t give her instructions about the characters. So it was actually Louisa trying to protect her own reputation.
Christina: I do definitely agree with you to that idea of wish fulfillment. You know they always say it´s better to be alone than to be with someone and feel lonely. So I can see why she would be like "don´t pity me because I am a spinster. I´d rather be alone than be with someone who would make me feel lonely", but yeah like you said, it is a wish fulfillment and I think it takes a whole other level of understanding of Jo´s and Friedrich´s relationship when you know that. Not until hearing and seeing your work that I realized "Oh there was a real life Friedrich and Oh my goodness, there is an age gap that is the same as Alcott and Thoreau and Jo and Friedrich and so much of the description of Friedrich is based on Thoreau". I never knew those things but now that I know I´m like oh it really is, like you said, it was her way of being with someone she wants to be with and I think for most writers, I personally feel this way, some of the things that I write it´s like, I wish I could do those things. I wish I could meet someone like that or to be that type of person. So it is really not surprising when I hear that for someone like Alcott who has been told by people that she is not conventionally attractive.
Niina: It´s really wild that her fans actually said that to her face. "Oh you are not as pretty as Jo".
Christina: If we truly 100% believe that Jo is the author´s avatar they are supposed to be the same. It´s funny that back then people said that Alcott is not attractive and I would look at her picture and I´m like "Oh what? she was very attractive and I think people don´t understand that when they think of things. It´s like in the earlier podcast when you said that the actress who plays Jo in modern day version in 2018 one they are like "she is not enough pretty to be with Friedrich" and I´m like for one I think that actress is attractive but also like you are missing the point.
Niina: They said the same to Katherine Hepburn that she was too boyish and Jo is written to be boyish.
Christina: Right and I think people don´t fully understand that it is also depending on the time period because someone made parallels to Jo and Lizzie Bennett. They always say that Lizzie is not attractive. I remember when I got my mom to watch the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice and we were listening how Mrs Bennett was saying "Oh Jane is the prettiest of my daughters" and my mom was like "I think Lizzie is quite pretty" and I´m like "yeah, but you got to remember that back then the typical norm of what is pretty is to be fair skinned, fair haired, blue eyed, be on the lighter tone of things rather than the sort of darker hair, darker eyed or even darker skinned. I think that people don´t always understand what we would think as attractive now was not attractive back then. In regardless, whether they really are attractive or not, but it is amazing how some fans would be like "they are too pretty to play this part" and others be like "they are not pretty enough to play this" and it´s past the point of the story being that it is meant to be about these two people who have good chemistry together and they make it work. One of my teachers when I was in collegE, I think it was Cleopatra and Anthony she had seed in a play or something of that kind and she was like "I couldn´t believe it because the actors were not attractive at all" and I was like "does that matter?". That was probably one of those moments I was slowly realizing that I was a demisexual, what does that matter? shouldn´t it be what the chemistry between the two people are? but it is amazing how people are so focused on what is physically attractive that somehow equals to romantic attraction versus being like how two people connect that leads to romantic attraction.
Niina: Yeah, well that is the Laurie fans. Well..many of them. That is not really a reason to be with somebody. Only if you just want to hook up. Jo doesn´t want to hook up with him.
Christina: In one of my post that I made years ago about why Jo shouldn´t be with Laurie I made a mention of, how almost hypocritical it is that people say these things about Jo and Friedrich but there are a lot of parallels between situations, not fully, but it looks like it from the outside, of Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester. People make comments like "the age gap is not right" or "they are not attractive, how could they fall in love" and it´s like.. well there is an age gap between Jane and Mr Rochester and in the novel, only one of them seems to be conventionally attractive. Many of those same people will go "Oh I love Jane and Rochester" they were so romantic and it´s like "pardon me" it´s amazing how people can choose between what they want to like and what they don´t want to like.
Niina: When I was doing research on Henry David Thoreau and I came to this part where it was mentioned that Henry didn´t like traditional women or that he had resentment to overly feminine women I was like "damn Louisa would have been perfect for him". There is speculation that they had an affair. I don´t know if that is true but he would have been perfect for her at least in that sense, because she wasn´t traditional and she also kind of rejected some parts of femininity. Henry and Louisa, I was so happy when I found out about all the real life Friedrich´s and the real life Laurie´s because it made me feel so validated.
Niina: Little Women made a lot more sense when I found out about it. Especially the story about Laddie, because I think one of the reasons why Louisa liked to hang out with him, it´s almost like she always wanted to have somebody there that she could take care of. Was it then her sister, or when she worked in the war as a nurse, and then she took care of Laddie because he had tuberculosis. You can see that Louisa had this very maternal side that she liked to take care of people".
That was our chat today. Christina and I will continue our discussion next week. This episode was sponsored by Skillshare, so if you would like the get a free month to learn new creative skills online, you can even learn to speak German or some other language. The link is in the description. Thank you so much for listening. Take care and make good choices. Bye.
Hello Little Women fans! Today´s we have a triple comment shoutout.
First one goes to Radical-Rin who says:
"Controversial opinion, I know, but I actually really love Jo and Friedrich and I am god damn lesbian".
This comment lives in my head rent-free.
Another comment shoutout goes to janeykath318"I don’t care what Tumblr or Greta Gerwig say. It’s completely canon that Jo and her Professor were crazy in love, got married, and had two adorable boys, Rob and Teddy. If Louisa May Alcott really didn’t want them together, why didn’t she kill him off in the sequel? Instead we got two sequels where they clearly are still madly in love and thriving in the chaos of Plumfield".
Here is a quote from the-other-art-blog:
"I thought the same thing, if she didn’t want Jo to be married, she could have killed him off. Plus, there are so many scenes where she is clearly attracted to him. They make out and a friend of mine says there’s an afterglow scene! Greta lied during the whole press tour!"
When I have read Greta Gerwig´s interviews all these things that she has said about Little Women, none of them actually happen in the novel. It´s just one lie after another. It really has made me wonder has she even opened the book. She says that she is some sort of an Alcott expert and then she ignores some very important elements about her. Like the fact that Louisa loved Germany, which is not really something you can miss, especially if you study books that Louisa liked to read. She even studied German and traveled there. I am going to dissect Gerwig´s sayings and things that some Alcott scholars have also said that actually don´t happen in the novel.
This episode is sponsored by Audible, so if you want to check how in Louisa May Alcott novels, the main love interest of Louisa-type of protagonist is always based on Henry Thoreau, this is your chance. You can get 30 days free trial with the link in the description.
This is Small Umbrella In The Rain Little Women Podcast Jo March, Friedrich Bhaer and adaptive attractiveness.
Katherine Hepburn as Jo.
Louisa´s (and Jo´s) Looks
Adaptive attractiveness means that in a film or a tv version a fictional character who is not written to be conventionally attractive is played by an attractive actor. In Little Women this happens with Jo, with Friedrich and with Laurie. Laurie in the book is written to have brown skin, yet in all adaptations between 1917 to 2019 he has been played by a white actor. Laurie having brown skin is important, because in the plot of the book it plays to the way he sees himself and contributes to his character. I made an episode about it. It´s called Laurie and adaptive attractiveness.
Adaptive attractiveness applies to Jo as well. Jo in the book is not written to be pretty. She is tall and quite muscular She is tanned and likes to be outside, but in the 19th century, that wasn´t considered attractive at all. She is very clumsy and socially awkward. Louisa May Alcott´s niece Lulu, she said that her aunt had a very low voice, like a man´s (Reisen). That is what Jo looks like in the novel. I´v had people leaving not-very-nice comments to my channel where they complain about the looks of Katherine Hepburn and Sarah Davenport. Katherine played Jo in the 1933 Little Women and Sarah in the 2018 Little Women. What I understood these commenters complained that these actresses were not pretty enough to play Jo. Yet these two actresses actually look closest to the book Jo
Sarah Davenport as Jo.
Let´s put a pin on that. Not pretty enough to play Jo, who is not written to be pretty.
In Little Women Louisa May Alcott, criticizes society´s obsession with beauty. Katherine Hepburn and Sarah Davenport are tall, they have long shaped faces, they are athletic and muscular. That is what Jo in the book looks like. If you put the book Laurie and the book Jo next to one another, they are not very balanced. Laurie is effeminate, he is written to have small hands and small feet. Next to Jo he seems small.
It´s not just Jo, there are people who complain that Gabriel Byrne, Mark Stanley and Paul Lukas who have all played Friedrich were not good looking enough and then there are people who say that Ian Bohen, Gabriel Byrne, Louis Garrel and Rossano Brazzi are too good looking to play Friedrich. Yes Gabriel Byrne is in both of these groups. All this about a book where the author is criticising society's obsession with youth and beauty.
The most disturbing group of people are the ones who say that the book Friedrich is not handsome enough for Jo, despite the fact that Jo is not written to be particularly beautiful herself and one of the main themes of the novel is that love beautifies a person.
Louisa May Alcott was taller than most men. She also liked to run and she exercised. In the 19th century the average length of women was a bit shorter than now, so you can imagine that Louisa stood out.
In the novel Jo feels herself as a freak and as an outsider. There is criticism towards Meg and Amy because they wish to fit into the female circles. Movies have been criticized because they put the spotlight on Jo, and don´t focus that much on other sisters, but lately there has been more discussion how Jo (or Louisa) demonizes their femininity. In the 19th century the world between men and women was strictly divided. One of the reasons why Jo prefers the male company is because there is less criticism about her looks (at least not in front of her). She feels quite insecure about her body, and often compares herself to Amy and Meg, they are treated better in the society, because they look more feminine. Meg is written to be the most beautiful of the sisters. Amy is not that beautiful but she is poised and she has nice manners but Jo has a quick tongue and she can´t control her mood changes.
How Many Lies Can Greta Gerwig Tell
Let´s start with this quote of Gerwig saying that she hired a hot Bhaer that Jo would feel herself like a winner because quote "how could she say no to someone as handsome as Timothee Chalamet". Jo in the book is never attracted to Laurie. Laurie is described to look very effeminate and there are times when Jo even refers him as "girly or a daughter". Jo in the book is not superficial, so why should she feel herself as a winner, when she never wanted Laurie in the begin with.
Saoirse Ronan and Timothee Chalamet they are Gerwig´s golden duo. If she makes a film where the two are, her fans and their fans are going to see it and many of them have not read Little Women and never read it. There are also fans who romantically ship Ronan and Chamalet and the characters they play.
I didn´t follow the press tour of the 2019 film but Little Women fan Jimena did and this is what she says.
You know the funny thing is that it does seem to me that Saoirse and Timothee are in a situation pretty much like Jo and Laurie in the book, where Saoirse can't make clearer that they are just friends and Timothee keeps pushing.
I mean, I watched the whole press tour and there were a couple of times where he said that they have the same relationship as Jo and Laurie only he hasn't declared his love... and at one time Florence added "yet". And a few times Saoirse has been pushed to admit feelings for Timothee and she keeps saying they are just friends. Even Greta in an interview for Vogue, they asked her if she was trying to set them up and she was like sure, why not. It's a similar thing to what happens to Jo, how could she not want that handsome man.
Based on this it sounds like this film didn´t have nothing to do with Little Women and more to do with the actors.
Jo criticises Laurie in the book because Laurie is quite materialistic, very different to Friedrich who is always willing to give away, from the little that he has. I made an episode about it called why Friedrich is poor.
For Louisa it was important that partners in a relationship shared same work morals, which is what Jo and Friedrich do, and Jo also criticises that Laurie doesn´t care about school and he doesn´t like to work. Jo loves school, she wants to go to university. She also admires Friedrich because he is hardworking and they have similar views about education. These elements of Jo´s and Laurie´s differences and Jo´s and Friedrich´s similar interests are not in Gerwig´s film.
The entire TeamBhaer versus TeamLaurie debate that Little Women is known for, is entirely manufactured by film makers. 1994 film has been often accused of romanticizing Jo and Laurie because Winona Ryder and Christian Bale has romantic chemistry. Same has been said about June Allyson and Peter Lawford in the 1949 film. The list goes on and on. In the novel the whole reason why Jo travels to New York, is because she doesn´t want to be alone with Laurie because he is sexually harassing her, trying to push her not only into a relationship but physical connection.
If we would actually see Laurie harassing Jo in the films, do you think we would have this entire debate?
Here is another quote from Jimena:
"I read the book expecting (and even looking for) some romantic elements in Laurie and Jo’s scenes, but there was none. In the first book, they are best friends and nothing more. It’s until the second book that everyone notices Laurie’s advances but Jo asks them not to talk about it because it makes her super uncomfortable. Every time he tries, he hits a wall. Seriously, how did he reach to the conclusion that a proposal was appropriate? Did he even had a ring?
Greta portrays Laurie just as the character would have portrayed himself, as the martyr who loved a girl who never loved him back. Laurie is not a martyr, people shouldn’t pity him. He ignored Jo’s signals once and again. He tried to force her to accept and even threatened to hurt himself, that’s so toxic!"
What Greta Gerwig does, there is this one group who she says that Jo and Laurie belong together, then another group who she tells that Jo is gay, and third group who she says Jo is asexual and never wants to leave her home, and the only thing in common with these groups are her anti Fritz statements and racist propaganda of him being German.
This a quote from blogger @myfictiongarden: "Gerwig telling one group of people one thing and another something else is the worst thing ever. Its like she is selling herself for money always changing her opinion. I would also blame the producer or studio for letting her on the loose. I never understood why one should “label” something for modern audiences instead of being honest to the past. And, making Friedrich “hot” because shallow reasons is anything but right. Too many radical feminist have a, well lets say limited understanding of human nature and the world. Its wrong to re-write history to fit your needs. Louisa had been in love with both Thoreau and Emerson, one shouldn’t ignore that! She loved everything German, so saying otherwise is lying".
When I started to read Henry Thoreau biographies, there was something that made me 100 % convinced that Henry was the real life Friedrich. It seemed that everyone in Concord had some kind of opinion how Henry looked like. The women who fancied him though he was handsome, the people who considered him more as an eccentric member of the town, thought he looked funny. Some of his friends said that he looked bit strange when they first met him but when they got to know him, he started to seem very pleasant.
When Friedrich Schiller met Goethe, and Goethe was another model for Friedrich. Schiller wrote that he was a bit disappointed that he didn´t look as handsome as he had imagined but Goethe was such a nice man to be with that he soon forgot his disappointment. In the book when Jo meets Friedrich for the first time she does find him attractive. She even positions herself in the nursery so she can stare at him all day long, but the more time she spends with him, in her eyes he becomes more handsome and Friedrich sees Jo the same way.
All romantic interests in Louisa´s novels are based on Henry Thoreau in some level. All of them. They have blue eyes, sometimes they have beards, they are tall, they have big hands, big feet, they are solidly built and they have broad shoulders. Many of these romantic interests also speak with German accents.
There is a theory that Louisa May Alcott may have suffered from high-level testosterone production also known as PCOS Polycystic ovarian syndrome. All people need testosterone but with women, high level of testosterone can create physical symptoms. Body appears more muscular than feminine, voice becomes a lot lower and it can create aggression and mood changes. Louisa has been described with all of these symptoms. After her service in the war Louisa became sick with scarlet fever and she was treated with mercury and the mercury "treatment" was continued through the rest of her life and it messed up her hormonal balance even more.
Here is a quote from Alcott biographer Susan Cheever:
"You would find Henry reading Plato and wondering about the relationship between man and nature. He never seemed to care how he looked, with his wild hair, shabby clothes and scuffed boots".
He liked to eat with his fingers. For the smitten Louisa May Alcott, Thoreau´s eccentric surface was part of his charm, as she later wrote: "Beneath the defects the Master´s eye saw the grand lines that were to serve as the model for the perfect man".
Louisa wrote about this into Little Women. This is the scene where Jo begins to describe Friedrich in her letters.
"Cast away at the very bottom of the table was the Professor, shouting answers to the questions of a very inquisitive, deaf old gentleman on one side and talking philosophy with a Frenchman on the other. If Amy had been there, she´d have turned her back on him forever, because sad to relate, he had a great appetite and and shovelled his dinner in a manner, which would have horrified "her ladyship". I didn't mind for I like to see folks eat with relish" as Hannah says, and the poor man must ave needed a deal of food after teaching idiots all day!".
When I was younger I struggled to understand this scene, which probably means I was a lot more like Amy than I like to admit, but this is actually a really good way to see that the things that Louisa found attractive, they were not things that most people would pay attention. She even mentions how Amy would turn her head away, but she won´t. Jo likes that he is unconventional and in away she seems something of herself within him.
What was important about Henry´s and Louisa´s friendship was that they had something that Louisa referred as a telepathic connection. Developed from their mutual interests but also the feeling of outsiderness that both of them shared. I have mentioned this before but there were times when Henry actually criticised consumerism of women who liked to highlight their femininity. In some ways Louisa does that in Little Women as well, when Jo criticises Meg and Amy. It is easy to see why Louisa would like that in Henry, since she herself wasn´t the most feminine looking woman.
In Jo´s Boys there is scene where Jo has gained weight and Friedrich tells her that in his eyes he is still the most beautiful woman in the world. Mercury treatment and the high testosterone could also make person to gain weight. Greta Gerwig called Friedrich fat and stuffy, once again zero mentions of Jo´s looks. In the novel Friedrich is written to be a bit stout, and pretty much all of Louisa´s literal heroes are a bit stout, and there is criticism about skinny guys. That Louisa´s sister May liked skinny guys, and Louisa liked dad bods, what is so difficult about this for people to understand? everyone has their own preferences.
I have mentioned this before but here we go again, there is a scene where a Jo worshiper comes to meet Jo and then she sees her portrait and Ted, who is Jo´s and Friedrich´s son, says that it´s a portrait of his mother and this fan is horrified and doesn´t want to meet her since she thinks that Mrs Bhaer is god-damn ugly. All based on Louisa´s own experiences with "Jo-worshipers".
Looking the way Louisa looked, it wasn´t very easy to find somebody who´d say that she was the most beautiful woman in the world.
To my experience there are two types of Alcott scholars. There are Alcott scholars who make the connection between Louisa´s love life and Jo´s love life. Then there are Alcott scholars who don´t make the connection, and also ignore Louisa´s love life, and their arguments for hating Friedrich´s character, which often is the case, is that they don´t think he is handsome. Which is very superficial since there is no such thing as universal standard of beauty.
This is a quote from Clare Bender´s essay "gender stereotyping little women
"Geraldine Brooks declares, Another reason Alcott crafted the direction of Jo’s life in this way was because she seemed to want to marry but never did. It seems likely, however, that she did have at least two different love interests in her life. Perhaps Alcott decided to give Jo what she herself always wanted: marriage and a family. More likely, Alcott felt encouraged by her father, Bronson, and her publisher to compose a novel that would ultimately please the public. The readers would likely have desired that Jo marry (Reisen 218). During that era, most people would agree that spinsterhood was not exactly romantic. Alcott disliked the idea of Jo marrying and vowed that she would make Jo a “funny match” (Reisen 218). In the end, even though Jo married, Alcott got the last laugh by marrying her to an unromantic character"
In this case the scholar mentions that Louisa actually had two love interests but they refuse to make the connection between Louisa´s love life and Little Women, despite the fact that Little Women is a semi-biographical novel. Once again the reasoning for Louisa not wanting to marry is "explained" her marrying Jo to an nonromantic character, but they don´t stop and consider the fact that what Louisa May Alcott saw as romantic is also romantic for Jo.
For those of you who don´t know Geraldine Brooks wrote a book called March, a fictional book about Jo´s father and she is absolutely right Louisa did wanted to get married and have children and it seems that she wanted all that with Henry. So why Louisa didn´t marry. Henry passed away when Louisa was 28 and he was 44. In Little Women Jo and Friedrich marry when Jo is 28 and he is 44. Even after Henry had passed away Louisa never gave up hope. She writes about the men she meets in her journals. Louisa wanted to marry for love, but in those times most people married for money. Louisa´s sister May had also written to her journal how difficult it was for her to find a partner who would allow them to work outside home.
Gerwig said that Laurie is jo´s first feminist ally and that Laurie want´s Jo to step into the adult world. When I got into this point of the interview I was like what is this imaginary book that she has read since none of that happens in the actual novel. When Laurie proposes Jo, he says that once they marry she doesn´t need to write and she has more important things to do like to take care of him. He is a manchild. If anything Jo is the adult in that relationship and she is frustrated that he is behaving like a young boy, even in his early twenties. The person who saves Laurie is Amy, because he inspires him to better himself, but that´s not in this film or any other films.
Here is a quote from Little Women fan @heatherfield
"Gerwig clearly found a different version of the book than the one we read. it is important to consider these books in the context of the period and culture they were written and unfortunately it is something that is often forgotten in the adaptations. But how can you understand a story and a character if you don't know the cultural and societal reasons that motivate them? I really hate when people say "Jo should have stayed single and enjoyed her life in New York" like they are thinking about Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the city and don't think (or don't know) about the weight that being a spinster was for a woman in the XIX century, psychologically and economically".
In 1870s Louisa was making 2 million dollars a year with her children´s books. Which is a lot of money. Yet in her journals, she never seem to be fully content or happy. Money did not bring her happiness, her poor health wasn´t cured and it could not bring Henry back. Nobody likes to admit that they are lonely and especially in the 19th century when the whole idea of romantic love was quite new.
Louisa´s letters to her friend Maggie Lukes are probably the ones where Louisa is most honest about herself and her feelings. She writes about her belief for re-carnation and receiving her "award" in the next life"
"I believe we shall meet again, don´t know how or where. For genuine love is immortal".
Louisa May Alcott the children´s friend, presented Louisa minus the rough edges, as the genteel spinster aunt Jo. Louisa and her publisher Thomas Niles invented the image, and built Louisa into a brand. Alcott scholar Daniel Shealy has echoed this style of branding saying that it was away to keep Louisa´s public image pure. Edna Cheney who wrote the first Louisa May Alcott biographies, also did this by cutting away stories from Louisa´s relationships. For fifty years Cheney´s biography was the only biography available about Louisa and it shaped the future generations views about her. In the 19th century reputation was everything for a woman, and Louisa being in a public position, she was particularly careful about her reputation. Her fling with younger Laddie Wisniewski and her love for older men could have caused troubles if the word got out and there are times when Louisa seemed to have been ashamed of her position as a spinster.
Quote from Jimena:
Greta also sold Laurie as “the first ally in literature”, but then reading the book, I was like “am I supposed to like him?” He does a lot of great things, very considerate things for Amy especially. But there are other times where he is not a good person, and definitely not an ally.
I have read about six Louisa May Alcott biographies and they all mention that Louisa fell in love at least once in her life, maybe twice and these two men were Henry Thoreau and Ladislas Wisniewski. Greta Gerwig promotes herself as some kind of Alcott expert, but she obviously ignores these pretty important things about Louisa´s character. When a person is a Jo and Laurie shipper or they have some queer agenda for Jo, they look for information that suits them, even if that information is inaccurate or something that they know to be a lie. This is known as confirmation bias.
Laurie is partially based on Ladislas Wisniewski, the young Polish composer Louisa met in Switzerland and she even wrote to her censored diary a chapter called "little romance with Laddie" which is highly censored. He was 10 years younger than Louisa. When Laurie proposes Jo in the novel he actually begins to make fun of Friedrich and Jo gets really angry about that. There is a whole school of Louisa May Alcott researchers who actually believe that, it´s not about Little Women, it is actually Louisa rejecting Laddie and choosing to be with Henry. In later letters between Louisa and May they criticise Laddie´s behavior and how immature he is. If Greta Gerwig is a Jo and Laurie shipper, perhaps that is not something she likes to hear, but of course this is something that every person who studies the parallels between Louisa´s life and Little Women should know.
Alcott scholar John Matteson, who is a Pulitzer price winner, he wrote in one of his online publications that Jo rejects young and adventurous Laurie and Alcott marries Jo to a boring, sexless German professor who forces her to conform into domestic life and prevents her from writing. It was followed by a long rant of how Louisa May Alcott didn´t care about love or marriage. Before I knew that Matteson was a Fritzbhobic I had read his article about John Suhre, the German soldier who Louisa nursed at the war. John Suhre, he was a tall man, with big hand and feet and brown bushy beard and he had a very calm temper. That is exactly how Friedrich is described to look and be like in Little Women. Isn´t that weird that a scholar who writes about a real-life Friedrich doesn´t make any connections with Little Women and even makes fun of him being German, and I bet your life John Matteson knows that Louisa May Alcott loved Germany.
Here is a quote from Louisa´s diary from 1874. She has received a letter from May who has written about her married life.
”Happy letters from May, who is enjoying life as one can but once” Then with a sudden vision of her own lonely lot, she exclaims: ”How different our lives are just now. I so lonely, and sick and she so happy and blest. She always had the cream of things and deserved it. My time is yet to come somewhere else, when I am ready for it”.
Not only is she incredibly lonely, but she also envies her sisters marital happiness and wishes that she would have a partner. What puzzles me is that this information has been out there for a very long time. These letters are in May Alcott´s biography by Caroline Ticknor and it was published in the 1920s.
Here is a quote from Little Women, Chapter All Alone
It is so beautiful to be loved as Laurie loves me; he isnt´sentimental, doesn´t say much about it, but I see and feel it in all he sayd and does and it makes e so happy and so humble, that I don´t seem to be the same girl I was. I never knew how good and generous and tender he was till now, for he lets me read his heart and I find it full of noble impulses, and hopes and purposes, and am so proud to know it´s mine. He says he feels as if he could make a prosperous voyage now with me abroad as mate, and lots of love for ballast. I pray he may and try to be all believes me, for I love my gallant captain with all my heart, and soul and might, and never will desert him, while God let´s us be together. Oh mother, I never knew how much like heaven this world could be, when two people love and live for one another!"
and that´s our cool, reserved worldy Amy! Truly love does work miracles. How very very happy they must be!" and Jo laid the rustling sheets together with a careful hand, as one might shut the covers of a lovely romance, which holds the reader fast till the end comes, and he finds himself alone in the work-a-day world again.
By and by, Jo roamed away upstairs, for it was rainy and she could not walk. A restless spirit possessed her and the old feeling came again, not bitter as it once was, but a sorrowfully patient wonder why one sister should have all she asked, the other nothing. It was not true, she knew that and tried to put it away, but the natural craving for affection was strong, and Amy's happiness woke the hungry longing for someone to 'love with heart and soul, and cling to while God let them be together'. Up in the garret, where Jo's unquiet wanderings ended stood four little wooden chests in a row, each marked with its owners name, and each filled with relics of the childhood and girlhood ended now for all. Jo glanced into them, and when she came to her own, leaned her chin on the edge, and stared absently at the chaotic collection, till a bundle of old exercise books caught her eye. She drew them out, turned them over, and relived that pleasant winter at kind Mrs. Kirke's. She had smiled at first, then she looked thoughtful, next sad, and when she came to a little message written in the Professor's hand, her lips began to tremble, the books slid out of her lap, and she sat looking at the friendly words, as they took a new meaning, and touched a tender spot in her heart.
"Wait for me, my friend. I may be a little late, but I shall surely come."
"Oh, if he only would! So kind, so good, so patient with me always, my dear old Fritz. I didn't value him half enough when I had him, but now how I should love to see him, for everyone seems going away from me, and I'm all alone."
And holding the little paper fast, as if it were a promise yet to be fulfilled, Jo laid her head down on a comfortable rag bag, and cried, as if in opposition to the rain pattering on the roof.
Was it all self-pity, loneliness, or low spirits? Or was it the waking up of a sentiment which had bided its time as patiently as its inspirer? Who shall say?
After reading that letter, how can anyone say that Amy didn´t love Laurie. The book was written earlier than May´s letter, but as you can see the feelings that Jo is going through are very similar to Louisa, the way she felt alone reading about her sister being happily married and as you can see Jo and Friedrich in the book they parted as friends, and what the heck was that scene Greta Gerwig´s film of Jo wanting Laurie to take her back. How many Jo and Laurie confirmation biases will be born out of that?
Here is another quote from "all alone"
"There are plenty who love you, so try to be satisfied with mother and father, sisters and brothers, friends and babies
"Mothers are the best lovers in the world but I don´t mind whispering to Marmee, that I´d like to try all kinds. It´s very curious, but the more I try to satisfy myself with all sort of natural affections the more I seem to want it. I´d no idea hearts could take in so many - mine is so elastic, i never seems full now, and I used to be quite contented with my family. I don´t understand it”
People in an age-gap relationships complaining about a fictional character being in an age-gap relationship
I am sure you listeners are starting to understand how deeply intertwined this problem about Friedrich´s looks is and in the end how silly these excuses are.
Louisa is often described as someone who had "masculine air around her". When her fans saw her they were disappointed by the way she looked like, because they thought she would be young and pretty. Imagine what that makes to person´s self-esteem and because Louisa looked very masculine, it would not have been that easy for her to find men who considered her attractive. She had lots of male friends, but these younger male friends they saw her more as a mother than as a partner, like Laddie Wisniewksi who called her as his "little mama" he also asked Louisa to call him "Varjo" which was a nickname that his mother called him.
In this interview that I am quoting it is said that
Louis Garrel is also especially welcome as a younger, more affable version of the stuffy Professor Bhaer
Louis Garrel was 36 when he filmed Little Women, Friedrich in the book is 39. Wow 3 years! what a way to make Friedrich younger. Greta Gerwig has also been criticised for criticising Friedrich´s age because she is married to a man who is 14 years older.
Quoting Jimena again:
"The hypocrisy of the film makers is unbelievable. They complain about Bhaer´s looks but ignore the fact that Jo was never superficial, and that she herself looked unconventional".
Jo´s and Friedrich´s age difference in the book is 16 years because Henry was 16 years older than Louisa, and Greta Gerwig who is married to a man that is 14 years older than she is complaining that Friedrich is too old for Jo. Jo is 24 in the book when she meets Friedrich and 28 when she marries him. She is a full grown adult.
It is possible to make a Little Women adaptation and have younger man to play Friedrich, without making fun of the character or his relationship with Jo. 1949 Little Women does that really well and Rossano Brazzi was 30 when he played Friedrich.
Not to mention this is what Jo says in the novel
"Don´t call yourself old, 40 is the prime of life, and I couldn´t help loving you if you were seventy".
Frank Lesley, publisher who Louisa May Alcott did not get along. In Little Women he is Mr. Dashwood
This is a quote from Gerwig´s interview.
I almost dropped the book while reading it. I was like, “Of course this is her book.” And it’s certainly not because Jo marries Professor Bhaer. That’s not why we love her and that’s not why women who wanted to be writers have flocked to her. Not in the hopes of meeting an older German professor who gives them scathing feedback. Who doesn’t like what they’re doing. And makes Jo use the word “thou.”
Once again this made me convinced that she actually hasn´t read Little Women, because what is she talking about? The time when Jo is in New York is based to the time when Louisa was in her 20s and she wrote sensational stories to a New York magazine. Louisa did not like her editor Frank Lesley. In Little Women Mr Dahswood is a caricature of Frank Lesley. Weekly Volcano is a caricature of that magazine where Louisa worked. In Greta Gerwig´s Little Women, not only is Mr Dashwood helping Jo publish her sensational stories, but he is the one who helps her to publish Little Women and tells Jo to marry off her heroine. If you want to look a villain in Little Women, it´s actually Mr Dashwood, Not Friedrich, because Mr Dashwood is the one who wants Jo to write stories without moralities. In the chapter Louisa also writes that Jo is, expensable and if she quits, it is easy to find somebody to replace her.
Louisa´s and her publisher Thomas Niles, were friends in real life and their letters have been published. You can read them online. He never asks her to marry off any of the character. They discuss about branding. The spinster aunt Louisa, the way she is going to marketed to the public, especially for children.
Friedrich in the novel he helps Jo to find her potential as a writer and here we have Greta Gerwig, who has said that she is Jo March. Well if she is Jo March how come she doesn´t know such basic things from Jo, like the fact that she had a mental breakdown when her publisher asked her to write themes that she felt uncomfortable. This also happened to Louisa. She left the magazine because of the disagreements that she had with Mr Lesley.
This is a quote from Little Women:
She was living in bad society, and imaginary though it was, its influence affected her, for she was feeding heart and fancy on dangerous and unsubstantial food, and was fast brushing the innocent bloom from her nature by a premature acquaintance with the darker side of life, which comes soon enough to all of us.
One more quote from Jimena.
I was expecting Bhaer to be this mean, judgemental man who criticized Jo unfairly. I was expecting their confrontation scene (which made very uncomfortable while watching the movie).
English is not my first language, so when I was reading the chapter where she has psychological distress for writing sensational stories, it confused me. And then of course, she and Bhaer never fight! Moreover, he was right. And when he arrives at Concord, I was incredibly surprised at how much I loved him".
Jo and Friedrich don´t argue in the book. They argue in the series from the 70s, 1994 film, 2017 series and the 2019 film. The thing that people like Greta Gerwig are mad about, saying that Friedrich is some kind of a bully, it doesn´t happen in the novel at all. They themself actualize that, and she had the opportunity to follow the novel but she didn´t.
Moreover why would Louisa marry her literal alter ego to someone who doesn´t support her. The name of the chapter is literally "Friend".
in German there is formal and the informal ways to address the other person. In old English "thou" was more intimate and closer to the German "du". Fritz being a 19th century German gentleman wanting to use the word "thou" when speaking to Jo makes perfect sense.
Say `thou', also, and I shall say your language is almost as beautiful as mine."
"Isn't `thou' a little sentimental?" asked Jo, privately thinking it a lovely monosyllable.
"Sentimental? Yes. Thank Gott, we Germans believe in sentiment, and keep ourselves young mit it. Your English `you' is so cold, say `thou', heart's dearest, it means so much to me," pleaded Mr. Bhaer, more like a romantic student than a grave professor.
Does that sound stuffy and demanding to you? As you can see there wasn´t any research made on Friedrich´s character and neither there was any kind of attempt to understand the German connection, or the historical context. Friedrich uses "thou" throughout the March saga.
This is what Goethe´s poems sound like when translated into English:
Thus found I thee, and gladly went to meet thee;
"She's worthy of all love!" I cried,
And pray'd that Heaven with purest bliss might greet thee,
Which in thy friend it richly hath supplied.
Goethe was Louisa´s favorite writer. Little Women was largely inspired by German literature. Guess who else often used "thou" in his speech? Henry David Thoreau.
Louisa´s adoration for Henry was not very vague. For example in Work Story of experience, which was Louisa´s last published novel. The male character David, is a mild tempered philosopher/gardner. Henry´s birth name was David Henry, but he later on turned it into Henry David. When David confesses his feelings for Christine he says he struggles to express intimate emotions and Henry has been described to be somewhat a stoic personality. You can see the same in Little Women. Friedrich wants to confess his love for Jo, but first he wants to get signs from her that she feels the same, and Jo is expecting him to do the same. It´s all about fear of rejection.
I will end this with an analyzis from blogger @wondertrevor I will put all the links to the sources.
I just saw someone say that “Meg names her daughter Daisy, like the nickname she was given at Sallie Moffat’s coming out party, and this proves that deep inside, Meg is still dissatisfied with her simple life and longs for luxury and fitting in with high society”, and it’s such a wild interpretation that perfectly illustrates how Little Women 2019’s mind-boggling decision to go with a revisionist interpretation of “Meg goes to Vanity Fair” affected movie-only viewers of her character development.
Brief recap: In the book, Meg is invited to Sallie Moffat’s coming out party, and is ecstatic with the opportunity to mingle with high society ladies, which had long been her dream. When she does arrive, she is made to feel self-conscious about her dress, and is subsequently peer-pressured into unwittingly becoming the girls’ doll to play dress-up with. At the party, malicious rumors are spread about her and her family, and Meg ends up realizing that by trying too hard to fit into a perceived glamorous mold, she made a fool of herself. She tells Laurie not to tell Jo how badly she behaved, and the overall experience serves as a tough lesson for her in the folly of chasing materialism at the expense of your own identity.
The 2019 version of Little Women inexplicably turns all of that into: Meg just wants to have some fun but Laurie shows up and spoils it by being a big meanie. She later tells him to let her have her fun for this one night and then she promises to be “good” for the rest of her life. There is no point being made about the toxicity of peer pressure or the loss of identity, nor is Meg confronted with the dark side of the glamorous lifestyle she so desperately covets. It’s just Meg’s Cinderella moment before she goes off to get married and be a miserable mother with financial problems.
I don’t think anyone needs an in-depth explanation as to why the 2019 version’s interpretation completely throws everything off track, but let’s get back to Meg and Daisy for one moment. It’s stated very clearly in the book that the reason Meg’s daughter is nicknamed Daisy is so that the family doesn’t end up having two Megs (the same way Amy’s daughter is called Bess, not Beth, and Meg’s youngest daughter is Josie, not Jo).
So why is it okay for one Margaret to be Daisy and not the other? Idk man, maybe it’s because.... Meg already has a name? And the rich girls disregarded it and replaced it with a nickname of their own liking, not-so-subtly turning her into an object of their own making. Because they don’t actually respect her as her own person, only as a version of her that has been made acceptable to them. Meg’s Daisy nickname is offensive, it’s derogatory, and Laurie points it out. It’s quite literally, a loss of identity. Even if you’re not a book reader, you should be able to glean that much from Meg goes to Vanity Fair.
But of course, with the way the 2019 version played out Meg goes to Vanity Fair, is it any surprise that some viewers ended up having this interpretation?
I need to add here that in the 19th century Daisy was a nickname for Margaret. Marmee’s name is Margaret and Meg is shortened from Margaret. Her daughter’s name comes from a place of love and respect, not a poor attempt to recapture a moment in her life.
Here is another quote from @the-other-art-blog
What a great analysis! I’ll admit I hadn’t thought about that particular scene in the movie. So Meg basically learned nothing from that experience!
This is one more example of how 2019 movies portrays the girls’ flaws as minor things. Jo’s anger and Amy’s intentions of marrying Fred are glorified even though they could bring terrible consequences.
I agree! Laurie plays a “big meanie” in that scene. It shows how men are kill-joys in this movie, mainly with Laurie and Fritz especially. God dammit Greta, a feminist movie is not about making men look bad. I wrote a whole article about Laurie’s line “fuss and feathers” but I forgot to mention something. Laurie criticizes Meg because as you said, she is not being herself. He has no problem with Amy being all dressed up because that’s who she is, she’s not faking anything.
Being yourself is a big lesson in the LW saga because it’s a fundamental part of the whole “coming-of age” theme. The characters try constantly to please others at their own expense: Meg ➔ other girls, Laurie ➔ Jo, Jo ➔ her publisher, Tom ➔ Nan, Amy ➔ society? Fred’s family? I don’t know but she would have had to give up her art if she entered into the Vaughn family, as Kate did. The point is she’s making bad decisions too.
They failed every time.
Fritz is an example during the symposium because he stood firm and defended his beliefs in a room full of people who thought the opposite way. And at that moment Jo knew this was the man for her. While the 2019 movie makes men seem as party-poppers, in the book they help the girls once they are out of the nest.
When I have come across Jo and Laurie fans, or anyone with alternative fan theories for Jo, what they do is they close their eyes and their ears and say I don´t want to listen, when you are pointing out something that actually happens in the novel or happened in Louisa´s life. Instead of making a movie that would be truthful to the novel and open a dialogue about the novel and about the life of the author, we have a film maker and with a huge marketing budget appealing to these different fan theory groups, not being truthful to the novel but actually making fun of it. You are not opening a dialogue or increasing people´s understanding of the author, you are in fact creating divisions.
Thank you for listening.
Take care and make good choises.
Little Women 150 Years Penguin Edition, Louisa May Alcott
Jo´s Boys by Louisa May Alcott
Louisa May Alcott life letters and journals by Edna Cheney
May Alcott, biography, Caroline Ticknor
Louisa May Alcott, A Woman Behind Little Women by Harriet Reisen
Meg and Daisy by @wondertrevor
The author-publisher relationships of Louisa May Alcott by Daniel Shealy
Louisa May Alcott´s juvenilia, blueprints for the future by Daniel Shealy
Only gossip prospers by Lorraine Tossielo (LMA and Frank Lesley)
Gerwig´s interview https://www.filmcomment.com/article/lifes-work/
Unpublished Alcott letters from her publisher, Louisa May Alcott is my passion
Merry meet fellow Little Women fans, today´s comment shout out goes to lovelacegsl who says:
"One of the things this podcast made me realize is that the adaptations always focus on the positive traits of Jo and Laurie´s friendship and the negative traits in Amy and Laurie´s relationship. That is why it is so hard for people to root for them. Even the 2019 adaptation did that and people were praising it because "it made a good contrast" anyways screw the adaptations and always book supremacy. Go listen to this! they literally transferred Jo´s and Laurie´s toxic traits to Amy and Laurie. What kind of bs is that".
What a sweet comment. One of the things that I do like to speak about in this podcast is the different narrative between the novel and the multiple adaptations. If you think about Jo and Laurie in the book, they argue a lot. In the novel Jo even says to Laurie, she notices that he does not argue with Amy. In the movies you see more conflicts between Amy and Laurie, than with Jo and Laurie.
It get´s worse. You see Jo and Friedrich arguing in the movies, you don´t see Jo arguing with Laurie. In the novel Jo and Friedrich don´t argue and there is a really great scene where the narrator says that Friedrich had the ability to calm Jo, because Jo is a person who gets easily agitated and she can´t control her mood changes, she needed somebody who could live with that and was able to balance her. Which is one of the best qualities in their relationship dynamics. It might have it´s base in reality since it has been speculated that Louisa May Alcott might have had manic depressive disorder, and she does write in her diaries, that all these real life Friedrich, had the ability to calm her.
It has become a custom for me to tell you guys the things that I have been reading lately. Since this is the Amy and Laurie romance episode (I do hope to make more of these in the future) I want to recommend you all to visit my fellow Little Women fan Jimena´s blog. I will put a link to her blog into the shownotes and I am going to be quoting her quite a bit in this episode. I´v had people saying to me that things that I post and the way I analyze Jo and Friedrich´s relationship make people love them more.
Jimena writes so beautifully about Amy and Laurie, she makes me like them even more. I have always liked Amy as a character. With Laurie it has been more difficult, because he is a lot more complicated in the novel and then he is very simplified in the movies, and sadly in Little Women circles, you will find lots of Laurie fans (most of them Jo and Laurie shippers) who really hate Friedrich´s character, but you will also find Friedrich fans who really hate Laurie. That kind of culture itself is very toxic, and one of the reasons why I wanted to do more in-depth exploration on Laurie was because I wanted to understand his and Amy´s relationship better. Also it is a very petty argument because in the novel, Fritz and Laurie actually seem to get a long pretty well, and Laurie is the biggest Jo and Friedrich shipper and he and Amy even plan to make a story of a rich relative who would leave Jo and Fritz a fortune because they want to support them.
This episode is sponsored by Audible and if you have not yet read Little Women there are no excuses to wait. You can get 30 day free trial with the affiliate link that is in the description.
This is Small Umbrella In The Rain Little Women Podcast: Amy and Laurie romance and the film makers Jo and Laurie obsession.
Amy Inspires Laurie To Live His Own Life
When Laurie and Amy meet in Nice they have not met for four years and Laurie is impressed how much Amy has changed.
Amy was gratified, but of course didn't show it, and demurely answered, "Foreign life polishes one in spite of one's self. I study as well as play, and as for this"--with a little gesture toward her dress--"why, tulle is cheap, posies to be had for nothing, and I am used to making the most of my poor little things."
Amy rather regretted that last sentence, fearing it wasn't in good taste, but Laurie liked her better for it, and found himself both admiring and respecting the brave patience that made the most of opportunity, and the cheerful spirit that covered poverty with flowers. Amy did not know why he looked at her so kindly, now why he filled up her book with his own name, and devoted himself to her for the rest of the evening in the most delightful manner, but the impulse that wrought this agreeable change was the result of one of the new impressions which both of them were unconsciously giving and receiving.
Amy and Laurie spent a great deal of time together in the books. They went to picnics, dancing, sight seeing...and it has been always rushed in the films (or not shown at all).
Laurie is disappointed when he hears of Amy´s plans to marry wealthy Fred Vaughn and he reminds her of the Amy he once knew. Amy who valued love more than wealth. At the same Amy is disappointed by Laurie´s behavior. The way he dwells in self-pity and doesn´t even try to be useful. They both remind each other of something they had forgotten about themselves and that unleashes process of self-discovery in both characters and this growth process that Laurie goes through has never been adapted.
The biggest problem with Jo´s and Laurie´s relationship is that they are never equals, and that bothers Jo. Even in the first part Jo is always aware of the financial difference between her family and the Lawrences but also when Jo grows she becomes a lot more interested in learning and she would like to go to university and she struggles to be the person she wants to become with Laurie- He is stuck and very lost about what he wants to do with his life and this maternal care that Jo has for him becomes more toxic. Amy is the one who gets through him and maybe the fact they had not seen each other for such a long time participated into that.
Louisa May Alcott´s original name for Little Women part 2 was "Leaving the nest" which suggests that Louisa had a plan what the life was going to be for her characters, and if you have listened the earlier episodes on this channel, we can trace the love stories in Little Women to Louisa´s favorite books, and the relationship between Jo and Friedrich, seems to have been something that Louisa wanted for herself. Little Women part 2 or Good Wives tends to be an underrated book. This is a quote from Little Women fan Dana.
Reasons I can think of are this: 1) people aren't interested in the characters once they've "grown up", and 2) they aren't satisfied with the ending, so by skipping/ignoring GW, they can avoid what they don't like
"I'm sure there are many different reasons for why Good Wives is underrated, but two very plausible ones I can think of are this:
1) people aren't interested in the characters once they've "grown up",and
2) they aren't satisfied with the ending, so by skipping/ignoring GW, they can avoid what they don't like And I bet you that part of that dissatisfaction comes from the group of fans who ship Jo and Laurie. Because ignoring GW, means they don´t have to worry about the pair not getting together, or Amy and Laurie, or Jo and Fritz.
The name Good Wives I believe was something that Louisa´s publisher in Britain came up and that is the name part 2 has been sold in Europe. I personally always thought that good husbands could have been a better name or good matches, but I suppose that was too modern.
Here are some more quotes from canon fans.
Jo and Laurie shippers want to believe Laurie accepted Jo for who she was and he didn´t care for high society. That´s a lie. He loved his rich life and Jo´s scribbling drove him crazy.
A good part of this is that they focus so much on the hypotethical happily ever after... instead of seeing what the happily ever after would look like.
This part of Laurie´s Growth Is Never In Little Women Films
When Amy and Laurie are in Nice the role that Amy takes it is traditionally seen as more masculine. She is stern but not provocative. The adult Amy is quite a catch she is worldly and uses all the right words. She even gives Laurie good advice how he could win Jo´s love or at least gain her respect but most of all Amy wants Laurie to shape up his act for his own sake. At the same Laurie reminds Amy isn´t love better option than money. Amy´s lecture proves how much deliberately Laurie was feeding his heartache out of spite. She was right to lecture him and only one who got through him. Also to be noted Fred wanted to marry Amy despite of her being poor but because Amy was a true lady and Fred genuinely liked her. Yet the reason why Amy wanted to marry him was that she could take care of her family in her heart she knew that it was wrong for both Fred and her and Laurie reminded Amy to examine her own heart. After leaving Nice Laurie went back to his grandfather. The relationship between the two has improved a great deal since he first moved to live with him but now it is even better because of the internal change that has started to happen inside Laurie.
When he looked about him for another and a less intractable damsel to immortalize in melody, memory produced one with the most obliging readiness. This phantom wore many faces, but it always had golden hair, was enveloped in a diaphanous cloud, and floated airily before his mind's eye in a pleasing chaos of roses, peacocks, white ponies, and blue ribbons. He did not give the complacent wraith any name, but he took her for his heroine and grew quite fond of her, as well he might, for he gifted her with every gift and grace under the sun, and escorted her, unscathed, through trials which would have annihilated any mortal woman.
Laurie goes to Vienna to compose but as being said it does not go that well and it is easier for Laurie to give up the idea of Jo being the lead of his great operetta than giving up the idea of himself as a romantic hero. Now the phantom that looks like Amy has become part of Laurie´s fantasy projection but this time Laurie himself breaks this bubble.
He comes to the conclusion that he does not posses the genius. He goes through the same process that Amy did. He has talent but he lacks vision. Largely thanks to Amy´s candidness Laurie grows a great deal during this winter. One way of reading Laurie´s time in Vienna is to see it as a rite of becoming independent. He comes to the conclusion that he needs a real earnest job which he had never wanted to do before and that is when Laurie goes to work for his grandfather. 100 years of Little Women adaptations. Not once have they included Laurie´s growth process and his time in Vienna.
Friedrich´s character tells probably more about his creator than any other character in Little Women. We can even see Laurie and Fritz as different aspects of Jo/Louisa. Laurie is the masculine energy of youth and Fritz is the academia and the mature emotional intelligence. Differences between Jo and Laurie rise when they are called to conform. From the start Jo is represented as a strong minded person with high-level intellectual curiosity where as Laurie takes education for granted. He goes to college to full-fill his grandfather´s dreams and partially Jo´s dreams as well but not his own dreams. Once again this is not a character flaw he is just a different type of person. From a very young age Jo has high work ethics and she has been raised on a very politically aware household. Value of work and social justice are not things that Laurie is that much interested which can be easily explained with his background but we never see that in film and tv adaptations and they have never really shown Jo´s and Laurie´s differences because his character arc is never there, his flaws are downplayed and Amy suffers from the opposite reduction-ism.
Because we never see Laurie´s pranks and the proposal dialogue is always changed we never see how much later Laurie matures compared to the sisters. Jo is looking for love and acceptance and validation for her unique sense of individualism. With Friedrich´s character Louisa makes a bold statement on class and wealth and she subverted the social expectations of a romantic interest. Man who Jo falls in love with is a poor scholarly immigrant during the time when there was deeply rooted antagonism towards European immigrants. Louisa gave him feminine qualities that she herself appreciated in a man and many of the real-life Friedrich´s who Louisa was attracted to possessed them as well. Friedrich is enthralled by Jo´s intellectual curiosity and he is not threatened by it (unlike most men of the time were).
In the novel Jo gets anxiety when she is writing the sensational stories. They are causing her a mental breakdown and Friedrich sees that Jo is not feeling very well and that she is really upset about something and that something is her publisher who wants her to write more racy stories and these stories they contradict with Jo´s own literal desires and she calls her sensational stories trash. So when Friedrich sees that Jo is upset he says that he believes that sensational stories corrupt the persons soul and the book Jo does not argue with Fritz, because he is saying aloud what Jo has been thinking and then Friedrich encourages Jo to study character and gives her books and she begins to write to please herself not the editor. In majority Little Women adaptations, film makers make Friedrich a villain who prevents Jo from writing and show them arguing. Which doesn´t happen in the novel.
Little Women 2019 Laurie Never Works For Amy
was never a huge supporter of Gerwig´s version but after reading more and more of her racist statements on Friedrich´s character and that she believes that Laurie is “Jo´s first feminist ally” and that he “wants her to grow up” I am frankly disgusted. When Laurie proposed to Jo he wanted Jo to be his nanny and said she never needs to write again and Laurie was the immature party on that relationship and Louisa loved Germany (she was a freaking germanophile and studied German). Also the scene in the earlier script where Jo wanted to punch Amy after Amy and Laurie got engaged is so off and uncharacteristic I don´t think Gerwig wanted to justice for Amy, because if she wanted to do so, she wouldn´t have included Jo wanting Laurie back (which DOES NOT happen in the bok).
This is a quote from the-other-art-blog:
"In you podcast with you friend, one of you said how Laurie never does any work for Amy. That’s something that bothered me even before reading the book. We get that Amy said no to Fred because she didn’t love him, but there’s never a moment when Laurie proves that he really loves Amy and that he’s completely over Jo. And we never see him better himself.
And another thing is that he NEVER ever apologizes sincerely to her. Book Laurie did bad things to Amy, but in the movie he is even worse! He stood her up, he arrived drunk and insulted her and embarrassed her in front of everyone. The next day, he arrives drunk to the painting studio and acts as if he hadn’t done anything wrong. And yet, all he has to do is smile and Amy forgave him.
Book Amy doesn’t take shit from Laurie, that’s why she is not afraid of telling him the truth as it is and it actually had an impact on him. But here, Amy is weak. The fact that she is in love with him, allows him to treat her like crap. The garden scene actually works for me because it’s Amy telling him that he needs to stop that, that just because she loves him doesn’t mean he gets to do with her whatever he wants. But then again, he doesn’t work to prove her that he honestly loves her. So that strength that she showed at the garden goes away in the next scene.
Adding into the letter, the scene with the editor is also troublesome. When the Mr. Dashwood asked her “why didn’t she marry the neighbor”, Jo responds, “because the sister married him”. It implies that Amy got to him first, like it was a competition. And it only fuels the thought that Amy “stole” him from Jo (btw, as if Laurie had no will or reasoning capacity to choose his own wife). Jo should have answered, “because she didn’t love him”.
There’s actually an article that says that Greta’s movie proves that the marriages in LW are not romantic. And that just goes against the things we’ve talked about, like Louisa wanting to portray marriages based on love.
People saying that this version proves why Amy and Laurie are well suited is kind of confusing. It actually raises more concerns about Laurie’s feelings and adds Jo’s regret. That’s why JoxLaurie shippers love this movie so much, because they win".
Amy and Laurie 1970
In the BBC production from 1970 Stephen Turner´s Laurie actually has a temper and more complex personality. Adult Amy is played by Janina Faye and the dialogue of their time together is lifted straight from the novel. Same series completely butchers Jo and Friedrich. Why it is so difficult to find an adaptation that would treat both couples with respect? Janina Faye also plays the child Amy and every time when an adult woman plays a 12 year old Amy the arguments between Jo and Amy appear more as cat fights and not arguments between a 12 year old little sister and 15 year old big sister. This series it is the only version where I have seen Jo and Laurie arguing, but it also doesn´t show Jo questioning Laurie´s actions, in fact it shows how Jo very easily forgives him. Which is something that does happen when Jo was a teen, but it does not happen anymore when Jo is an adult.
Amy and Laurie 1978
In the 1978 series Richard Gilliland plays the part of Laurie. He does not look at all like the book Laurie but his personality is closer to the book Laurie than any of the film Laurie´s. He has a temper, insecurities and the series shows tricky relationship he has with his grandfather. Susan Dei´s Jo is the most feminine Jo in the history of Jo´s. She is extremely submissive around Laurie. We also get quite possibly world´s most entertaining Mr Bhaer in the form of William Shatner. Ann Dusenberry plays both child and adult Amy. Amy is taken bit too over-the top and Jo appears more as a saint compered to her. Series still manages to build a good base for Amy´s and Laurie´s relationship. This is another version which does not show Jo and Laurie arguing, but Jo and Friedrich argue almost through out the series, so it is completely opposite to what happens in the novel.
Real life Laurie´s
Laurie had two real-life inspirations. First one was Louisa´s good friend Alf Whitman who she used to act with in the Concord dramatic union. When they met Whitman was 15 years old and Louisa was 25 and they remained friends through out their lives. Alf also knew May and the age difference between May and Alf was only 2 years and they were close friends. Based to the letter exchange between the two they both seemed to have rather care-free personalities same way as Amy and Laurie. Second inspiration for Laurie was a young man called Ladislas Wisniewski. Louisa met Ladislas in Switzerland where she was working as a companion to a wealthy woman called Anna Weld. Louisa was in her 30´s at the time. The age difference between Louisa and Ladislas was 13 years. Louisa gave him a nickname Laddie. Laddie was a military man from Poland and an aspiring pianist. There is very little information about Laddie. He has been described to be a flirtatious prankster and he was romancing Louisa but it would seem that Louisa´s feelings towards him were more maternal. Laddie used to call her as his little mama. Some time later May also met Laddie in Europe and he showed her around. Neither Louisa or May married Laddie or Alf. "Laddie" and "lad" were umbrella terms that Louisa used as nicknames for young boys and young men (Reisen). Ladislas was not the only laddie but he and Alf were the "laurie-laddie´s". I read some of the letters that Louisa had written for Laddie and Alf (Reisen) where she told them that she was going to immortalize them into Laurie´s character and in Laurie she wanted to capture the essence of youth and the essence of boyhood.
In the 1933 film we get a full half-minute of Amy and Laurie in Europe together. Character arcs of neither one are included. In the 1949 film Amy and Laurie do not share any scenes together. They only appear together in film posters. There is one scene right before Laurie goes to propose Jo, you can see Amy played by Elizabeth Taylor looking at Laurie going with sad expression. That is how much this film cares about Amy and Laurie. To the defence of the 1949 film they do really good job with Jo and Friedrich and it is together with the modern 2018 adaptation the only film where Jo and Friedrich don´t argue and Jo actually embraces the feedback she gets from him.
Amy gets blamed on two things; stealing Laurie and stealing Jo´s trip to Europe. Movies have never adapted chapter calls and they just leave Amy and Laurie hanging. In 1933 and 1949 films aunt March and Amy just pop into New York to tell Jo that they are going to Europe and in both films Jo goes to New York after she has friend zoned Laurie and when she hears that Laurie has been in New York she is sad because he hasn´t come to see her (!?). In the book Jo went to New York because Laurie´s behavior made her feel uncomfortable!
Breaking Misconceptions of Manhood
There is a theory that Jo rejecting Laurie is actually Louisa rejecting Laddie Wisniewski. I say, theory because Louisa´s journals are censored.
She does have a diary marking where she mentions him trying to get physical with her, and she rejected him, and Little Women is a semi-biographical novel.
I´ve had some listeners saying to me that I am too harsh on Laurie, and then I´v had other listeners saying that I am too easy on him. That I don´t cristice his behavior enough.
Thing is Laurie does some horrible things in the novel, and that should not be ignored but his growth process is what matters because he grows out of that behavior, same way as Jo grows out of her misogynistic beliefs.
Little Women 2019 has really bad woke feminism, because the director objectifies the male characters and erases their arcs, shows Laurie being mean to Meg in the ball scene or Friedrich being a bully, and none of that happens in the novel. Feminism doesn´t have nothing to do with hating men. It is designed to also break stereotypes and misconceptions of manhood.
The portrayal of manhood especially in these more recent adaptations is quite misandry, which is complete opposite to what happens in the book. In Louisa May Alcott´s novels you can often find a so-called "Laurie archetype", which is a young man who is a bit lost in life and is more heavily guided by women. Jo has very maternal feelings towards Laurie and at the same time she has quite harsh views towards her own gender and other women and Jo is Laurie´s first female influence. Where that influence is leading is Laurie flirting and sort of belittling the ladies he is courting and eventually belittling Jo as well. When he meets Amy in Europe, she refuses to mother him same way as Jo has done and that is why Amy is the first person who Laurie actually listens. She shows him another version of womanhood, which actually allows Laurie to be more sensitive, admire beauty and truly inspire him to be a better version of himself, because what it came to Jo, there are times in the novel when Jo is actually making fun of Laurie´s over sensitive nature.
In away Jo is Laurie´s opposite. She grows up dismissing her own sex as weaker and she is heavily influenced by men in her life. Her mother and sisters play important role as well but more when she reaches adulthood. She always has a fondness for boys. Friedrich has two nephews and for a lot of women that might be a problem but Jo loves boys. She loves the energy of young boys and when Jo is a teen she admires Laurie and she can´t really see the toxicity in their behavior and how it is quite misogynistic. Best example of that is Laurie catfishing Meg and Jo didn´t really see any harm in it. She didn´t really care about her sisters reputation at all. Which shows how little she identified with women as a teen. When Jo grows she begins to question her own previous views on what is acceptable and what isn´t. There is a great scene in the novel where the narrator says that when Friedrich comes to court Jo, she forgot to compare him to Laurie, because Laurie had been her model of masculinity. Friedrich replaces him with a more healthier model, which includes respecting women, not belittling them. So you might even say that with their mutual partners Jo and Laurie are able to find their true selves.
Little Women 1994
Movie from 1994 is one of the most well-known Little Women adaptations. There are probably more people in the planet who have seen the film but have not read the books. Winona Ryder who plays Jo has great chemistry with both Christian Bale who plays Laurie and Gabriel Byrne who plays Friedrich. In an interview Robin Swicord who was one of the script writers of the 1994 film was asked about the sudden change in Amy´s character and she replied it is not until we get rid of the bitch-naming culture we can achieve equality. I do agree with this statement (and I know movies always have time restrictions) but the 1994 film doesn´t do many favours for Amy´s character because once again Amy´s character arc and Laurie´s character arc are completely missing. The film heavily idolizes Jo and romanticizes Jo and Laurie. When Laurie proposes he kisses Jo, and some people call this as a dribble kiss, but in the novel Jo and Laurie don´t kiss and Jo is actually really annoyed that he is interested in her, which is why she travels to New York. 1994 Laurie doesn´t have a temper so when Winona Ryder´s Jo says they would kill each others (if they would marry) it is hard to believe that because he doesn´t have a temper! Exact the same thing happens in Greta Gerwig´s film. Laurie doesn´t have a temper. Dialogue of the proposal is completely different than in the book. In the proposal scene Laurie has taken a job from his grandfather from London so that he and Jo could move there. The book Laurie is not at all interested from having a job and the main reason he is proposing Jo is that Jo could keep telling him what to do with his life. In the book it was Friedrich who had taken a job from another state so that he could provide a home and a future for Jo. This part is missing from every single film version.
In the 1994 film there is a scene where Laurie promises to kiss Amy when she is grown up because Beth is ill and Amy who is like 13 at the time is afraid that she is going to die as well. There are people who like this scene and believe that it actually foreshadows Amy and Laurie romance. Then there are people who think it is creepy because Christian Bale is so old and he promises to kiss 13 year old Kirsten Dunst. Christian Bale was 19 when he played Laurie and an interesting but not very relevant fact, at the time he was dating Samantha Matis who played the adult Amy in the movie. If he would actually kiss young Amy then I would be worried, but people really need to learn to understand the context since nothing physical happens between them. I´v read that Kirsten actually had a crush on Christian Bale, so maybe she would not have minded if he had actually kissed her.
Scene where Laurie says he has always meant to marry a March girl has made many to believe that Amy is some kind of second prize but he does´t say anything like that in the books. In the 1994 film Jo writes to Laurie after Beth´s death and asks him to come back to Concord. Jo does not do this in the book. In the book Laurie sends Jo a letter right after Beth´s death and proposes her for the second time right after when he has realized that he has romantic feelings towards Amy.
Coming of age novel
Little Women was a commission by Louisa´s publisher Thomas Niles to write a book for girls that would include morals and advice on good marriages. Louisa was´t sure if she herself could write such a book because she was´t used to writing children´s novels and she did´t really have experiences on young girls beside her sisters.The structure of the book that Niles ordered was Bildungsroman. Bildungsroman is a literary genre that has it´s focus on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood. Louisa was more than familiar with this genre because Goethe´s Wilhelm Meister´s apprenticeship was the start of it. Therefore Little Women is a story of identity with romantic subplots.
Louisa was advocate for girls marrying for love and not for money and not marrying too young. All March sisters are over 21 when they get married. It seems that Louisa planned both Jo and Friedrich and Amy and Laurie to end up together already when she was a teen ager. Amy knows that she wants to marry a rich man. Laurie is wealthy and Jo wants to keep Laurie in the family as her brother and May also knew both real-life Laurie´s. References to Germany already begin in the first chapter of Little Women, which foreshadows arrival of a German character. In fact March trilogy is constantly favorable towards German culture.
Louisa was frustrated by the little girls who were obsessed with the idea of Jo marrying Laurie. Laurie perfectly captures the 19th century male ideal but in modern standards Friedrich is more feminist and progressive. He is respectful towards Jo, supports female education, is abolitionist, hardworking and loves Jo unconditionally. The resentment that Friedrich´s character received in the 19th century (and still today from some sad people) seems to stem out from xenophobia. In the 19th century German immigrants were widely discriminated.
Laurie Growing, Moving From Jo To Amy
This is a quote from Christine Doyle´s essay German literature and culture in Little Women. I have quoted this before but it really captures Louisa´s views on romantic love and finding a suitable partner.
"The cultural level suggested by Friedrich’s profession and more specifically by his knowledge of Goethe also helps to validate the connection between Friedrich and Jo. Teen-age Louisa had scribbled a quote from her copy of Margaret Fuller´s Woman in the Nineteenth Century regarding Wilhelm Meister’s female connections.
As Meister grows in life & advances in wisdom, he becomes acquainted with women of more & more character, rising from Mariana to Natalia who expresses the Minerva side of things, Mignon, the electrical, inspired lyrical nature . . .
"Passage represents Jo´s transference of affection from Laurie to Friedrich through her own growth and advancement in terms of character. Laurie is the fascination of her youth who will always be regarded with affection, but Friedrich has more character. Laurie is always a “boy” to Jo, but Friedrich is a man. Laurie possesses charm and culture; Friedrich, as we see, is cultured but also steady and well-grounded. He speaks both to her down-to-earth practicality and to her imagination (Doyle)
This similar transference can be seen in Laurie as well in the way he moves on from Jo to Amy. Laurie has to go through the personal transformation first before he can truly love another. Fact that Louisa was very fascinated by this transference from a young age is interesting, because this transference not only happens in little women, but it is a narrative pattern that she repeats in her other writings as well.
Attraction in Little Women
Laurie in the books is described to have androgynous and effeminate looks. Jo is also androgynous but she has sharper features. Jo in the books is never sexually attracted to Laurie, which makes it pretty crazy that so many adaptations have hired Jo´s and Laurie´s who have sexual chemistry. What Jo is attracted to is Laurie´s masculine energy and that in their childhood plays she doesn´t need to be a girl. Features that are traditionally seen more feminine that Laurie has, like his sensitivity bring out Jo´s nurturing side (something that came naturally to her). In New York when Jo meets Fritz she is really attracted to him and his masculine looks (he is more build like a viking). Gender fluidly continues in the sequels. In little men it is once again referred how Jo prefers more "manly" boys. Little Men also introduces the character of Nat who is compared to Laurie. Nat has more effeminate looks, he plays music and he is quite sensitive. In Jo´s boys Nat and Meg´s daughter Daisy are in love but both Meg and Jo are worried since they don´t think Nat is man enough to take care of Daisy because Nat is quite a dreamer and probably because of his effeminate looks. Jo however thinks that Daisy will be a good wife for Nat because she is steady and down-to-earth. When Nat returns from his trip to Europe and he is now more solidly built Meg and Jo give their approval. In Good Wives Jo wishes that Laurie could find himself a steady and a competent girl who could keep him grounded (sounds familiar?) The way Laurie was not used to making decisions also effected to the way Jo thought of herself. Which was something she wanted to change.
More Screen Laurie´s
In the pbs series from 2017 Laurie was played by Jonah Hauer-King. Series received very mixed reviews from the fans. In an interview the screen writer Heidi Thomas said she never understood Jo´s chose of husbands. This definitely explains why Laurie´s flaws are (once again) downplayed and why he doesn´t have a character arc. Series also tried very hard to make Amy an unlikable character. Friedrich Bhaer who for once looks like he jumped straight out from the book pages gets very little screen time. Both Jo x Fritz and Amy x Laurie relationships are left underdeveloped.
We need to stop pampering Laurie and let him grow like the book Laurie does.
Little Women film from 2018 is set to the modern day. Film builds a good base for Jo and professor and it also builds a good base for Meg´s and John´s relationship. 12 year old Amy is played by Elise Jones and adult Amy by Taylor Murphy and Laurie by Lucas Grabeel. Having two Amy´s is wonderful because it brings more nuances to Amy´s and Jo´s relationship (and is truthful to the books). Film once again portrays Laurie as a flawless character and does not include redemption arc he has with Amy. We see young Amy having a crush on Laurie but we don´t see them bonding as adults.
No wonder people have had hard time to get behind this pairing. Laurie´s flaws have been downplayed and Amy´s flaws have been highlighted. During this personal growth process Laurie is forced to ask some real questions about himself. Questions that he had been afraid to ask; who he is and what he wants from life. When Amy´s letter arrives where she tells Laurie she has rejected Fred´s proposal something moves inside Laurie´s heart. Films have cut it short but Amy and Laurie spent a great deal of time writing to each others and after Beth´s passing Laurie traveled to Vevey to be with Amy.
Amy and Laurie 2019
Little Women is a story about identity. When adapting a novel you can´t erase a character arc of one character without effecting to the whole story. Amy is not a bitch and Laurie is not an award. When I type Amy March to google I get headlines like "Amy March was a total bitch" "Why we like to dislike Amy March". The only way to get rid of Fritz/Laurie debate and Jo versus Amy debate is to include Laurie´s character arc.
I greatly enjoyed Florence Pugh´s performance as Amy. Film build their romance quite nicely but once again Laurie´s character arc was entirely missing. Timothee Chalamet does great emotional roles, he could have pulled off Laurie´s character with it´s full complexity. In Little Women 2019 film guide Gerwig said that "Jo and Laurie could be a great couple if they wanted to". Louisa May Alcott wrote to her journal about Ladislas Wisniewski the words "couldn´t be". Only way that Jo and Laurie would have ended up together is if Louisa had ended up with Ladislas, but that never happened because he was too immature for her. It is very strange that Greta Gerwig said that Laurie wants Jo to step into to the world of adulthood. Let me remind you in the novel Jo is frustrated that Laurie is immature and in real life Louisa was 10 years older than Laddie. I used to read Jo´s and Friedrich´s age difference, meaning that Jo wanted to be with Friedrich because he was more mature and was able to help Jo to grow both as a person and as a writer. Of course now I know that, it was because Louisa was in love with Henry and they shared that same age difference.
The open narration of Gerwig´s film has created three types of interpretations.
1. There is now a whole new generation who see Jo and Laurie as the ultimately romantic couple.
2. The second group is people who praise this adaptation for erasing the romantic sub-plots, and this has been part of the film´s promotion. The correspondence between Louisa and her publisher Thomas Niles shows that Louisa was the one who came up with the marriages. When Little Women became popular Louisa and her publisher turned Louisa into a brand. She became the "children´s friend". It is always quote strange when people say that Louisa didn´t care about romances. There was a real life Laurie and there was a real-life Friedrich but because she had her reputation to protect, she tried to keep these relationships hidden and even detach herself from Jo´s character. Yet, you can read about Louisa´s romantic endeavors from every single Louisa May Alcott biography and her personal journals and letters. This brand that was built around Louisa, she herself struggled with it a lot. It evolved into a person worship cult. Louisa lived in a time when most marriages were based on economical reasons. She was part of a movement that promoted marriage based on love as a priority and this was something she promoted in all of her novels.
3. There are people who loved both Amy and Laurie and Jo and Friedrich in this film, and now there is a whole new generation of Little Women fans who think that Laurie was more immature compared to Friedrich and he was better off with Amy, and yet the entire promotion of this film was based on Greta Gerwig making fun of the couples and telling one demographic that Jo is gay, another one that Jo is asexual and doesn´t want to leave her home, which doesn´t happen in the book. Jo quite literally says that being a care taker does not satisfy her, and she wants to find out what romantic love feels like and then third group that Jo and Laurie are meant to one another. Then she made fun of Friedrich´s looks and his accent, completely ignoring the fact that Jo is not written to be beautiful, and she even wants to study German because she is so in love with Friedrich and wants to learn about his culture.
There was an earlier version of the script that followed the novel more. Friedrich was German and the end was not written to be mockery towards romantic love. It also handled the immigration themes with the seriousness it deserved. It seems that these changes were made to maximize the films profit.
Here are some quotes from little women fan Jimena:
Jo was the matured one. She was the one who understood how unhappy they could have been. Their friendship was more valuable than a desperate attempt to be a couple. Just because Laurie was horny doesn’t mean he was ready to be an adult, do I have to remind you there are 15-years-old having sex already??
Can you imagine having a insisting friend and being very clear about the status of your relationship. And one day you arrive home and he prepared this big proposal with all of your family and friends. And it’s horrible because you don’t want to embarrass him, but you don’t want to say ‘yes’ and you have no idea what to do. It’s a lot of pressure.
But again, Laurie has no character arc, so there nothing much to do there.
They also can be quite bad influences for each other. There’s a scene in the book where Laurie is talking about running away and Jo encourages him! It’s Meg who talks to him and convinces him to stay with his grandfather and go to college. I just realized, Meg and Amy are the ones who push him to behave better, Jo just tells him what to do.
The letter why did Greta do that? She should have left it at the scene in the attic. The only thing she accomplished was fueling Jo/Laurie shippers, that is why they love this film. And it made Jo selfish. Even after her mother made her realize that being loved and loving someone are two completely different things, she goes and writes that stupide letter! What a jerk! She wanted companionship, Laurie wanted love.
The letter thing was so weird. First she almost confesses marmee that she has feelings for Friedrich and then she writes a letter to Laurie, saying that she wants to marry him. That doesn´t make any sense. This is what I mean when I say that Jo is really a blank slate in this movie. In the book Jo herself comes to the conclusion that she is in love Friedrich. She never gives Laurie any kind of false hope.
Laurie also comes to the conclusion himself that Jo is actually not that a great partner for him. He even calls her a torment and then he has these mushy thoughts about Amy.
Jo and Laurie stayed in a teen age mindset. The problem was not only their tempers but they were enabling each others good qualities. After Laurie forged those letters and hurt Meg and he asked Jo to run away with him. There is no project for the future. It was just another way to escape and not face consequences of his actions. It is uncanny how many people romanticize it (knowing that it happened just after he nearly ruined Meg´s and John´s relationship). In the chapter castles in the air Laurie is moping how much he hates the future his grandfather has planned for him. Jo tells him just to sail away with one of his ships, play music and be a composer. Laurie was used to do what other people told him so he might have done it but Jo´s advice was pretty terrible because Laurie wasn´t capable to look after himself. Meg was the voice of reason and reminded Laurie how much his grandfather loves him. Jo was very blunt person and Laurie highly sensitive which can be a toxic combination.
Fight me if you dare Amy was way more healthier for him (and Fritz much better for Jo because he was direct but much calmer person) Laurie thought he could earn Jo´s hand by graduating college and even that he did very lazily. Jo had already opened herself to the idea of loving Fritz which is why she defended him when Laurie proposed, which by the way is never in the movies. Little Women is incredibly nuanced story. It has lots of characters. It is difficult to turn it into a film. I would like to see an adaptation someday that would handle Amy´s and Laurie´s struggles with infertility and their interactions with their daughter Bess.
Fritz and Laurie’s good influence on Jo and Amy (Not In Adaptations)
I will end this with a quote from Jimena:
It’s sort of popular in media to show the good influence women can have of men. And it’s certainly the case in LW. But it can also go the other way around.
In New York, Jo struggled with her sensationalist stories. They caused her some psychological distress, but those are the only stories that the editor wanted. Her necessity to have money led her to put aside her family’s teachings.
In chapter 34: Friend, Bhaer sees some of those stories (not knowing some of them were written by Jo) and he criticizes them quite harshly for spreading bad morals. And even if Jo tries to defend them saying that they are just stories and that they are popular, she agrees. And Bhaer has an amazing reply:
There is a demand for whisky, but I think you and I do not care to sell it. If the respectable people knew what harm they did, they would not feel that the living was honest.
His answered reminded me of a critic (Horacio Villalobos) here in Mexico. Whenever someone defends a tv show/movie/play/book/whatever just for being popular he would say “cocaine is super popular, that doesn’t mean it’s good”.
Later on the chapter Jo says:
I almost wish I hadn’t any conscience, it’s so inconvenient. If I didn’t care about doing right, and didn’t feel uncomfortable when doing wrong, I should get on capitally. I can’t help wishing sometimes, that Mother and Father hadn’t been so particular about such things.
So Bhaer basically reminded her of her conscious that Jo has put on the side in order to earn money.
An ocean away, something similar happens between Amy and Laurie. People always point out the good influence that Amy had on Laurie and rightfully so. Amy scolds him, tells him the truth as it is and she inspires him to become a better person, to stop wasting his time and be a productive member of society.
However, that influence goes both ways.
When Amy and Laurie met in Nice, she had already decided to marry Fred Vaughn despite the fact that she didn’t really loves him. She’s determined to give herself and her family a better life and Fred’s money can do that. Painting won’t do it and Jo, at this point, was still selling stories for 20USD each. So, not a lot of options. She knows its mercenary and that the family won’t like it, but she feels it as her duty.
In Valrosa, Amy confesses her plan to Laurie. And he calls on her for not remembering her mother’s teaching!
I understand. Queens of society can’t get on without money, so you mean to make a good match, and start in that way? Quite right and proper, as the world goes, but it sounds odd from the lips of one of your mother’s girls.
Amy defends her resolution but Laurie’s words clearly had an impact on her as much as her words had an impact on him. While they are apart, Fred returns and Amy is unable to accept his proposal. She knew better now.
In a way, just like Fritz to Jo, Laurie made Amy remember her conscious and her values. Nobody else tried to stop Amy from accepting a proposal and get into a loveless marriage. Everyone around her just saw it as a good match not caring if there was love in there or not. I would even say that without that wake up call from Laurie, Amy could have gone through the marriage and paid the consequences. She’s an American, with very nontraditional ideas about women entering into an English family. I think she would have been quite lonely.
(In a way Amy-Fred parallels with Jo-Laurie in the sense that both sisters have these incredible opportunities to marry very wealthy men. However, both were doomed to be loveless marriages and neither Amy nor Jo wanted that. They would have lived in a golden cage.)
So yeah, Amy did lots of good on Laurie, but he also helped her. And Fritz did the same for Jo.
Jimena´s Little Women Blog the-other-art-blog.tumblr.com/LittleWomen
May Alcott biography, by Caroline Ticknor
Little Women 150 years, Louisa May Alcott, Penguin Edition
Little Women, 2019 film guide
Interview of Robin Swicord www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBhf8UJfz4M
Little Women Podcast Transcript
Hello Little Women fans!
Today´s comment shout out goes to @justanavengersfan who says the following:
"Laurie is always a boy to Jo and when she speaks about Nat or Teddy as daughters, you can really see that she was never going to find Laurie attractive".
Jo in the books never finds Laurie attractive. Friedrich is her sexual awakening. There are quite a few scenes in Little Men and Jo´s Boys where Jo refers Nat and Laurie as "girly" or "daughters". I am surprised that not that many people discuss about this. I think it´s really fascinating. Even when Laurie is in his forties Jo always speaks about him in a very maternal tone, which doesn´t happen between Jo and Friedrich and Jo kinda sees Laurie as a personal success story, because he was the first boy that she adopted and that inspired Jo to start a school for boys. One of the things that a lot of people don´t seem to understand about Louisa, is that she was a very maternal person and she also loved the energy of young boys and very masculine men. Louisa was a paradox but do these qualities need to be exclusive?
This episode is sponsored by Audible. Audible has a wide range of e-books to read and Audiobooks to listen. If you have not yet read Little Women, this is your chance. As a new member you can get 30-days free trial by clicking the affiliate link in the description.
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Some you may know that I didn´t read Little Women part 2, or Good Wives until I was a teen ager but I did read Little Women part 1 as a child. I still have my old copy which is a Finnish translation from 1940s. Here in Finland and in most European countries and I believe in most South-American countries as well Little Women used to be published as two separate books, when in the US it has been published as one book.
In the first part of Little Women Jo is 15, then part 2 it starts four years after the events of the first part and part 2 actually covers roughly 20 years of Jo´s life. I didn´t really pay attention to the adaptive attractiveness until I read the original English Little Women, which had not been white-washed by Louisa´s publisher. In the original text, Laurie, he has darker skin complex, big nose and there are lots of references to his Italian heritage. When I started to do more deeper research on Laurie´s character I re-read my Finnish versions, which were based on these "newer versions" where Laurie´s character was being romanticized. Many of these elements that made him more Italian were erased and it´s funny because I was looking at my copy of Good Wives. It has this cover illustration of Amy and Laurie. Laurie is actually a blonde and he could an actor from a Finnish film from the 50s. However I do not blame the illustrator because obviously that text was based on this, re-writing of Little Women.
In the original text same happens with Friedrich´s character. Louisa makes constant references on him being German and Jo loves that he is German, which is actually quite endearing. I am sure you can now find lots of different versions of this uncut original book which is great and the book that I have is Penguin classic Little Women based to the original book from 1867. That is the version I have used as a reference on this podcast. Every time when I have quoted something from Little Women.
This is small umbrella in the rain, Little Women podcast: Laurie and adaptive attractiveness.
Original Description of Laurie
Theodore Laurie Lawrence is one of the most complicated characters in Little Women and his cultural and cinematic history is also complicated. More than often the Hollywood adaptations of the book changes our perspective of the characters. In the original book that was published in 1868 Laurie is both foreign and androgynous.
Laurie has brown skin, curly black hair, long nose, nice teeth, little hands and feet. He is the same size as Jo making him equal to her. When he asks Jo to dance he makes a little French bow.
For the 1880 edition of Little Women Louisa´s publisher demanded her to make changes for the books. Little Women was a huge hit and publishers want to make money. Now all Laurie´s foreign features were removed because they were not suitable for a romantic suitor. He became more handsome, no mention of the colour of his skin and he is taller than Jo, making him superior to her.
The problem with these changes was that LMA herself never meant Laurie to be a romantic suitor for Jo. Quoting her own words when she created Laurie she gave her alter-ego a brother that she never had. It is the 1880 version with more "masculine Laurie" that is familiar to most people. This description of him remained in the books nearly 100 years. When I read Little Women as a child my Finnish version did not have any mention of Laurie being androgynous neither there was any mentions about his skin colour. The translation I read had been made in 1920´s. Last Finnish translation of Little Women appeared in 2012 so that is when the Finnish readers got to read the original description of Laurie for the first time. Little Women has been translated into more than 50 languages. Many translations especially the older ones are abridged and entire chapters are missing.
Another very important part of Laurie is that he has androgynous looks. In the famous and beloved 1933 film version of Little Women Douglas Montgomery plays Laurie and he has very androgynous looks. He has quite feminine and soft features. Katherine Hepburn´s Jo is close to the book Jo. She is tall, with androgynous looks and sharp features and a strong way to carry herself. Little Women is a semi-biographical novel and Jo´s character is loosely based on Louisa herself and Louisa was a tomboy and not traditionally feminine.
Hollywood and Adaptive Attractiveness
What it comes to Little Women adaptations they are model examples of adaptive attractiveness. Adaptive attractiveness refers to the way Hollywood changes the appearance of a book character. Who in the story is described from anything from old to ugly from androgynous to plain looking is played by an attractive actor in a film version. As we learned the adaptive attractiveness of Laurie already started in the 19th century. In films/tv adaptations Jo, Laurie and Friedrich all go through adaptive attractiveness. This does not mean that beautiful actors can not play these characters or that we should stop watching these movies. Some of them are the best adaptations of Little Women. The reason for this is the same as Louisa´s publisher changing Laurie´s looks, to make money. Studios invest great deal of money to the films and the best way to make profit and get viewers is to hire attractive actors.
Problems With Adaptive Attractiveness and Little Women
However there are lots of problems with adaptive attractiveness in Little Women Louisa´s original description of the three characters: Jo, Laurie and Friedrich, is a big part of the narrative. Adaptive attractiveness is deeply rooted idea in our culture. Starting from fairy-tales which follow the Hollywood narrative that love only belongs to the young and attractive. When Little Women appeared it became a massive hit and it made Louisa May Alcott a billionaire. When young girls came to visit Louisa they often left disappointed because they were expecting to see young and beautiful Jo March. Instead they saw Louisa who was rather plain looking. Sometimes she even opened the door dressed up as a maid and she said to the young fans of Jo March that Miss Alcott was not at home. An effective way to get rid of fans. Jo is not written to be beautiful so why did these readers thought that Louisa or Jo was beautiful? I have no idea.
Brown Skinned Laurie
Here is a quote from Jimena:
The importance of a dark skinned Laurie. A matter of representation
Louisa describes Laurie as
‘Curly black hair, brown skin, big black eyes, handsome nose, fine teeth, small hands and feet, taller than I[Jo] am…’
Yet in all adaptations, except the 80s anime, Laurie has been represented as a white character. It doesn’t surprise me that up until the 70s that was the case. However, the 2017 miniseries, 2018 modern adaptation and the 2019 movie make the same mistake: they whitewashed Laurie!
(I’m conflicted in using the word “mistake” cause that implies that they honestly didn’t know. But since they swear they love the book, then it seems more of a conscious decision.)
To me, it’s very worrying that almost no one discuss this in the media during the 2019 press tour.
But a brown skinned Laurie is not just about sticking to Louisa’s description of the character, it goes much deeper. It’s a matter of representation.
One problem that period drama set in Europe or the United States has is that there is little diversity, which makes sense cause they were slaving black people and discriminating everyone who wasn’t white and Christian. If today a show wants to add more variety into their cast, they normally have to race-bend characters or create a fantasy world, like Bridgerton. That or people of color get to play the servants or the poor people or the foreigners who appear in the background.
Yet, here we have an 1868 book, set the Civil War, that features a brown skinned character. And it’s not just a side character, he’s prominent, he’s part of the main characters. He has an arc as important as the main white family.
The fact that Laurie is brown skinned plays into his identity issues.
Just because the North was against slavery, doesn’t mean they weren’t deeply racist. As a matter of fact, Bronson Alcott got into a lot of trouble for offering education to white and black children in the same classroom.
For all the praise that Greta Gerwig’s movie got, I’m surprised very few people called her for including only a couple of black characters. There was one lady who barely had a line and another one at Meg’s wedding who is there just for background. That’s tokenism!
Even the modern adaptation which should have had no problem getting a diverse cast, chooses to cast Lucas Grabeel.
Then there’s the matter of his Italian heritage.
A couple of times, Laurie think about his Italian heritage and not in a good light. Actually his mother must have been the one who passes him his skin color. When he is in Valrosa with Amy, he think his Italian side brings out the superstition aspect in him. Italians have always had a negative stereotype in Western Europe and the United States. I don’t know how difficult must have been for Laurie to hear all these negative comments that attack his mother. This will also serve the discussion of immigrants in the XIX century America, alongside with Friedrich’s case.
Moreover, Italy is also a prominent Catholic country. A few articles I’ve read say that protestant America rejected Catholicism, even to the point of forbidding it. Let’s remember Aunt March’s French catholic maid who change her name from Estelle to Esther so that it would sound more American. This under the condition that the old lady wouldn’t ask her to change religions.
Even with all of these issues, he is in a position of power. He is the heir to one of Concord’s biggest fortunes. He gets to go to college. He is destined to run one of the greatest companies in Massachusetts. Amy even teased him because Fred was richer than him, like it was something that didn’t happen often. So his wealth must have been pretty big.
Returning to the March family, it will also serve to prove with their actions how anti racism they were, not just anti slavery. They included this boy as part of their family almost instantly. He becomes Jo’s best friend and Amy’s husband. It is in the book that a lot of mothers look at him as an attractive suitor for their daughters, but I’m sure some other inhabitants looked down at him for being Italian and brown-skinned.
So, my point is, representation matters.
Imagine how much this would mean for brown skinned boys, mixed race boys and parents of those kids to see this character properly cast.
(I’m curious, how many people knew that Laurie is supposed to be brown-skinned?)
Flipping Gender Stereotypes
Laurie in the books is a complex character with both good and bad qualities. He is an orphan living together with his distant grandfather. Laurie was an aspiring pianist. He had no problems becoming best friends with four girls next door. He put snow to Meg´s ankle, saved Amy from drowning and was Jo´s bff. That is what we usually see in the movies but in the books Laurie is much more complicated character. Louisa was ahead of her time. She refused to impose any gender stereotypes to any of her characters. In 19th century context Laurie and his love for music can be seen as a more effeminate trait. Even the way he is lonely in the big old mansion follows the narrative of the 19th century where young women were domesticated and shut down from the social life. In one of my favourite chapters in Little Women camp Lawrence Laurie is compared to a colt, a gun that can go off at any given minute. Colt also refers to an untamed horse. In the beginning of Little Women Jo is also referred to a colt.
No Temper For Laurie (Or For Jo)
In many ways the 1933 film is loyal to the books but it shows the characters through 1930´s lens. This happens with every Little Women film. They are always bound to their time. Both Jo and Laurie lack their aggressive outbursts they have in the books. Douglas Montgomery´s Laurie and Peter Lawford´s Laurie from 1949 both have bit of a temper which is what you can see in the proposal scene but in all adaptations after them Laurie´s temper is missing. In the 1949 version Laurie played by Peter Lawford is one of the most idealized Laurie´s. He has run away from the school. Lied his age to get into army were he got wounded (we can´t see any wounds). He is also extremely kind and charming. Film does not either show Laurie´s and Amy´s time in Europe together.
Little Women fan Dana Parra has criticised Laurie´s casting choices.
"I think another issue I have with Gerwig´s film and really any film with fans that do this is how the cast are put upon these pedestals. There are fans of the fandom and there are fans of the actors and the director. I feel that Gerwig´s film suffers from fans that love either her or her work or the cast and know little about the original story and I feel Laurie is a prime example of having fans that love his actor and not the original character. Timothee Chalamet is a popular up and coming actor. I haven´t seen him in much, so I couldn´t tell you how good of an actor he is but I know he has a fan base and I know that fan base saw Little Women for him. Not just because they wanted to see the movie and we all do that with our favorite actors. When Jo refuses Laurie, because of this fan base you have to wonder are they mad Jo didn´t end up with Laurie or are they mad that Jo refused Timothee Chalamet because that is a huge difference and those are the fans that don´t care about the original story. They are just mad that their favorite didn´t get what they wanted. You could say the same with Peter Lawford too and Christian Bale because you know that the studios are going to try to put some heart-throb in to the role of Laurie to appeal to the love story or to make the movie into more of a love-story than a coming-of-age movie".
Here is a quote from blogger @thatvermillionflycatcher
Why Jo and Laurie don´t end up together or why our expectations of tropes set us up for disappointment
We are used to seeing literature for women as romances or epic fantasy. Not that there is anything wrong with any of those genres. But this perspective sets us up expect and assume some things. For example we expect the main couple in the novel to be introduced to us in the first few chapters. Usually via some kind of meet-cute or meet-ugly.
But Little Women isn´t a romance novel. It features love and marriage but the romance is not the core of the story. We read chapter three where Jo and Laurie meet and we read it as meet-cute. It never crosses our mind to expect a meet-ugly between Laurie and Meg. For example because Meg is not the protagonist and Jo thinks of an arrangement between Meg and Laurie.
Little Women is a strange story if you think it as a romance. Because the protagonist marries a character that appears well into book two but this is not a problem because it is not a romance. Alternative reading is the adventure quest. The heroine is different. Has a new world view and engages in a quest to change her world but Jo isn´t a heroine in this way. If there are two defining characteristics of Jo´s character those are her anger and her fear of change. She doesn´t want Meg to marry Mr. Brooke not because she thinks that marriage is a constricting future for Meg because it would mean change in her family. Meg would no longer live with them. The family dynamics would be totally different and the mere idea terrifies Jo.
Jo´s quest doesn´t fail because there was no quest. Little Women isn´t an adventure novel either. It is as many people like to point out but frequently seem to overlook consequences of a semi-biographical novel. It is the life story of four sisters. A slice of life with everything it brings. Love and romance and some adventures. Yes but the simplicity of every day life. Pain, lost, friendship, family, work, talent and virtues.
Let´s talk about gender
In this episode I will be talking great deal about men and women, masculine and feminine, male and female. So much that some of you might wonder what are my thoughts about gender in general. Gender is a spectrum and fluid spectrum for that. Some people fit to one point at the scale and that is fine. Some people are more fluid and that is fine as well. When I use the word "men" that refers to one particular demographic and they are not people with male parts, beards or beer bellies but simply people who identify as men. Same with women. Not just people with breasts and ability to give birth but people who identify as women. Femininity on other hand is a set of attributes, behaviors and roles generally associated with girls and women. Femininity is made up of both socially defined and biologically created factors. Definition of masculinity is similar. Set of attributes, behaviors and roles generally associated with boys and men. Masculinity as well is made up of both socially defined and biologically created factors. Both males and females can exhibit both masculine and feminine traits. In Little Women especially Louisa May Alcott explored masculinity and femininity through social and cultural factors of her time and it is a very common theme in all of her works.
Louisa May Alcott was born in 29th of November 1831. Her mother Abigail was one of the first social workers in US. Her father Bronson was a religious reformer, educator and one of the leading figures in New England´s transcendentalist movement. Louisa had three sisters; Anna, Lizzie and May. From a very young age Louisa was introduced to the intellectual circles of the time. Likes of Margaret Fuller, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Many Louisa´s family members and friends were abolitionists, suffragettes and women´s rights activists. Louisa´s farther was a controversial figure already during his life time but some of his more respectable aspects was that he wanted his daughters to have a proper education.
Marriage between Abba and Bronson was stormy and argumentative. Often Bronson would refuse to look for work and put his highly spiritual ideas before his own family. Bronson Alcott was a very controversial figure even during his own lifetime. Louisa´s childhood was way less idyllic than Jo´s. From very early on she started to support her family with her writings. In the 19th century context the role of the provider was seen more masculine. There were times when Alcott´s lived in extreme poverty. Louisa´s love and dedication for her mother Abba was fierce and protective. Same way as the Marches the Alcott´s went through hard time together and both Jo and Louisa were protective over their families. In the 19th century puberty began much later on than now days. Part of Louisa´s youth was also time spent in Fruitlands, a spiritual community based on transcendentalist ideas started by Alcott and John Slayne. Some of the rules in Fruitlands was to follow a strict vegetarian diet. Also coffee, tea, milk, alcoholic drinks and warm bath water were banned. Many Alcott scholars believe that the low nutrition might have also effected to Louisa´s hormonal balance.
Three different point of views
As much as we idolize Jo she was drowning into internalized misogyny. Jo and Laurie were brothers. They planned to ran away together, they had good time making pranks and they made fun of the feminine ladies who Laurie used to flirt with in college. One of the best examples of the internalized misogyny is chapter 21. Laurie makes mischief and Jo makes peace. You can read the whole chapter here.
In this chapter Laurie pretends to be his tutor John Brooke and he sends letters to Meg in his name, who he knows Brooke has feelings for.
She was quite right, for the mischief-loving lad no sooner suspected a mystery than he set himself to find it out, and led Jo a trying life of it. He wheedled, bribed, ridiculed, threatened, and scolded; affected indifference, that he might surprise the truth from her; declared her knew, then that he didn't care; and at last, by dint of perseverance, he satisfied himself that it concerned Meg and Mr. Brooke. Feeling indignant that he was not taken into his tutor's confidence, he set his wits to work to devise some proper retaliation for the slight.
Jo´s reactions throughout the chapter however has annoyed plenty of contemporary readers and so have Laurie´s actions.
Jo´s first reaction is to beat up Laurie and to defend Meg´s honor.
"Oh, the little villain! That's the way he meant to pay me for keeping my word to Mother. I'll give him a hearty scolding and bring him over to beg pardon," cried Jo, burning to execute immediate justice. But her mother held her back, saying, with a look she seldom wore...
Seeing Meg's usually gentle temper was roused and her pride hurt by this mischievous joke, Mrs. March soothed her by promises of entire silence and great discretion for the future. The instant Laurie's step was heard in the hall, Meg fled into the study, and Mrs. March received the culprit alone. Jo had not told him why he was wanted, fearing he wouldn't come, but he knew the minute he saw Mrs. March's face, and stood twirling his hat with a guilty air which convicted him at once. Jo was dismissed, but chose to march up and down the hall like a sentinel, having some fear that the prisoner might bolt. The sound of voices in the parlour rose and fell for half an hour, but what happened during that interview the girls never knew.
When they were called in, Laurie was standing by their mother with such a penitent face that Jo forgave him on the spot, but did not think it wise to betray the fact. Meg received his humble apology, and was much comforted by the assurance that Brooke knew nothing of the joke.
Jo stood aloof, meanwhile, trying to harden her heart against him, and succeeding only in priming up her face into an expression of entire disapprobation. Laurie looked at her once or twice, but as she showed no sign of relenting, he felt injured, and turned his back on her till the others were done with him, when he made her a low bow and walked off without a word.
As soon as he had gone, she wished she had been more forgiving, and when Meg and her mother went upstairs, she felt lonely and longed for Teddy. After resisting for some time, she yielded to the impulse, and armed with a book to return, went over to the big house.
When Laurie is scolded by Marmee Jo quickly forgives him and sees the whole thing only as a harmless prank. She has difficulties to understand how much Laurie´s mischief actually hurt her sister. This is what Meg says:
"If John doesn't know anything about this nonsense, don't tell him, and make Jo and Laurie hold their tongues. I won't be deceived and plagued and made a fool of. It's a shame!"
Meg is in an age that if this prank would have turned into a rumor it would have severely hurt Meg´s reputation and John´s as well. Meg´s response is very mature. Considering the time there is very little that Meg can do when something like this happens.
Back at the Lawrences Laurie is lectured by his grandfather.
"No, he would have the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I'd have told my part of the scrape, if I could without bringing Meg in. As I couldn't, I held my tongue, and bore the scolding till the old gentleman collared me. Then I bolted, for fear I should forget myself."
"It wasn't nice, but he's sorry, I know, so go down and make up. I'll help you."
"Hanged if I do! I'm not going to be lectured and pummelled by everyone, just for a bit of a frolic. I was sorry about Meg, and begged pardon like a man, but I won't do it again, when I wasn't in the wrong."
"He didn't know that."
"He ought to trust me, and not act as if I was a baby! It's no use, Jo, he's got to learn that I'm able to take care of myself, and don't need anyone's apron string to hold on by."
Jo works as a mediator between Laurie and older Mr.Lawrence. After being forced to apologise to Meg Laurie is now expecting his grandfather apologising him for lecturing him without no reason. He refuses to see any faults in his own actions. Next moment he is asking Jo to go to Washington to see Mr. Brooke and Jo is tempted to go but she is mature enough to see that such trip is Laurie only trying to escape facing his grandfather.
There is of course an actual reason why Laurie´s and his grandfather´s relationship is difficult and why he is constantly looking for attention but that does not adjust his actions.
Mr. Laurence's ruddy face changed suddenly, and he sat down, with a troubled glance at the picture of a handsome man, which hung over his table. It was Laurie's father, who had run away in his youth, and married against the imperious old man's will. Jo fancied her remembered and regretted the past, and she wished she had held her tongue.
Why the feminine sister´s feelings are treated less valid?
One thing I have noticed while doing gender studies on Little Women characters and talking to fans across the world is that this chapter is more than often ignored and the focus isn´t on the prank but in Laurie´s and Jo´s conversation.
"Why didn´t Jo just agreed to go with Laurie to Washington and have fun?"
"Nothing bad happened as long as Jo is happy".
One fan I chatted with said "why care since no one as hurt".
What about Meg?
For many Meg seems to be a less valid person in the story than Jo is and Jo forgives Laurie so aren´t we ab-lied to forgive Laurie as well?
In her analysis of this very same chapter Jan Alberghene brings out many of the similar themes I have presented here.
No matter how much time Laurie spends with Jo, her sisters, or Marmee, Laurie lives in a man’s world. And so do the women, whether grown or “Little.”
Jo´s reaction can feel almost as violating as Laurie´s actions because Jo is the protagonist and even though she is participating to cover up Laurie´s behavior she does not question it (unlike Marmee and Meg do).
The idealization of both Jo and Laurie is so deeply rooted in our culture, this chapter has never been adapted into any of the movies. It would be important to include it. Chapter captures both Jo´s and Laurie´s fast mood changes and their parallel tempers. We also see that Meg is a very strong person (in this case more feminist than Jo who´s growth process is only beginning).
Only adaptation where Laurie makes mischief has been included is the obscure BBC series from the 1970. One can definitely tell that the series comes from the 70´s. Marmee´s first reaction when she sees the letters is to laugh. Which is very off-character. We don´t see Laurie being scolded neither by Marmee or his grandfather. Like in the book Jo does forgive him, when he mopes how difficult life he is living with his grandfather. Meg is portrayed as someone who is overly emotional and over-reacting. In this version John knows what is going on and he sees it as a harmless prank. Once again very off character.
Should Laurie´s actions be censored
This is a quote from @Jodramamarch
"At the risk of alienating my fellow Louisa May Alcott enthusiasts and scholars one of my students has urged me to be thoughtful about the following. Would Theodore Laurie Lawrence be loaded for his actions and behavior by modern standards or would he be censored. I am always hesitant to evaluate actions of a literate characters written over a century ago through the lenses of the present but I do feel it is a question that merits discussion. I am deeply respectful of Louisa May Alcott. Her exceptional work and her remarkable life but the "boys will be boys" latitude that Laurie´s character is given strikes me as odious at several moments throughout Little Women".
Jo does have internalized misogyny. She wants to be a man and identifies more with men, at least in the beginning of the novel and then slowly begins to find the balance between the masculine and the feminine. Other than her mother and her sisters she doesn´t seem to identify or enjoy the company of other women. In the end of the novel when Friedrich comes courting, the narrator says that Jo forgot to compare him to Laurie. Who had been her model of masculinity. When she gets into a relationship with Friedrich, she begins to treat other women with more respect because he does. Same happens with Laurie in his relationship with Amy. He becomes a lot more considerate of other people around him and he even apologizes to Jo in the end of the novel about the way he behaved towards her but that´s never in the films, because Laurie´s character arc has never been adapted.
Why Laurie´s physical features matter
When Jo and Laurie grow up, he takes a role that is almost overly masculine. He low-key tries to encourage her to flirt with him and then he threatens to kill himself if Jo does not marry him. This breaks Jo´s ideas of masculinity the way she knew it. In the book Jo travels to New York, because she gets anxiety to be alone with Laurie, nothing sweet or romantic about that. She even says to Marmee that she needs to leave because she doesn´t like him that way and then in New York she opens her heart to Friedrich and Laurie proposes after Jo has returned. In the movies Laurie proposes before she goes to New York. So you will never get the real reasons why Jo rejected him. She was in love with Friedrich.
When Louisa wrote Little Women, there was discrimination against both German and Italian immigrants. Laurie first becomes friends with the Marches who represent Louisa´s own transcendentalist philosophy of the transnational family but because Laurie comes from a wealthy family he does not face the same level of discrimination as Friedrich´s character does. There has been lots of criticism towards recent Little Women adaptations because they do not include the immigration themes and in some cases they even make fun of them.
Throughout the whole promotional tour of the 2019 film Greta Gerwig complained about Friedrich being German and speaking with a German accent. Louisa May Alcott adored everything that came from Germany and even studied German herself.
This is another quote from @thatvermillionflycatcher
Why Laurie´s physical features matter, how the film and tv adaptations of Little Women consistently ignore the fact that Laurie is described as tall and dark, brown skin with black eyes and black curly hair. It isn´t just about representation, though it is important, but who Laurie is as a character. Why he is the way he is and how his relationship with his grandfather is the way it is.
Laurie´s physical appearance tells us that he is half-Italian and that he looks Italian and Louisa May Alcott make a point emphazising that.
This is what Jo says in Little Women: how I wish I was going to college. You don´t look as if you like it?"
"I hate it! nothing but grinding or skylarking! and I don´t like the way fellows do either in this country".
"What do you like?"
"To live in Italy and to enjoy myself in my own way"
"That is why he has such handsome black eyes and pretty manners"
"Italians are always so nice", said Meg who was a little sentimental"
"He looked like an Italian. Was dressed like an English man and had an independent air of an American"
"For the Italian part of his nature, there was a touch of superstition"
"The pale roses Amy gave him, were the sort of Italian laid in their death hands, never in bridal wreaths and for moment he wondered if the omen was for Jo or himself".
"She watched him for a moment with artistic pleasure, thinking how like Italian he looked, as he laid basking in the sun with uncovered head and eyes full of sudden dreaminess. For he seemed to have forgotten her and fallen into a reverie".
An explanation to why this is so important can be found in Marmee´s explanation:
"Mother, why didn´t Mr Lawrence like to have Laurie play?" asked Jo who was in enquiring disposition. I am not sure but I think it is because his son, Laurie´s father married an Italian lady. A musician, which displeased the old man, who is very proud. The lady was good and lovely and accomplished but he did not like her and never saw his son after he married. They both died when Laurie was a little child and then his grandfather took him home. I fancy the boy who was born in Italy. Is not very strong and the old man is afraid of losing him which made him so careful, Laurie comes naturally by his love for music, for he is like his mother and I dare say his grandfather fears that he may want to be a musician. At any rate his skill reminds him of the woman he did not like and so he glowered as Jo said".
Laurie is an orphan who lost his parents at an early age. Mr. Laurence, who had cut ties with his son, learns that his son has died before they could get reconciled, and that he had a grandchild he had to take care of from then onwards. As he doesn’t know what to do, he keeps Laurie in Europe, attending school there. Laurie was practically an institutionalized child. Mr. Laurence finally hires a tutor for Laurie, and brings him home to live with him. By the start of the novel, they have really known each other for a very short time. Laurie wants to go back to Europe, to tread his roots, to be in the place to which he, by temper and looks, feels like he belongs to. Laurie’s appearance is a constant reminder that he doesn’t quite fit in Concord’s society, and this only changes when the Marches make him one of their own. That’s why he has a mother-son relationship with Marmee. That’s one of the reasons why he is so dejected when Jo refuses him. That’s why he is so lousy at college.
Mr. Laurence, on his side, is terrified of losing Laurie, the same way he lost both his children –both musically inclined, as was Laurie’s mother, of whom Laurie bears the resemblance– (and one can suppose, his wife) at a young age. It is no wonder that he doesn’t want Laurie to play or dedicate himself to music. It is only his story arc with Beth that helps him recover from his aversion to music, and it is under this light how important for him as a character is his offer to Laurie, after the failed proposal, to go to Europe with him, try his art and enjoy himself. Mr. Laurence wants to be there for his grandson and correct somehow what he didn’t do for his son. Laurie isn’t just a standard boy-next-door. He is a character in his own right that cannot be understood properly unless his background is taken into account, because it significantly shapes his temper and the way he relates to other characters in the novels. That’s why it is important for him to be played by an actor who has dark skin, black eyes and curly black hair.
To give you some context Louisa also emphasizes Friedrich being German:
“Being a German, he loved these simple domestic festivals, and encouraged them with all his heart, for they made home so pleasant that the boys did not care to go elsewhere for fun”
When Friedrich´s nephew Emil returns from his sea voyage: he “kissed all the women and shook hands with all the men except his uncle; him he embraced in the good old German style”.
“standing next to his father at the head of the table, folded his hands, reverently bent his curly head, and softly repeated a short grace in the devout German fashion, which Mr. Bhaer loved and taught his little son to honor”.
Thank you for listening. Take care and make good choices.
Hello and welcome back to our Little Women den.
Today´s comment shoutout goes to a-skirmish-of-wit-and-lit, who says:
I suppose you could argue that Laurie growing up wealthy is partly what contributed to him not valuing work. He never had to worry about not not having things or not being able to afford what he wanted. In that regard, his exposure to the Marches, and the March sisters in particular, was fortuitous because they helped to enlighten him.
Laurie's definitely not stupid. He's just more or less indifferent to academia. Not everyone is, and I like that Alcott sort of points that out with his character. Meanwhile, Jo lusts after learning. She feels like she can never know enough.
I have spoken about this before, but erasing Laurie´s growth as a character, erases everyone else´s growth as well, and if you do that, there is no story. Putting two female characters against one another is a very common Hollywood trope. Interestingly it is often brunette versus the blonde. Think about Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russel in Gentlemen prefer blondes, Elle Woods and Vivian Kensington in Legally Blonde.
Legally Blonde I must say is refreshing because it subverts that plot, but I think Warner Huntington III summed up the problem when saying that he wanted Jackie and not Marilyn.
People often praise Jo for being a tomboy and how she rejects femininity, but Jo´s idealization of the masculine has very toxic elements. Amy is a character who is more governed by her brain, where as Jo is in fact governed by her emotions, which is considered a feminine trait. In the novel Jo struggles to show her feelings because she considers that weak and "feminine". When father is wounded at the war she shouts her sisters not to cry. Couple years later Laurie says that she doesn't show emotions calls her out about it. Because Jo tries to shut down an important human part of herself, simply because she considers it feminine, is actually something that slowly eats her inside and contributes into her loneliness. This is why the umbrella chapter is so important because Friedrich says to Jo that it is okay to be vulnerable.
Amy does the opposite. She considers rational marriage with Fred Vaughn because it allows her to secure her family´s financial future. When Laurie reminds Amy that she is her mother´s daughter, and she simultaneously inspires Laurie to become a productive member of the society, Amy allows herself to listen to her heart and her own feelings and allowing herself to become more open and it is this inner work that the couples do in Little Women, that makes these relationships work.
Unfortunately the adaptations rarely pay any attention to this. There are people who have not read the novel, have only seen the films, and they don´t understand why the couples end up together. This is because the adaptations, never bother to show what actually happens between these people in the novel.
Another quote from There are people who have not read the novel, have only seen the films, and they don´t understand why the couples end up together. This is because the adaptations, never bother to show what actually happens between these people in the novel.
Maybe Louisa was more of a romantic than people sometimes give her credit for?
After reading about Louisa´s relationships between the real life Friedrich´s and Laurie´s I´d say she definitely was. Louisa was a transcendentalist and one of the methods that the transcendentalists used was so called self-scanning, which basically means trying to understand and analyze the feelings and the experiences that you are going through. Louisa practiced this throughout her life, and she put lots of consideration to the true meaning of love. When Louisa grew most marriages that she saw were unhappy marriages because they were arranged marriages.
Louisa herself answers this question about the equality within marriage rather beautifully and her own wishes from marriage seem to have remained the same throughout her life.
“You have given your idol a heart, but no head. … I would have her humble, though self-reliant, gentle, though strong; man’s companion, not his plaything; able and willing to face storms, as well as sun shines, and share life’s burdens, as they come. Let me advise you to take head as pilot, for you may find, as I have done, that the voyage of life is not quite a pleasant trip” “I would not be above you as I now am, nor yet below, like poor Amelia in the garden. But here where every woman should be, at her husband’s side, walking together through life’s light and shadow".
Here she is actually echoing both Amy and Jo, in the matters of the heart one should combine both head and the feelings. This episode is sponsored by Audible. I am currently reading the biography of Charles Follen. This is a book that Louisa May Alcott read at the age of 12. Get this, it is a story about Eliza who was an American female writer and Charles who was a German immigrant, a philosopher and an abolitionist. Here we have prototypes of Jo and Friedrich. It gets even better. Charles full name was Karl Theodore Christian Friedrich Follen.
His names were Theodore and Friedrich! that is more than just a coincidence. Charles was a good friend of Louisa´s uncle, Samuel May and Louisa actually met him few years before this book was published, and he seemed to have left quite a big impression on Louisa.
I have said this before, but Jo is not only based on Louisa, but also ladies she admired like Eliza Follen, who indeed married a kind hearted German immigrant. I will make an episode about Eliza and Charles in the future. You can get 30 day free trial to Audible and listen and read as many books as your heart desire, with the affiliate link you can find from the description. But now onto Amy.
This is Small Umbrella In The Rain Little Women Podcast: Amy and Jo, two sides of the same coin.
May Alcott Nieriker
Louisa loosely based Amy´s character to her younger sister May. Louisa was more boyish and May was more feminine and like Amy she slept with a cloths peg in her nose when she was 12. Unlike Amy who in the book comes to the conclusion that she does not have the genius May embodied genius. She was a professional artist and her paintings were exhibited in Paris Salon and she even wrote and published a book for young female art students called "Studying art abroad and how to do it cheaply".
When Louisa and May were young there was a great deal of rivalry between them. Both were very impulsive and temperamental and both loved attention. Louisa often called May as the baby of the family, and since she was the youngest and often got her way, which annoyed young Louisa.
Amy in the novel is shorter than Jo. She has a button nose and heart shaped face. May and Louisa looked more similar. They were tall and handsome women, with the exception that May was blonde and a lot more feminine. Louisa´s father Louisa had dark brown hair, gray eyes. She spent a lot of time outside. She was often quite tanned, which was not considered very attractive in the 19th century and she had a high temper. Knowing this, it is easy to understand why she would envy May.
Bronson Alcott, he believed to the idea of an ideal man and that this ideal person would have blonder hair, blue eyes and angelic nature. Bronson was also an abolitionist. He was an active member in the underground railway and the Alcott hid black slaves in their home and he lost his teaching position because he took a black child to his school (which also happens in Little Women). Now you´ll ask, isn't that contradicting? and it absolutely is. The transcendentalists, they had varying opinions on slavery. For example Emerson was often vague with his stance on the topic where as Henry Thoreau was a very active in the abolitionist movement, which you can also see in Little Women when Jo and Friedrich take black children to their school, and Friedrich is largely based on Henry.
Same way as Jo and Amy in the books Louisa and May did became closer when they matured and learned to control their tempers. They even made trips to Europe together.
here is a great deal of Louisa herself in Amy´s character. There were times when Louisa did consider marrying for money instead of love until her mother persuaded her otherwise. In Little Women it is actually Amy who says that "I have learned to sail my own ship and I am not afraid of storms". The trip that Amy takes with aunt March in Europe, is actually based on Louisa´s own experiences in Europe. It is very sad and ironic that there are people who say that Amy stole Jo´s trip, when that trip was actually based on Louisa´s trip.
Jo is not written to look pretty
Louisa had lots of insecurities about her looks and she often compared herself to her sisters, May especially. When Little Women became very popular and fans started to visit Louisa´s home, they were often disappointed when they saw her, because for some reason they always imagined Jo March to be very pretty and young.
Imagine your fans coming to meet you and be disappointed when they see you. Louisa was very tall. She was taller than most men. According to her niece Lulu, Louisa always had sort of masculine air around her. She was not very graceful and that she had a very low voice, like a man. In the end of her life Louisa was very ill, due to mercury poisoning, so it is very likely that the illness also affected to her appearance.
Amy in the novel is written to be someone who is a very visual person. She likes to make things pretty around her. Jo is written to be the opposite. Someone who doesn't care that much about looks or appearance.
Laurie in the book is written to be pretty, but the way he treats Jo is far from pretty. Friedrich is written to be unconventionally attractive, but he treats Jo well. He loves her. Henry, in fact he occasionally criticized very femininity that was fueled by consumerism. Women who spent a lot of time and money to their appearance. It is easy to see why Louisa had deep feelings for him. In Little Women Jo is horrified with the ideas that she should go to a ball or go for social calls because they require her being more feminine. Friedrich is written to be unconventionally attractive because Jo is unconventionally attractive. Being beautified by love is a big part of their romance.
Same way Laurie is written to be conventionally attractive, because that way he appeals to Amy´s sense of beauty.
What often happens in Little Women films is that the filmmakers gush how pretty Laurie is and then they explain Jo rejecting Laurie by saying that Jo must be gay or ace, because it is so difficult for them to understand that Louisa May Alcott or Jo in the novel was not somebody who cared that much about conventionally good looking guys. The entire promotion of 2019 film was based on that. Laurie´s creepy behavior towards Jo is constantly being erased in the adaptations and his storyline with Amy.
In the books the events that lead into burning Jo´s manuscript begin much before any theater tickets. I will read you an article from the blog contagiousgrace. I will put a link to the sources if you want to leave her a comment.
I just saw where someone said that Amy deserved to die in the ice because burning Jo’s manuscript was basically the same as killing Jo.
And I call bull.
First off, the moment we start prizing the created thing over creation (ie. People) whether that’s in our literature or in real life, then I believe we’ve missed the point of art. So jot that down.
Second, Bronson Alcott, Louisa’s father, had this belief that people could be perfected. That you were born a blank slate and with careful correction and guidance, you could stay that way. His first daughter supported that theory. She was compliant and thoughtful and quiet and sweet. Theory proven.
Or so he thought. When Louisa came along, she was wild and rebellious and utterly imperfect from the start, shattering his theory. He adjusted. He came to believe that if you just work hard enough and diligently enough, you can perfect yourself. This was the kind of moral philosophy Louisa grew up with. Personally, I see it as insufficient and utterly imperfect. BUT it has some merits/truths wrapped up in it, the primary one being that 1) people can change for the better.
The start of Little Women–the book–includes Marmee gifting each of her daughters with a copy of Pilgrim’s Progress, an allegorical tale about all the obstacles and temptations and struggles that a man passes through in life in the pursuit of God. And Marmee challenges her girls to pick up their burdens and embark on their own journeys. Each of them have different sins and struggles that are their burdens.
For Jo, that is her pride and temper. For Amy, it’s her pride and envy.
In this one situation, Amy burning the manuscript and Jo letting Amy fall through the ice–both of their greatest sins are on full display and both see the very real potential consequences of their sin. Amy doesn’t lose her sister’s love because she falls through the ice and Jo gets a chance to realize that her anger and unwillingness to forgive could have cost, not just her relationship with her sister, but her sister, altogether. They literally and figuratively survive it all. They get grace. And in that grace, they grow.
Consequences of bad choices have to be experienced/seen in some way to generate growth. This is true both in life and in storytelling.
And in this way, Alcott illustrates the two ideas at the core of her thesis: People can grow and be better but they can only become the best versions of themselves. The ideal woman is not just a quiet woman who stays home and cares for her children and sews her family’s clothes. Nor is the ideal woman a writer who supports her family through her talent. Nor is she a great artist. She can be all of those things or none of those things–she must simply be good while being herself. To divorce yourself from yourself is to divorce yourself from who you were made to be. Meg’s personality and dreams are Meg’s personality and dreams for a reason. Jo trying to live Meg’s life wouldn’t have made her a better person. And so on and so on with each sister–just as little Louisa could not be little Anna. All four women grow to become the people they were meant to be, and while doing that they also become better morally.
Jo stubbornness and anger and pride transforms her into a determined, loving, and sacrificial woman who has honed her talents for the good of others as much as, if not more than, herself.
Amy’s envy and pride and obsession with appearance transform into humility and integrity and loving the people around her in a way that makes them more beautiful versions of themselves. This is long-winded and probably making less and less sense so I will end with point #3
3) Don’t come for Amy. She’s my girl.
In the Little Women group that I am part of. There was discussion on the portrayal of this scene in the 2019 film. I will read that to you as well.
Rewatching Little Women . . . and I’m annoyed at Jo March.
Was Amy burning her journal/book/etc a shitty thing to do? Yes, it was, and as a writer myself, I’m not excusing it. If someone destroyed all my writing, I’d be very mad, too. Would I physically attack them over it, though? No. I would not.
Jo is also annoying me in that when they neglect to inform Amy that Beth is sick, Jo says, “Amy has always had a talent for getting out of the hard things in life.” Sorry, what?
- Amy gets attacked by you
- Amy gets hit by her teacher
- Amy has to be without her father
- Amy gets sent away from her family when Beth is first sick
- Amy nearly drowns
- Amy deals with her family neglecting to inform her that her sister is sick
How is that Amy getting out of the hard things in life? Plus, how is it Amy’s fault for not being told that her sister is sick?
Not to mention Amy also had to miss her SISTER’s funeral because no one had informed/prepared her beforehand that Beth was sick. Also, Jo SAW Amy coming to ice skate with her and Laurie and neglected to warn her about the very thing that led her to nearly drown. We saw Laurie warn Jo.
Here is the answer.
In regards to Jo attacking Amy, Jo was notorious for having a terrible temper and the event on the ice rink is what made Jo realize her mistake in overreacting and not controlling herself. The fact that her sister nearly died because of her made Jo want to become a better person and learn how to better communicate with people. This is probably why it felt like Jo was such a terrible person throughout the movie, because the lesson didn’t stick.
The way Jo treated Amy after the ice skating incident was one of my biggest complaints with the movie. No where in the book did Jo continue to harbor harsh feelings towards Amy or ever felt that Amy got out of things. If anything, Jo was more disappointed in herself for not being what Aunt March wanted in a companion, was happy for Amy and Laurie being married because she knew they were perfect for each other. It constantly felt as though Gerwig was pitting Jo and Amy against each other for no other reason than to make you want to like Jo more, but the characterization of Jo in the movie is just God awful.
I am not sure what Gerwig was trying to achieve with adding unnecessary conflict between these two instead of showing their character growth within themselves and in their relationship with each other.
I have heard people saying that Louisa somehow made a 180 degree with Amy´s character when she started to write the Little Women part 2. I disagree with this because in the first part of novel Jo´s flaws are very much out there and her temper is very much out there. In part 2 when sisters actually start to get more close with one-another, that is a natural part of life, and also something that happened in reality. Louisa and May did grew more closer as they mature and they started to understand each other better.
Amy´s behavior as a child was childish because she was a child. Jo´s behavior is also childish because she is constantly making fun of Amy because she is so girly and Amy makes fun of Jo because she is so boyish. Only adaptation which shows arguments from both sides (and not just Amy making fun of Jo) is the modern Little Women adaptation from 2018. All Jo´s moral lesson have to do with her temper but also the fact that Jo can be very judgmental. All Amy´s lessons are about her vanity and popularity. In the beginning Amy´s desire to become a lady is away for her to get out of poverty but as she grows it becomes a tool for self-improvement and thanks to that Amy begins to control her temper beautifully. In an interview Gillian Armstrong who directed the 1994 film said that there should always be two actresses to play Amy. There are over 20 adaptations of Little Women and only two versions where child Amy has been played by a child actress. In most Little Women adaptations 12 year old Amy has been played by an adult woman.
For some time now there has been a theory going on that Amy did have a crush on Laurie already as a child. I tried to read the book this way and I think it does work. It is an interpretation but it does give a deeper context to why did Amy burn Jo´s manuscript because a 12 year old does not necessary know how to handle their feelings in a mature way (especially if they have a crush to their big sister´s best friend). The 1994 film does have a sweet scene with young Amy and Laurie in the carriage together (and a promise of a kiss). I have heard some people complaining that Amy´s and Laurie´s relationship is creepy in the 1994 film. Maybe this comes from the people who remember him transitioning to from a teen to an adult in the film, but Christian Bale was 19 when he played Laurie. 2019 film on the other hand has been criticized that Timothee Chalamet does not go through the transition so he never looks as an adult in the movie, and if I remember right he was 24 during filming. 2018 and 2019 films go with this idea that Amy already had a crush on Laurie as a child. Kristen Dunst has later revealed that when she played Amy in the 1994 film, she had a big crush on Christian Bale. Art imitates life.
Amy has been given a stamp of a social climber but she ain´t one.
Amy grows up in an environment where there isn´t a great deal of options for women. She believes that marrying well she could uplift her family away from poverty even if it would mean that she herself would not be the happiest person. Jo in the first book is a walking contradiction. She wants to be equal to men which is what gender equality and feminism is all about. She is also constantly making fun of her feminine sisters which is inherently anti-feminist. She makes fun of Meg because she wants to fit into the circles of Sally Moffat and other young ladies. She constantly mocks Amy when she uses fancy words and her desire to become a lady.
Girl on Girl Hate
Great deal of hatred that Amy receives has been caused by the fact that Amy likes to be a girl. It is hate towards the feminine. Her movie and tv portrayals are rarely flattering. In the 1933 film and in the 1949 films Amy is first introduces standing in the middle of the class room holding a sign, which says "I should be ashamed of myself".
In the book Amy is introduced together with her sisters before Christmas when father is at the war. Introduction is sweet and does not make a mockery of her or anyone else.
Jo and Amy are perfect mirrors of each others. Many ideas about the masculine that Jo used to cherish and admire were quite harmful. Amy´s early ideas about the feminine were not very realistic either. She connected femininity to very shallow things like being popular and the shape of her nose. Amy´s desire to become a lady was never fully supported in her immediate family and Jo especially was making fun of it. When Beth became ill and Amy went to live with aunt March aunt gave her the structure to become what she wanted. When Amy starts to approach becoming a lady in the terms of self-improvement largely thanks to Esther and aunt March in the process she learns to control her temper and becomes a kinder person.
Because Amy´s femininity has been so heavily demonized we never see her growth process in any adaptations. In the chapter Calls Amy and Jo go for a series of social calls which were part of woman´s role of the time. Jo despises these calls like she despises most of the female labor of the time. Jo tries to avoid speaking with the ladies and more than once she runs out to play with the boys. Amy loves Jo but she is hurt because Jo is making fun of something that is important for her. Jo doesn´t take any of the meetings seriously and her own insecurities also bring out her temper. When they go to visit aunt March and aunt Carol Jo dismisses them and puts herself above them. At the same time aunt Carol is wondering which girl gets to go to Europe and Amy makes a better impression. Calls has never been adapted into movies. Probably because it shows Jo in a bad light. Yet it would be important to adapt it because it does not only show how much Amy has matured but also how the conversations between Jo and Amy are more respectful even if they would disagree.
The 1994 film does not have any scenes from the calls and the viewer doesn´t get any explanation why Jo was not chosen. 1994 film also frames it to happen right after Jo has rejected Laurie which in the book happens much later on. Jo is very mad and jealous to Amy when she hears that she has not been chosen. She is way more mad at herself but she doesn´t want to admit it. This also parallels Jo´s and Laurie´s tempers because neither one of them liked to admit if their own actions hurt other people and rather put the blame on someone else.
In the 2019 film, we once again do not see Jo putting herself above the aunts and losing the trip to Europe. Instead we only see Meryl Streep telling Jo that she is not coming. Film also tries to pin point Jo´s and aunt March´s similarities by portraying aunt March as a happy spinster who only cares about money, when in the novel aunt March is a widow, and sad and unhappy because she had lost her child and her husband who she dearly loved.
In the book Amy feels terrible for getting something that Jo so badly wanted and Jo did not want to show her her own disappointment but to be supportive which is a proof of sisterly love. Amy matured a great deal when she was in Europe. She became more graceful and more serious. Amy also loved aunt March more than anyone else in the family and truly enjoyed the company of her aunt.
There are a lot of things I could say about Jo loosing her trip to Europe and people blaming that on Amy. Once again, that entire narrative is entirely constructed by the film makers, and I think I will make a separate episode where I discuss about it.
Amy´s portrayal was better in Greta Gerwig´s film but even that one has received lots of criticism for portraying young Amy as an immature brat, because an adult woman should not play a 12-year old. In an earlier script of Greta Gerwig´s film after Jo found out about Amy´s and Laurie´s engagement she wanted to punch Amy. This diverges too much from the novel. Even when the writers say they want to do a good with laurie and amy they cant seem to escape their Jo and Laurie obsession.
Book Jo never likes Laurie romantically. This triangle is repeated in all adaptations because we don´t see Laurie´s character arc, we fail to understand why Jo rejects him. In 2017 series Jo became really cross when she found out about Amy´s and Laurie´s engagement. The 2018 film is probably the only one that shows that Laurie is clearly more of a brother to Jo, and yet there is a scene where Jo says to Beth that Amy stole Laurie from her. None of this is in the novel. The whole reason why Jo traveled to New York, was because Laurie was harassing her and she was actually scared to spend time alone with him.
In the novel, even before Jo finds out that Amy and Laurie are engaged she says to Marmee that she thinks Amy and Laurie would be a good couple. Why this has not never been adapted?
Louisa partially based Laurie´s character to her Polish friend Ladislas Wisniewski. They met in Switzerland in 1865 when Louisa was working there and Ladislas was quite flirtatious with Louisa. A year later May Alcott lived in Paris at the same time with Ladislas "Laddie". This has made many Alcott scholars believe that there was some sort of rivalry between the sisters about this young man, but the letters between Louisa and May show that they both became quite tired with him. The call him "boring" and say that he does not take his life or work very seriously.
Julian Hawthorne was the next door neighbour of the Alcotts. It seems that he had a crush on May, but May was 6 years older than Julian. After the publication of Little Women, Julian apparently spread a rumor that he had been the model for Laurie. However this is not somehting that Louisa ever confirmed. Julian was not very interested in school or work and he came from a rather comfortable family setting and May had tried to encourage him to study and make his family proud.
Alf Whitman, was one of the real life Laurie´s and friend of the Alcott sisters. Alf was 5 years younger than Louisa but only 2 years younger than May. Alf and May were very close and when May moved to Europe they continued writing letters to one another, but when Alf was younger and the sisters connected with him through their theater hobby, young Alf was drifting and quite lost with his future plans and both May and Louisa tried to encourage him to study and to be more productive.
In the novel, Laurie is not a price that the two sisters are fighting over. In the novel both Jo and Amy are frustrated that he is wasting his life away. He only goes to school to please his grandfather and he does not want to work. There is literally a chapter in the novel called "Lazy Lawrence". Both Amy and Jo are working class girls and Laurie is rich and in the novel there are scenes where he says that he does not understand why Jo wants to write and why it is so important for her to make her own money.
No matter how hard Jo tries, she can´t get through Laurie, probably because Jo´s relationship to Laurie was very maternal. Jo wanted to go to university, and Laurie took his education for granted. All the models for Friedrich were one way or another connected to education. Louisa herself was an advocate for female education and in her journals from the time when Louisa was in her 20s she wrote about her future wishes of starting a school, possibly running that together with Henry.
Then we have all these real life Laurie´s who I believe were smart young men but for some reason were not interested working or studying. Some of them, like Alf, did decide to be a useful member of the society and made the sisters proud. In the novel Laurie is not stupid. It is mentioned in the novel that he graduates with honors in Latin, and Amy is especially proud of him, but Laurie is lazy.
"Do you think Jo would despise me as you do?"
"Yes, if she saw you now. She hates lazy people. Why don´t you do something splendid, and make her love you+"
"I did my best, but it was no use."
"Graduating well you mean? That was no more than you ought to have done, for your grandfather´s sake. It would have been shameful to fail after spending so much time and money, when everyone knew you could do well".
This scene reveals that Laurie did not go to university for the sake of studying. Book also describes how in the uni Laurie is a party-boy, he flirts and gets into troubles.
In Little Women even though Amy is four years younger than Laurie, she is a lot more mature than he is and it is only thanks to Amy Laurie puts his act together.
The 2019 film includes Laurie saying Amy that she should not marry Fred for the sake of money, but the film does not show Laurie doing any work for Amy. Laurie doesn´t have any kind of growth process. In one of her interviews Greta Gerwig said that Laurie wants Jo to step into the adult world. Laurie in the book is the one who does not want to grow and the only reason he wants to marry Jo is that he wouldn´t need to take any responsibility on his life.
This is what Laurie says in the book, after he has fully internalized everything that Amy has said to him.
"She is right! Talent isn't genius, and you can't make it so. That music has taken the vanity out of my as Rome took it out of her, and I won't be a humbug any longer. Now what shall I do?"
Jo´s Masculine Trajectory
Some readers have struggled reading the part 2 because it portrays Jo in slightly less favorable light than in part 1. Jo has a heavy masculine trajectory. in part 1 she and Laurie are brothers. Jo wishes that she could be soldier and fight in the war like her father. If a readers reads too much to Jo, they see Amy as an annoying little sisters, because that is how Jo sees her.
In part 2 it is now Jo who struggles to fit into the surrounding society. Amy who has more feminine trajectory is better accepted to the Concord´s society. When Jo was still living at home it was okay for her to behave like a boy and family didn´t see too much harm in it but when she grows this old model of masculinity does not suit her and neither she wants to conform to the traditional female role. When Laurie proposed to Jo, he expected her to give up writing and became a socialite, and be something that Jo wasn´t. This is why Friedrich´s character is important because he does not ask or want Jo to conform. Because Jo looks very different and more masculine than other women, she felt she could not find anyone to love. If I quote my podcaster pal Emily, Little Women as a book was also written to offer hope to those who feel that they are never going to find love.
Amy sees the value of the feminine work, good societal status and all the wonderful things that prosper when you know how to make the best of it.
Jo´s feminist awakening
Loosing the trip to Europe became the first step in the terms of Jo´s feminist awakening. Jo realizes that her temper is out of control and the ideas of masculinity that she has been admiring are not working. In the first part of the novel Jo had difficulties to identify with Meg´s pain when Laurie forged letters in the name of his tutor. In the beginning of the second book when Jo becomes the target of Laurie´s unwanted attention it is now that she begins to understand what it feels like when someone does not respect your boundaries. This is repeated in the fourth book Jo´s boys where Jo is in her 50´s and on a full feminist mode. She scolds some of the young male students who treat girls like objects. In Jo´s boys the characters of Nan and Tommy Bangs also echo Jo and Laurie. Nan studies to become a doctor and Tommy is also studying medicine but he isn´t that interest from it. He has anterior motifs. Jo is really annoyed by Tommy´s behavior. So when Tommy unexpectedly falls in love with someone completely different Jo is very pleased and Nan is also relieved.
From Amy Jo learns to value the feminine labor and not underestimate women.
Taking care of Beth brings out her nurturing side and it also makes her to examine her own life in a new light and loosing Beth beautifies the domestic tasks.
From Meg Jo learns that equally respectful relationship can be worth of pursuing.
Jo struggles to fit into the traditional feminine role. Friedrich does not fit into the traditional masculine role. But he doesn´t struggle with it. He is comfortable of being who he is. His intellectualism and philosophical background compliments Jo´s feminist views.
Amy The Feminist
Amy´s desire to improve herself already exist in the first novel. When she doesn´t want to wear the ring aunt March has given to her and when Marmee asks why Amy says it is going to be a reminder for her not to be too selfish.
What is also interesting is that in the first part of Little Women Laurie puts himself above Meg and Jo but he does not put himself above Amy. For example when Amy is writing her will Laurie does not dismiss or scoff her but instead is very supportive and sweet to her.
The problem with Hollywood turning Laurie into the perfect boy next door is that in the minds of many that turns him into an award for sisters to fight over when that is not part of the books narrative. Amy is also a feminist but it is not straight-to-your face feminism to which Jo´s feminism eventually develops. For example Amy plans to open a charity that would help women to break into the male dominated art market. Both Amy and Jo were raised in the same politically aware home and both were encouraged to think outside the box.
Thank you so much for
Take care and make good choices.
Hello all the Little Women fans.
Today´s comment I came across on Tumblr and it reminded me of Little Women.
These generic tropes, or the lack them 100% apply to Laurie in Little Women films. The answer why Jo rejects Laurie, is in the novel, but the films never give you an answer, because they always erase Laurie´s character arc. Not too long ago I had a discussion with someone who said that they always start as Jo and Laurie shippers when they watch the films and then they end up cheering Jo and Friedrich, but they never understand why Jo rejects Laurie and that there must be something that the films intentionally leave out.
When you erase Laurie´s erase character arc, at the same you actually end up erasing Jo´s arch, Amy´s arc and Friedrich´s arc, because they are all intertwined. If you want to find the roots of TeamBhaer versus TeamLaurie debate the answer is Laurie´s missing character arc. In the 19th century when Little Women appeared, Laurie was extremely popular character. I noticed after the #metoo campaign in the literary blogs that I visited there began to be more nuanced conversations about Laurie and the way he treated Jo and how different it was to the way he treated Amy. It is sad that it is only now after over 100 years of the publication of Little Women, people are finally waking up to discuss about Laurie and the leeway his character has been given in the past. Louisa always included educational messages to her works. She wrote Laurie to be an example of a character who can turn their life around. Back in the days Little Women was not only read by young women, but young men as well and Louisa wanted to have positive influence on them. In Louisa´s novels there are similar characters like Laurie who are always looking for a female guidance. Some of them, like Charlie in Rose in Bloom, expect the woman to do the work and save them from themselves. When this does not happen and the woman refuses they surrend themselves to their own demons. When Laurie wants to be with Jo, he is on that same path, but it is actually Jo´s rejection and desire to have Amy´s approval that forces him to either choose to man up or go down with the toxic self-centerdness.
This episode is sponsored by audible. Audible has a wide range of books to read and podcasts to listen. If you have not yet read Eight cousins and Rose in Bloom. I highly recommend them. I was not at all prepared how emotionally involved I got into Mac´s and Rose´s romance. If you click the affiliate link in the description you can get a 30 days free trial. https://amzn.to/3uFSyNf
This is Small umbrella in the rain The Little Women Podcast - Why Jo and Laurie don´t end up together (what the films leave out)
The Book Laurie
Most distressing part in the adaptations from 1933 to 2019 is the complete lack of Laurie´s character arc and not showing him as a full person. In the book before Laurie moves to Concord he has been tossed around in Europe from one boarding school to another and then he moves to live with his grandfather and they have to build their relationship from the scratch. Older Mr.Lawrence had rejected the marriage of Laurie´s parents so since the beginning Laurie feels unwanted and this is why he becomes so attached to the Marches. He even calls Marmee his mother and that is why he is clinging on to Jo so much. Because of Jo´s idealization towards the masculine Laurie thought he could do anything and she would always forgive him. Hannah describes Laurie as a weathercock. He is a character with constant mood changes. He can be sensitive but he also has high temper. Which has never been shown in the films. He can be very inconsiderate towards other people´s feelings (same way as Jo) like during the time when he forged those letters and hurt Meg. Times when Laurie is sweet and caring are the times when he puts other people before him. Like during Beth´s illness and when he went to cheer up Amy when she was staying at aunt March.
There are times when Laurie is vain like a peacock. He likes nice clothes and keeping up good appearance which is something that Jo at times makes fun off. He can be funny but also very immature. He wants to break free from his grandfather´s obey dance but he is afraid to do that. Laurie is an orphan. Relationship with his grandfather is complicated. For older Mr Lawrence Laurie resembles both of the children he lost and this is why he doesn´t want to hear music because of the painful memories and I suppose self-blame. It is only with his encounters with Beth these wounds start to heal. Laurie doesn´t like school. He wants to go to Italy and be a composer and to re-connect with his roots, this is aspect of him that is hardly ever included in the adaptations. Laurie´s Italian roots are connected to his love for music, his temper and his brown skin.
Laurie The Composer
Only adaptations where Laurie actually plays the piano are series from the 70s and 2017 mini-series. What it comes to the movies it is Mr. Bhaer who is actually much more musical and Fritz does sing and plays music in the books. But it is strange that there are only couple adaptations where Laurie actually plays piano and after all Laurie is a composer. So far all film versions have had their focus on romanticizing Jo and Laurie instead of giving him a full-personality. They follow the Hollywood narrative that the only reason why Laurie exists is to be pretty and to be in love with Jo and he doesn´t have any other aspirations or inspirations outside that. The plot of the novel is unconventional because it flips the conventional romance trope, but when the adaptations try to do this while erasing Laurie´s arc they actually follow the conventional romance trope, and not the unconventional story that Louisa wrote.
Laurie The Prankster
In the beginning of Good Wives when John and Meg move to their new home Laurie comes bringing gifts; knife cleaner that spoils all the knives, soap that takes the skin off one´s hands, sweeper that leaves all the dirt and bunch of other similar items. Each week when Laurie is on holiday from college he brings them random useless things. It can be a funny joke for the first couple of times but Laurie does it for months. It´s behavior you could expect from a teen-ager but not from a 21 year old. John and Meg are poor. Laurie is rich. He could give them something useful. None of Laurie´s pranks are never shown in the movies. Big part why Jo wanted to be more boyish and her being dismissive over feminine was about showing off. Laurie´s pranks were his way of showing off and to get attention.
Call to conform
It is when Laurie goes to college the gender expectations of the time start to have more bigger impact to Jo´s and Laurie´s behavior. Laurie is not very interested from his studies. He goes to college simply to please his grandfather. Laurie is more of a party-boy in college. That is not necessarily a character flaw. Quite many young people go to college to do just that still today. In college Laurie smokes, drinks, plays pool, flirts with girls, gets into fights (never shown in any adaptations) and Jo criticizes him for doing these things. Jo doesn´t want to do any of these things but she wishes she could have the liberty to do whatever she wants without being judged by the society. Jo was very aware of the unfairness of the situation. In the books Jo never likes Laurie romantically and his romantic interest only makes Jo feel uncomfortable. Not only does their dynamics change because Jo doesn´t want to fit into the traditional female role of the time but because Laurie fits into the traditional 19th century male role almost too well. Their relationship in their youth worked when there was more space for gender fluidly but it starts to fall apart when they are called to conform more. When Laurie develops a crush on Jo he breaks that brotherly bond and that shatters Jo´s ideas of masculinity the way she has come to know it. It has never been showed in movies. The closest example of this the way it is described in the books is the song Astonishing from Little Women musical.
Because of the copyrights I can not include clips from the musical, I´m not going to sing either but I will read you the lyrics.
Who is he?
Who is he with his marry me?
With his ring and his marry me,
the nerve, the gall.
This is not,
Not what was meant to be.
How could he ruin it all
With those two words?
I thought I knew him
Thought that he knew me
When did it change?
What did I miss?
When I thought all along,
That we were meant to find frontiers,
How could I be so wrong?
And I need,
How I need my sisters here
If I can't share my dreams
What were they for?
I thought our promise
That we would never change and never part.
I thought together,
We'd amaze the world.
How can I live my dreams or even start when everything has come apart.
I thought home was all I'd ever want
My attic all I'd ever need.
Now nothing feels the way it was before
And I don't know how to proceed.
I only know I'm meant for something more
I've got to know if I can be
There's a life
That I am meant to lead
A life like nothing I have known
I can feel it
And it's far from here
I've got to find it on my own
Even now I feel it's heat upon my skin.
A life of passion that pulls me from within,
A life that I am making to begin.
There must be somewhere I can be
I'll find my way
I'll find it far away
I'll find it in unexpected and unknown
I'll find my life in my own way
Here I go
There's no turning back
My great adventure has begun.
I may be small
But I've got giant plans
To shine as brightly as the sun.
I will blaze until I find my time and place
I will be fearless,
Surrendering modesty and grace
I will not disapear without a trace
I'll shout and start a riot
Be anything but quiet
I'll be Astonishing
This is by far the closest what happens in the novel. It´s like what my one of my friend´s said "That Laurie was horny does not justify his actions". Jo felt really uncomfortable by Laurie´s advances. In the novel, Jo is also frustrated staying at home and she wants to go to New York, mainly to gather new experiences but also try her wings and become more independent.
Because of the open narrative of Greta Gerwig´s film, which completely erases Jo´s arch and growth process, there are people now who say that, Jo just wanted to stay at home with her family and never grow up. Louisa May Alcott´s own name suggestion for Little Women part 2 was "Leaving the nest". Little Women is a coming of age novel, so it´s all about Jo maturing from a girl into a woman. Jo leaves home, because she wants to grow and leave childhood behind. Greta Gerwig also said that Laurie "want´s Jo to step up into the adult world". Seriously, what is this book that she has read? in the novel, Jo is really frustrated Laurie´s immature behavior, and she often criticizes it, and it actually makes Laurie feel quite uncomfortable.
Laurie´s behaviour becomes more obsessive and as a result Jo travels to New York to work as a governess and there she meets Friedrich. The movies have swapped the timeline so that Jo travels to New York after she has rejected Laurie´s proposal when in the book proposal happens after Jo has returned to Concord. When Jo meets Friedrich in New York he is not only her sexual awakening but Friedrich´s masculinity it collapses the male-female binary Jo knows. When Jo meets Friedrich the narrator says that for the first time Jo did not compare a man to Laurie. Up until to that point Laurie has been her ideal of masculinity but those old models have failed her miserably and then she meets a man who provides her a new definition of masculinity. Which does not demand Jo to change or to be traditionally feminine. Which is what Laurie´s model of masculinity did.
Two very different proposals
Lot of the relationship between Jo and Laurie was based on mutually reinforcing ideas of toxic masculinity. Eventually this turned out against both of them. In Jo´s case it made her to loose the trip to Europe and in Laurie´s case it brought out his temper and more possessive behavior. The best example why Jo rejected Laurie´s proposal and why she did fell in love with Friedrich is to examine the two proposals. When Laurie proposes to Jo he says he loves her because Jo has always been so good to him. He doesn´t love her because of her personality or her ambitions. Jo had a tendency to mother Laurie and we can probably explain this with the fact that the young men who were inspirations for Laurie´s character were much younger than Louisa. Being maternal figure was something that came naturally to Jo. In away March´s adopted Laurie to be part of their family unit. That Jo sees Laurie as her brother makes perfect sense and sisters often become pseudo-mother figures to their brothers. In movies we only see Laurie´s pain but we never see the pressure he puts on Jo or how uncomfortable his actions make her feel. When we read the book and see Laurie´s character through the movie´s lens it perpetuates the idea that the controlling behavior he has in the books doesn´t matter and it is a sign of love. Yet the book Laurie is not in love with Jo. He is in love with the idea of love. Laurie´s story and his character arc in Little Women it is not about Amy or Jo. It´s a story how Laurie becomes a man.
I´v tried to show it you but you wouldn´t let me. Now I am going to make you hear and give me an answer for I can´t go on any longer.
"But girls are so queer you never know what they mean. They say no when they mean yes, and drive a man out of his wits just for the fun of it"'
Laurie seems to be thinking that Jo would fall in love with him because that is what girls do. Laurie has said similar things as a teen ager. Things like "someday I´ll get you Jo" which is quite a possessive thing for a 15 year old boy to say and it highlights how much the two have fed each others with harmful stereotypes about gender roles. Now that they are adults Jo feels the need to leave this toxic cycle. Not just because of her own sake but also Laurie´s sake and it is toxic because up until to that point Laurie has been told what to do by Jo, John Brooke or by his grandfather. Laurie wants to keep the status quo of their relationship so that he does not need to grow and take the responsibility of himself or his own actions. Laurie was not used to making decisions. Marrying Jo is an easy escape of his life remaining the same rather than different as it is meant to be. This type of chase is not something that Jo likes or enjoys. It makes her feel incredibly uncomfortable.
Most adaptations have also chosen the easy escape by not showing the slow and painful work of the personal transformation that Laurie does go through in the books. If we now take a look at the narrative of the second book. There are no glimpses inside to Laurie´s head where he would be thinking about Jo or dreaming about future with her. When Jo leaves New York we do get a glimpse inside Friedrich´s mind and he does admit to himself that he is indeed in love with her and he wonders what life with Jo would be like. Laurie´s actions in most part of the second book don´t make any sense because Laurie´s mind is a complete mess.
Almost like the lack of Laurie´s inner thoughts the book is telling us that Laurie hasn´t thought things through. This is another contrast between Laurie´s shallow idealized dreaminess and Friedrich´s deeply grounded reality (@this-thrown-out-gentleman).
Jo is honest with Laurie. She sees that if she would marry him their arguments would escalate to violence. Laurie´s relationship to Jo is more codependent.
Laurie wants to keep the status quo of their toxic relationship and it is toxic because up until to that point Laurie had been used to do by Jo, John Brooke or his grandfather. He wasn´t used to making decisions (@renee561)
When Jo rejects Laurie we should be on Jo´s side. Yet in 90% of Little Women adaptions Laurie´s character arc is missing. He doesn´t have a temper (or character arc) in 1933, 1949, 1994, 2018 and 2019 films. Series from 1950 and 2017. Little Women musical and or in Japanese anime.
Trying to threat someone you say you love is never a good idea. Instead of seeing any fault in his own actions Laurie blames it on someone else and he wants Jo to feel guilty for rejecting him. Then he guilt trips her even more by saying that she will marry someone and that she will be a silly woman by going back on her word of never marrying. Jo has a brilliant response but Laurie doesn´t want to hear it.
Then Laurie threatens to go to the devil and behaves like a 19th century brat boy. Laurie´s proposal has been traditionally abridged or the dialogue has been changed. In the adaptations it has been portrayed to be a romantic scene when in the books it is a conflict. Little Women is often a misunderstood book because it does something very unique and powerful. Laurie´s proposal was never about Jo. It was all about him
It is still all about him and he still wants Jo to feel guilty. Thank god for the grandfather (this is good parenting). Six moths later Amy meets Laurie in Europe and they have not met for four years. Amy finds him changed and different. She scolds him and his attitude but it comes from a good place because Amy knows that Laurie has potential to make most of his life and when she carefully asks what happened between him and Jo...
Still all about him. Not about Jo.
Amy´s lecture did Laurie good though of course he did not own it until long afterwards. Men seldom do for when women are the advisers. The lords of the creation wont take the advice until they have persuaded themselves that it is just what they intended to do. Then they act upon it and if it succeeds they give the weaker vessel half the credit of it. If it fails they generously give her the whole. Little Women chapter 41.
Amy´s words start to effect on Laurie yet in his mind Laurie thinks that Amy´s advice was unnecessary and that he had always meant to do something. Laurie´s biggest flaws are his pride and vanity but also his lack of ability to put himself to another person´s position and this is why his growth process is slow and painful. Still at this point Laurie doesn´t see women as individuals. He sees himself above them. In Vienna he starts to compose and opera which would harrow Jo´s soul and melt her heart. Once again it´s all about him but the opera doesn´t go that well. He wants to capture his romantic passion and all things that come to mind are Jo´s oddities, faults and freaks.
Romantic or creepy?
The moment when Laurie caught himself thinking the word "brotherly" and Jo it is almost like he sees himself as a character in an opera he is trying to compose. He immediately sends Jo a letter and proposes her again. Once again it is all about him and not about Jo. Proposing someone right after they have lost their sister is not a good idea. When Jo´s response arrives and she still says no Laurie feels relieved but instead of feeling bad for guilt tripping her for quite a long time he wants to cherish his memory as being tragic romantic hero. It is still all about him. Why was Laurie so obsessed and why he never listened to what Jo had to say and why he felt guilty when he started to develop romantic feelings towards Amy? since we know Jo never cared about him like that.
As being said there are no scenes in the books where Laurie is thinking Jo romantically or dreaming about a life with her. All his dreams are really about seeing himself as a romantic hero. Laurie feels guilty because his love for Jo is mainly gratitude. She invited him to be part of their family. Something that Laurie was always lacking. Thanks to the over the top ideas of masculinity he and Jo fed to each others Laurie didn´t learn to respect women.
We should not ignore Laurie´s background
It is easy to ignore the stories of the male characters in Little Women, because the four sisters are under a microscope. From the little that we know from Laurie´s background it would seem that when he was a child he was tossed from one boarding school to another and he did not have any stable parental figures or that he never spent enough time in one place to be able to establish such relationships. Quite early in the novel Laurie admits to Jo that he feels envious of the sisters bond to their mother.
Laurie´s and Jo´s relationship is characterised by childhood innocence. Jo represents the nurturing feminine presence Laurie was craving to have in his life at the same time Laurie is a brothernal figure for Jo who compliments her views on non-conformity (Ajedisith)
Jo and the March family become a refuge of stability to Laurie. It is only when he moves to Concord at the age of 15 for the first time he is surrounded by people who stick long enough to put boundaries and try to raise him. More than often Laurie was frustrated by Jo´s lectures but at the same he was depending on them.
Falling in love with the idea of love
Little Women is a semi-biographical novel. We can trace Laurie´s actions to Louisa. Same way as Laurie Louisa´s childhood was unstable and turbulent and the family moved very often. When Louisa was young she had a big crush to the family friend and next door neighbour philosopher Waldo Emmerson. Emmerson was also one of the many men who were inspirations to Friedrich´s character. More than often Emmerson saved Alcott´s from troubles and he became a symbol of stability for Louisa same way as Jo is for Laurie. Louisa became obsessed with German female writer and social activist Bettina von Armin and her book Goethes Briefwechsel mit einem Kinde (Goethe´s correspondence with a child). Which included love letters Bettina wrote to the poet Goethe.
Bettina represents herself as a lover. A role that is traditionally seen as more masculine (Kundera). Bettina was in love with the idea of love. Love as an emotion. Not as a love relation. In her letters she does not ask his opinions or share ideas with him.
"I turned myself into Bettina and made Emmerson my Goethe" - LMA
Laurie is not in love with Jo. He is in love with the idea of love. It is about putting up on a role and a narcissistic one for that when it hurts other people. Which is exactly what happened between Jo and Laurie and Bettina and Goethe. Let´s call Laurie´s behavior with it´s actual name, harrassment. When Louisa was an adult she did tell Emmerson how she had built this romantic fairytale scenario in her head. Emmerson himself had been completely unaware of it. Nevertheless they had very strong friendship throughout their lives (Reisen).
There is the famous Little Women passage to adulthood ritual. It basically means that a reader who has read the book as a child and romanticized Jo and Laurie and quite possibly watched the 1994 film more than once, reads the book as an adult and finds out that Laurie was very childish and he and Jo were very ill-matched and they move on to root Jo and Fritz or Amy and Laurie or both. We can also see it as a metaphor how a person develops a mildly delusional obsession over another. Especially young people can think that their life only has a meaning when they find a partner who´s only reason for existing is them but it is not healthy and not love. When you truly love someone you love them for what they truly are. Not the way you want to see yourself with them. In Little Women Laurie himself is the one character who goes through the Little Women passage of adulthood ritual. It is not until he goes through the process of self-growth and begins to see the women in his life as what they really are, he is truly able to love someone.
Friedrich´s proposal is complete opposite. He wants to tell her how he feels about her and let her decide. After Jo has left New York they have been writing letters to each others and when he comes to see Jo in Concord he hopes to see signs of love from Jo and when he reveals to her that he has gotten a job and he is going to the west Jo´s walls go down.
He gives Jo all the power and control and he lets her know that everything what she feels and thinks is important for him and he wants to make sure that she returns to his feelings and that their lives and goals work together. He is not even making a marriage proposal. He is asking if she could love him. In comparison to Laurie Friedrich´s screen portrayals are always closer to the books, even if most of his parts are left out because he is less romanticized character. He also acknowledges his flaws same way as Jo does. In terms of Friedrich´s narrative Little Women is also about identity but in his case it is not about forming identity but when he falls in love with Jo he reshapes his already existing identity.
Friedrich as Goethe
Louisa was a great admirer of German writer and poet Goethe. Lot of research has been made on Goethe´s influence on Louisa´s writings. For example long fatal love chase has many parallels with Goethe´s faust. But less research has been done between Goethe´s writings and Little Women. Goethe was one of Louisa´s favorite authors and she credited him to be the one author who has taught her the most about creating and understand characters. Her copy of Wilhelm Meister´s Apprenticeship was given to her by Waldo Emmerson (and Louisa filled it with scribbles and personal observations). In Little Women Friedrich gives Jo copy of Shakespeare´s work and through that Jo learns how much more there is to find out about storytelling. Fritz also encourages Jo to study people around her so that she becomes better at developing and creating characters. Goethe was one of the biggest inspirations for Friedrich´s character.
Laurie as the Goethean Protagonist
Trigger warning there will be mentions of suicides.
What it comes to Laurie´s character arc there are lots of themes that come straight from Goethe´s writings. Goethe´s first financially successful novel (and first German international best-seller) The sorrows of young Werther is a semi-biographical novel. Both protagonist young Werther and Goethe himself grew up privileged same way as Laurie. Werther´s love interest Charlotte is marrying another worthy man Albert. Werther makes Charlotte the only sole purpose of his living. He is not only miserable. He is proud of his misery. In fact he endorses it (Kirch). As a result he commits a suicide. What kills Werther is not being disappointed in love. It has nothing to do with Charlotte. What kills him is the toxic self-centeredness. What is common with Werther and Laurie is that they are both extremely sensitive. Same way as Little Women the sorrows of young Werther has often been misread. Some readers endorsed and glamorised Werther´s suicide and when the book became vastly popular it started a wave of suicides of young people in Germany who tried to emulate the tragic end of their romantic hero.
"The children took especial interest in the love-story, and when poor Laurie was so obstinately refused by Jo, “they wept aloud, and refused to be comforted,” and in some instances were actually made ill by grief and excitement" (Cheney)
References to Goethe continue in Laurie´s proposal. After being rejected Laurie threats to take his life and puts enormous pressure on Jo. Same way as with the sorrows of young Werther a great deal of Little Women fans, especially younger ones, find these worrying threats passionate and romantic. Goethe´s book was widely misunderstood since he meant it as criticism and warning example towards life-consuming self-absorption.
"When I re-read the novel in my early twenties, I still technically thought Jo should have ended up with Laurie, but I started to feel uncomfortable about feeling that way. Wasn’t it weird, I thought, to feel that way when the character of Jo so explicitly rejected his proposal? Wasn’t it a bit like telling a dear friend she should date someone she wasn’t crazy about just because he had feelings for her and is *such a good guy*? I dismissed this though because a) death of the author, non-canonical pairings are a-ok, etc. and b) I have a moderate grasp on reality and I do recognize Jo is a fictional character, not my friend. But re-reading Little Women this month, I realized with mounting alarm that as a potential romantic partner for Jo, Laurie isn’t a good guy; he is, in fact, a Nice Guy™. […] The story of Laurie and Jo is not, as I had previously remembered, one of Jo *seeming* like she loves Laurie and making an out-of-left-field decision. It is very much in the field! Jo consistently indicates that she does not have feelings for Laurie, does not want him to flirt with her, and tries to prevent him from doing so every time he flirts with her. And he ignores her, again and again. But wait, there’s more! When Jo realizes that her very consistent attempts to communicate her disinterest are not working, she decides to move to New York for adventure and also to get away from Laurie. […] There may be some who would accuse me of selective reading. After all, Laurie isn’t a terrible person! […] To which I say: yes, but all of this can be true *and Laurie can simultaneously still be a terrible potential partner for Jo*. […] What I realized re-reading Little Women as a grown-ass adult is this: making Jo and Laurie perfect for each other wouldn’t just require a different ending, it would require an entirely different book. So, it’s been over twenty years in the making, but better late than never: Louisa May Alcott, I’m sorry. You were right.”
Maddie Rodgriguez, ‘Laurie Isn’t a Good Guy, He’s a Nice Guy™’ (bookriot.com)
Proof in the pudding:
As Goethe, when he had a joy or a grief, put it into a song, so Laurie resolved to embalm his love sorrow in music, and to compose a Requiem which should harrow up Jo's soul and melt the heart of every hearer.
Little Women, chapter 41
Wilhelm Meister´s Apprenticeship and Laurie´s redemption arc
Wilhelm Meister´s apprenticeship is a story about self-realisation. The story centers around Wilhelm who wants to escape empty, mundane, bourgeois life of a businessman. After a failed romance he joins into a theater company. In Wilhelm Meister´s apprenticeship and in many Goethe´s works in general have elements from Shakespeare´s plays. In fact in the novel´s dialogue there is a great deal of discussion about Shakespeare´s work and Wilhelm´s theater group also performs a production of Hamlet where Wilhelm plays the lead. Theater world is filled with seductions, love affairs and scandals. The more Wilhelm sees it the more he dislikes it and he realizes that he is not fitting for this type of lifestyle. What Wilhelm really needs is to figure out who he is, what he wants from life and how he should live. Both Werther and Wilhelm can be seen as failed genius. They are sensitive and artistic but they are not creatively productive enough. Laurie in this case is more similar to Wilhelm because unlike Werther Laurie goes through the process of self-discovery and like Wilhelm Laurie also becomes a husband and father (which brings long desired purpose to his life) and a contributing member of the society which is not something he was before.
Wilhelm Meister´s apprenticeship introduces the character of Mignon. Mignon was kidnapped as a child by bandits and Wilhelm saves her. They tour the country together with the theater group, go to picnics, flirt and joke with each others. Mignon has a constant longing to her homeland Italy. She falls in love with Wilhelm but he is in love with someone else. Eventually Mignon dies for longing (a common theme in Goethe´s works).
In Wilhelm Meister´s Apprenticeship there is also an important character called Friedrich and one of the female characters, Marina, also likes to cross-dress (same way as Jo does).
"It's genius simmering, perhaps. I'll let it simmer, and see what comes of it," he said, with a secret suspicion all the while that it wasn't genius, but something far more common. Whatever it was, it simmered to some purpose, for he grew more and more discontented with his desultory life, began to long for some real and earnest work to go at, soul and body, and finally came to the wise conclusion that everyone who loved music was not a composer. Returning from one of Mozart's grand operas, splendidly performed at the Royal Theatre, he looked over his own, played a few of the best parts, sat staring at the busts of Mendelssohn, Beethoven, and bach, who stared benignly back again. Then suddenly he tore up his music sheets, one by one, and as the last fluttered out of his hand, he said soberly to himself...
"She is right! Talent isn't genius, and you can't make it so. That music has taken the vanity out of my as Rome took it out of her, and I won't be a humbug any longer. Now what shall I do?"
The purest form of love is to love the full-reality of the other person.
She did not hear him cross the courtyard beyond, nor see him pause in the archway that led from the subterranean path into the garden. He stood a minute looking at her with new eyes, seeing what no one had ever seen before, the tender side of Amy's character. Everything about her mutely suggested love and sorrow, the blotted letters in her lap, the black ribbon that tied up her hair, the womanly pain and patience in her face, even the little ebony cross at her throat seemed pathetic to Laurie, for he had given it to her, and she wore it as her only ornament. If he had any doubts about the reception she would give him, they were set at rest the minute she looked up and saw him, for dropping everything, she ran to him, exclaiming in a tone of unmistakable love and longing...
Is it possible that anyone who has not been happy with the books have been looking both Laurie and Friedrich from completely wrong perspective?
"Throughout his many works, Goethe stresses love as the foundation of relationships, and he did so living in a culture where marriage matches were typically determined by economic factors. It was a radical position to take.
The difference between “You love me!” and “You love me?” The substitution of a question mark for an exclamation point “changes the meaning completely” (Gustafson).
There is a fine line between love and obsession and the philosophical and psychological exploration of the two is a common theme in Louisa May Alcott´s literal works.
A year before Louisa wrote Little Women, she had a fling with a young man called Ladislas Wisniewski, a young Polish composer. He was 10 years younger than Louisa, and one of the models for Laurie. Louisa describes Ladislas as a charming prankster, and apparently at some point even considered a future with him, but Louisa´s letters reveal that she find Ladislas quite immature and irresponsible. A year after the publication of Little Women, Louisa wrote an article called Happy Women, where she says that one should only marry for love, and any other imitation of love, is only a shadow. Louisa often drew from her real life experiences and wrote them to her stories. If you ask me, a Louisa May Alcott essayist, why Jo rejected Laurie, the answer is very simple, Laurie is based on Ladislas Wisniewski and Alf Whitman. Louisa loved Alf like a brother. Louisa was very lonely when she met Ladislas. She liked to hang out with him but then realized that she didn´t truly love him.
Remaining notes of Louisa´s own romantic encounters and her intense need to protect her reputation does suggest that she put lots of thought and consideration to the true nature of love. Louisa May Alcott also lived during a time period when romantic love became the basis of marriage when before that marriage was based on economical factors and in all her novels Louisa promotes the idea of marriage based on love. When reading Louisa´s journals we find out that Louisa loved philosopher Henry Thoreau. Henry passed away when Louisa was 28 and Henry was 44. It is possible that this is the reason why Louisa never married, because Henry was her soul mate and anyone who has ever been in love knows that, soul mates are not easy to find. Later in life Louisa wrote in her journals, she believed that she was going to re-unite with her soul mate in her next life (Lukens). Interestingly in Little Women, Jo and Friedrich marry when Jo is 28 and Fritz 44. All Alcott sisters wanted to marry for love, and both Louisa and her sister May sometimes found it very difficult (Ticknor). Both being working women, it wasn´t that easy for them to find love in the world where financial stability was seen more important than personal happiness.
Louisa wrote Jo, the happy ending she had wished for herself.
Thank you for listening. Stay well and make good choices.
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott, 150 years edition, Penguin Classics 2009
Sorrows of young Werther, Goethe, 1787, Saga Egmont, 2020
Wilhelm Meister´s Apprenticeship, Goethe, 1795, Saga Egmont, 2020
May Alcott, a Memoir, Caroline Ticknor, 1927
Life lessons from Goethe by Adan Kirch, New Yorker, 2016 issue
Stella: A Play for Lovers (1776) (2018) English translation of Goethe's novel (Peter Land and Susan Gustafson)
Immortality, Milan Kundera, 1988
Louisa May Alcott, Letters to Maggie Lukens
Goethe´s correspondence with a child, Bettina Von Armin, 1837
Goethe and Bettina (from Goethetc)
Hello Global community of Little Women fans.
Today´s comment shout out goes to @notafraidof-virginiawoolf who says the following:
Friedrich Bhaer is the only convincingly sexy man in literature I have decided.
That is some legitimate Fritz Bhaer appreciation. Friedrich, he is based on many men who Louisa May Alcott personally found attractive and one of them was Goethe.
From all the episodes I´ve done to this channel, the one about Louisa May Alcott´s love for Germany , it is probably the one I´v got most feedback. When people have contacted me and they´v wanted to discuss with me about Little Women, lot of people mention that particular episode or the articles I wrote about it and that it has helped them to understand Little Women and Friedrich´s and Jo´s relationship. It´s nice because I went through the same feelings when I was doing the research. Ever since I posted that episode and I mentioned the Goethe connections, I´v got people asking me if I could speak more about it and here we are.
Sources I have used to gather this information has mostly come from Meghan Armknecht´s excellent essay called "Jo marries Goethe, Professor Bhaer as the Goethean ideal in Louisa May Alcott´s Little Women" and Christine Doyle's amazing essay "Singing Mignon´s song, German culture and literature in Little Women". I have read lots of books and essays about Louisa May Alcott. Sometimes I feel that when the writer is talking about"Little Women" they are actually not speaking about the novel, but some of the movies. It can be very frustrating, and I think some of them don´t even realize they are doing that, but Christine Doyle, she has read the books and knows them very well. I can recommend her Louisa May Alcott studies.
I have also used Goethe as one of my sources. I read Sorrows of young Werther, who´s story is very similar to Laurie and his over-compelling emotional turbulent and Wilhelm Meister, book that has love stories that Louisa reprises in Little Women. These were Louisa´s favorite novels that she read multiple times during her life. She had the framework for the love stories build up years before she was asked to write Little Women. In her essay Megan Armknecht said that there has been not a lot research done between Little Women and Goethe´s novels. This is really unknown territory and it can completely change the way we think about Louisa May Alcott. Maybe after you have listened this episode you come to the same conclusion and start do your own research on this topic.
This episode is sponsored by Audible. From Audible you can find unlimited amount of books to read and you can get a free trial with the affiliate link, that you can find from the description.You can find books like Goethe´s Wilhelm Meister which I am going to open up a bit in this podcast and of course Little Women and it´s sequels, if you have not read it yet.
(Audible link https://amzn.to/3uFSyNf )
This is Small Umbrella In The Rain The Little Women Podcast - Jo Marries Goethe, Louisa May Alcott´s fascination to the German Poet.
Louisa May Alcott and the transnational family
Louisa May Alcott, great American writer was born in 1832. The same year great German writer and poet Goethe passed away.
Was that a sign?
Louisa became familiar with Goethe as a child. Thanks to her father Bronson, who had Goethe´s biography, in his small but selective library. By the end of her life, Louisa had managed to collect all American editions and some German editions of Goethe´s works and often send notes to her friends to let her know when new editions were available, so she could complete her Goethe collection.
This is what Alcott scholar Christine Doyle writes:
By the time Alcott wrote Jo´s Boys (which is the last Little Women book) in 1880s. She had spent a life time reading Goethe, and he was still clearly and consciously important to her. In 1876 and again in 1883, se had made attempts to collect as much of his work as possible. She wrote to her publisher Thomas Niles "Thanks for the Goethe book. I want everything that comes out about him" (Signing Mignon´s song, Doyle).
Louisa was actually born in to the first American town that was settled by German immigrants in 1683. This was Germantown in Pennsylvania. Louisa was born into a time when Americans started to consume German literature and there was somewhat a "German epidemic" in New England. This was also the time when American universities started to include German books into their collections and many of these educational reformers were transcendentalists, like the Alcott´s.
During those years German immigrants and German literature made a powerful impact on America. Quoting historian Russel Nye "Although Irish immigrants were the most numerous (Marches in Little Women, and Alcott´s in real life were descendants of Irish immigrants) Germans were close behind, numbering 1,3 million in 1860s, In addition to their Protestant heritage, which made the typical German immigrant far less suspect in America than the Irish Catholic, German immigrants were welcomed for their "socially sophisticated tradition" that included food, art and support for education.
The attitude towards immigrants varied depending on the location. Areas like New England where there was a long history of German immigration, people were naturally a lot more accepting, but this was not the case in many other places. In Little Women Jo points out the difficulties Friedrich has finding a job, because he is an outsider and speaks with broken English. We can assume that this is why the local universities do not wish to hire him, despite the fact that he was a teacher of philosophy in Germany. When Friedrich proposes Jo he says that he is going to move to the west and work as a teacher there and the two agree to wait and work for their shared future. This probably is a reference to Louisa´s love for philosopher Henry Thoreau, who to Louisa embodied the ideology of the west. West in the popular imagination refers into to the last frontier of American settlement.
Nye sums up; They (German immigrants) were "adaptable, ambitious and strongly patriotic".
Just such an immigrant is Friedrich Bhaer, whose character allows Alcott to acknowledge many of the positive aspects of German culture that the new immigrants embodied. Though a renowned professor in Berlin, Bhaer endures anonymity and poverty in America to honor his promise to his sister, who had married an American and wanted her two German-American sons to be raised there (Doyle).
Goethe Louisa´s literal idol
Goethe is still today a huge figure in Germany and in German speaking countries, one must read at least some of his works to get into the university they want. Lots of research has been done between the similarities in Louisa´s novel "A long fatal love chase" and Goethe´s Faust but the connections between Goethe´s writings and Little Women is just beginning.
Friedrich and Jo are both mixed characters. Louisa wrote Jo to be an idealized version of herself, therefore Jo also has elements from women who Louisa admired. Louisa wrote Friedrich to be her own ideal man, so Friedrich has elements of men who Louisa loved and admired, and Goethe was one of these men.
Friedrich as a character has striking similarities with Goethe, that go beyond their German background. When Jo writes letter home, she describes Friedrich for the first time.
"Mrs Kirk told me he was from Berlin. Very learned and good but poor as a church mouse".
Goethe was not poor as a church mouse . He actually came from an aristocratic background but Friedrich shares Goethe´s intellectualism and the book gives hints that if Fritz would have remained in Germany he would have risen in to great fame, because of his intellectualism.
In his native city he had been a man much honored and esteemed for learning and integrity. Jo felt proud to know that he was an honored professor in Berlin, though only a poor language master in America and his homely, hard working life, was much beautified by the spice of romance which this discovery gave it.
Goethe´s native city was not Berlin. He was from Weimar, but the two cities are only hundred miles away from each other in the same region.
Quote from Megan Armknecht:
By the time when Alcott wrote Little Women, Berlin was gaining more and more importance and would become the capital of the new German empire in 1871.
Goethe´s and Friedrich´s similar traits
There are similarities between Goethe´s and Friedrich´s personalities. Both were family men and loved children. Their characteristics include kindness and largeness of heart.
When Jo sees Fritz for the first time, he is helping a young servant girl to carry a heavy hold of cole.
In her letter home, Jo remarks the incident.
"Wasn´t it good of him? I like such things for as father says, trifles show character.
Friedrich loves kids and is very good with them. After his sister Minna passed away, he adopted his nephews Franz and Emil, and raised them as his own. For Jo, that Friedrich has children, especially boys, is actually something very attractive. Throughout the novel the narrator (Louisa) mentions how much Jo loves boys and hanging out with boys and boyish energy.
Jo loves to observe how Fritz interacts with children. When she is staying at New York, she spies on him and little Tina, who is the daughter of the French maid at the boarding house.
Jo writes; "Tina has lost her heart to Mr Bhaer and follows him about the house, like a dog, whenever he is at home, which delights him, as he is very fond of children".
Goethe biographer Herder writes that Goethe was a great child all his life. Eager to learn and willing to give whatever he had to make others happy. One of the things that Jo finds attractive in Friedrich´s character is the way he is always ready to look after people and himself. Which is in contradiction to Laurie´s behavior since for the most part of the novel, Laurie doesn´t know how to be an adult or how to look after himself and he expects that once they marry, Jo shall be his caretaker, not an equal partner, which is what Amy later becomes.
In Little Women Louisa hints that Friedrich´s father might have abandoned his family. This explains why Friedrich loves his sons and his nephews, and wants to be an exceptionally good father. He kissed his sleeping sons head remembering a father who left and never returned.
Goethe had a complicated relationship with his father. He didn´t approve his sons artistic endeavors, and this is a topic Goethe often handles in his novels. Young men often act out against the bourgeois lives of their parents. It is part of their rebellion.
Marriage based on love
Both Goethe and Louisa lived during a time period when marriages were based on economic factors and not the matters of the heart. Both writers encourage their readers to reject the economical factors and only to marry for love. This was a very radical idea of the time.
One of the books that Louisa found from her father´s library was Goethe´s WIlhelm Meister´s apprenticeship. Like Little Women, Wilhelm Meister is a Bildung´s roman. It was world´s first coming of age novel. Little Women and perhaps it´s most famous story-line, Jo rejecting Laurie for Friedrich, can be traced to Wilhelm Meister. Wilhelm starts out as a naive, and idealistic young man who has a passionate affair with the actress Marianne. Wilhelm loves theater and he struggles to balance his passion for the arts and the expectations his family has for him taking on the family business. He runs out with the theater company only to see how the theater world slowly consumes his soul with it´s ruthlessness. Then he meets Natalia, a woman very different to Marianne who helps him to gain back his self-worth.
For her 18th birthday Emerson gave Louisa a copy of Goethe´s Wilhelm Meister´s apprenticeship. This copy now in Houghton library at Harvard, is well-worn and marked with Alcott´s marginal comments, showing the care and attention with which she read Goethe´s novel” (Armknecht). In Little Women when Jo is staying in New York, Friedrich gives her a copy of Shakespeare´s novels as a Christmas gift and encourages her to study character. Louisa praised Emerson calling him as "her Goethe". Goethe was a literal inspiration for her and Emerson offered support and encouraged her to read and study character. Friedrich embodies them both and it makes sense that Louisa would give Jo a partner who not only supports Jo´s creative journey but is an essential part of it.
Louisa called both Goethe and Waldo Emerson as "god of my idolatry" Goethe became a a way for Louisa and Emerson to deepen their friendship through intellectual conversation, enriching both of their lives".
Many of the annotations in Louisa´s copy of Wilhelm Meister are associated with romance. For example, she underlined the heading of chapter nine of volume one, marking the passage where Wilhelm feels as though he is infused with "new life" as he falls deeply in love with his first love Mariane. Furthermore in volume three, chapter four, Louisa annotatted a scene where Wilhelm and Natalia talk in the garden about love. She penned in the word "beautiful" after their private conversation.
This sounds very similar to what happens between Amy and Laurie when they are in the garden at Vevey and Jo and Friedrich under the umbrella.
Quote from Christine Doyle´s Mignon´s song.
"The cultural level suggested by Friedrich´s profession and more specifically by his knowledge of Goethe also helps to validate the connection between him and Jo. Alcott had penned a quote from Margaret Fuller´s Woman in the 19th Century regarding Wilhelm Meister´s females connections, the note in Alcott´s handwriting on the back of flyleaf reads, "M Fuller says, As Meister grows in life and advances in wisdom, he becomes acquainted with women of more character moving from Mariana to Natalia, who expresses the Minerva side of things, Mignong the electrical lyrical cnnature. In this light it is possible to read Jo March´s transference of affection from Laurie to Friedrich as a form of "rising" due to her own growth and advancement in terms of character. Laurie is always a "boy" to Jo, but Friedrich is a man. Laurie possess charm and culture, Friedrich as we see, is cultured but also steady and well-grounded. He speaks both to her down-to-earth practicality and down-to-earth imagination. When he and Jo together reprise Mignon´s song after Friedrich´s surprise arrival at the March home later in the novel, it is a clear statement of the fitness of their union, a union of America with some of the best European culture, and for Friedrich, fulfillment of the American dream, he is much more than a "funny match" for Jo".
Wilhelm Meister, Jo moving from Laurie to Fritz, Laurie moving from Jo to Amy
Louisa read Wilhelm Meister´s apprenticeship first time as a child and it was a novel that she always went back to. The way Laurie is chasing Jo is very similar to what happens in another famous novel by Goethe "sorrows of young Werther". Louisa´s affection to Eliza Follen´s biography on her husband Charles and the love story between an American woman and a German immigrant is also reprise in Little Women in Jo´s and Friedrich´s characters. Another book that Louisa read in her early youth.This knowledge can change the course of Louisa May Alcott research, especially what it comes to Louisa´s own perceptions on Good Wives. Alcott scholar Daniel Shealy writes in his essay "Wedding Marches" "in the remaining correspondence between Louisa and her publisher Thomas Niles there are no indications that Niles would have had any say on the character relationships, the marriage decisions were all Alcott´s". Louisa had build the basis for the love stories in Little Women decades before she was asked by Niles to write a book for girls. Good Wives (Little Women part 2) was never an afterthought but an exploration between immature love versus mature love. Yes, some of that we can see in Louisa´s own love life in her relationships between young Ladislas Wisniewski (Laurie) and Henry David Thoreau (Friedrich), which is probably the reason why, Louisa later in life tried to detach herself and her own love life from the love life of her literal counterpart, because it became all too personal.
Geraldine Brooks declares: Another reason Alcott crafted the direction of Jo’s life in this way was because she seemed to want to marry but never did. It seems likely, however, that she did have at least two different love interests in her life. Perhaps Alcott decided to give Jo what she herself always wanted: marriage and a family.
After doing this research for few years now, I´ve come to the same conclusion. When I read Louisa´s letters from her later life, where she says she is happy for her sisters when she sees them flourishing in their marriages, she envies them and feels lonely and she believed that in her next life she would get the things she wanted but never could have, a safe and loving relationship and children of her own.
Sentimental Language of Louisa May Alcott
Greta Gerwig has been very vocal how much she hates Friedrich´s character. I don´t know what her problem is but there is one thing that annoys me to no end. In every one of her interviews Gerwig has argued that Friedrich forces Jo to use the word "thou". I can´t even fathom how absurd this is.
When you study German one of the first things that you learn is that there are two ways to address a person. There is "Du" which is what you use with someone you are very close and then there is "Sie" that you use when you are discussing with someone who is not very close to you. In the 19th century when German literature was translated into English "Du" became "thou". When Friedrich and Jo call each other "Thou" it means that they want to be close to one another.
In the book it says that Jo thought that "thou" was a "lovely syllable". It sounds that Gerwig is just making excuses to spread hate speech about a fictional character and it doesn´t have any base on reality.
This is what Christine Doyle writes:
When Jo terms Friedrich´s request to use "thou" in addressing him "sentimental" (while privately thinking it is lovely), he says, "Sentimental? yes, thank Gott, we Germans believe in sentiment, and keep ourselves young mit it. Your English "you" sounds so cold. Friedrich in fact, retains his German accent throughout the March novels, occasionally dropping German words and phrases such as "Mein Sohn" and "Vaterland" into his speech despite his much imrpoved command of English (for example in Little Women Friedrich says "haf" but then Little Men and Jo´s boys he says "have"). Like Friedrich´s defense of religion, his sentimental language is significant in both cultural and literary context. Alcott seems here to be standing up for emotion in the face of staid New England culture".
Sorrows of young Werther, novel that first skyrocketed Goethe into great fame has been often used as an example of the over-sentimentality of the German Sturm und Drang movement. Louisa was heavily affected by the Sturm und Drang and in her youth she consumed and wrote these "Stress and thunder" tales. Despite of being more of a realistic novel, Little Women is written in sentimental language and this applies to all of Louisa´s novels, children´s books and the adult books. Friedrich is sentimental, but so is Louisa May Alcott.
Louisa´s real life crush, and possible lover Henry David Thoreau also always used "thou" in his love poems when addressing his loved one.
Jo describes Friedrich to look like a regular German. He has brown hair and a bushy beard. Kind blue eyes, big hands and big feet and he has kind tone is his voice "that does one´s ears good after our sharp or slipshod American gabble".
This description is similar to Friedrich Schiller´s first impression on Goethe:
"His appearance greatly lessened the idea I had conceived from hearsay of his imposing and handsome person. He is of middle height, and looks and walks stiff. His countenance is not open, but he has beaming eyes. The expression of his countenance is serious, at the same time that it is benevolent and kind. He has brown hair, and appears older than I should say he really is. His voice exceedingly pleasing, and his conversation flowing, lively and amusing. It is a pleasure to listen to him, and when he is in a happy mood, which he was on this occasion, he is fond of talking and takes and interests in what he says".
Friedrich´s looks and his somewhat stoic personality can also be traced back to Henry David Thoreau, but like Goethe, Henry as well opened up in a company, especially when the conversation was lively and interesting.
There I might with thee my beloved go
"First thing Jo hears from Bhaer is him singing "Kennst du das land" (do you know the land) to himself, the opening line of Mignon´s love song from Goethe´s Wilhelm Meister. Here again is literary intertextuality of Wilhlem Meister in Little Women. By having Bhaer sing Mignon´s song to himself. Alcott not only draws a direct connection between Bhaer and Goethe but also an emotional connection between herself and Goethe".
Louisa points out that both Jo and Friedrich are familiar with Wilhelm Meister. In the chapter surprises Friedrich comes to court Jo, and Jo asks him to perform Mignon´s song with her.
"Now we must finish with Mignon´s song, for Mr Bhaer sings that"
"You will sing with me, we´ll go excellenty well together?" he asked.
A pleasing fiction, by the way, for Jo had no more idea of music than a grasshopper, but she would have consented, if t he had proposed to sing a whole opera, and warbled away, blissfully regardless of time and tune. It didn´t much matter, for Mr Bhaer sang like a true German, heartily and well, and Jo soon subsided into a sublued hum, that she might listen to the mellow voice that seemed to sing for her alone.
"Know´s thou the land where the citron blooms"
Used to be the Professor´s favorite line, for "das land" meant Germany to him; but now he seemed to dwell, with peculiar warmth and melody, upon the words; -
"There, oh there might I with thee, Oh my beloved go"
and one listener was so thrilled by the tender invitation, that she longed to say she did know the land, and would joyfully depart thither, whenever he liked.
How did Jo knew that was his favorite line? they must have had deep one-to-one discussions about Goethe.
Here is a quote from Little Women fan Christina:
Maybe she noticed how a certain gleam come across his eyes as he sings the line. Maybe his lips turn upward into a smile when the lyric comes up, no matter how many times he sings it. Or maybe it was because of the warmth in his voice as he spoke of his home that Jo recognized as she speaks of her home.
But she notices. She notices all the little things of Friedrich, but had yet to have a reason why. But when she leaves New York and is alone after Beth’s death, she thinks of those little things and smiles to herself.
When he comes to her home, she thinks about that line. Home. He is home.
There is another way to interpretate this chapter. Mignon´s song is about departure and re-uniting with your loved one in the after life. Louisa believed that in the next life, she would meet her loved one again and then she would get the life that she had wanted. Maybe this scene was written about Henry, same way as the umbrella chapter. Henry had the same Goethe´s books as Louisa and he was also a good singer and when he would come to visit the Alcott´s, they sometimes sang together.
Quote from Megan Armknecht
Another parallel between Bhaer and Goethe is their philosopher, especially regarding the purposes of art and religion. Bhaer is very interested in Jo´s writing, encourages her to read Shakespeare, and helps explain his work to her. Bhaer gives her as a New Year´s present. Classic writers, such as Shakespeare were very important to Goethe, who read Shakespeare and often wrote about and criticized him in letters to Schiller.
As Jo reads Shakespeare, she not only begins to notice true, honest character more, but she also recognizes just how good Bhaer truly is. She discovers a "live hero", who interested her in spite of many human imperfections. Mr Bhaer, in one of their conversations, had advised her to study simple, true and lovely characters whenever she would found them, as good training for a writer; Jo took him at his word - fro she coolly turned round and studied him and finds him to be good and benevolent. In this way Bhaer´s love of the simple, honest and pure, mirror´s Goethe´s who remained ever in touch with the reality of things as revealed to the sense, but never blind to an ideal interpretations.
This is all in the text of Little Women. Friedrich encourages Jo to become a genuine writer. I have never understood people who say that Friedrich prevents Jo from writing, when in the book, he does the exact opposite, but the people who spread that type of false information, are usually Jo and Laurie fans.
Another quote from Armknecht:
"Bhaer is trying to help Jo to become a genuine writer instead of one who caters to the whims of the crowd. This is something that Goethe would have done. He disliked superficiality in people and in art and was through life frequently offended by the shallow pretensions, the false aims. He insists that a poem must be suggested by real life, and having herein a firm foundation".
This is particularly important information. When Louisa was in her twenties she wrote sensational stories to a New York magazine. Weekly Volcano in Little Women, is a caricature of this magazine. These stories are not Louisa´s best stories, and in Little Women, she describes how Jo has mental health problems because she feels powerless in the hands of the editor, who wants her to write stories that have shock value and when Jo looks for material she begins to have anxiety attacks. This is all in the text. It has never been adapted and that must affect to any anti-Friedrich statements people might have, because in the novel Friedrich comes to Jo´s help, when he sees how much she is struggling.
When Louisa wrote these sensational stories, she was not very experienced with the darker side of life and struggled with lot of these themes that she was requested to write about. It makes sense that she looked up to her literal hero, Goethe and take his advice that a good story, should have a real-life foundation and this is how Jo in Little Women moves on from writing trash to write successful realism thanks to Friedrich, and Louisa did the same thanks to Goethe.
There are times when Goethe´s and Friedrich´s values separate. One of these are their views on religion. Goethe´s views on religion are often described as vague where as Friedrich in Little Women, is very religious. Louisa was a very spiritual person herself and her religious views were rather eclectic, but the base of her beliefs were in her protestant upbringing.
In Little Women Jo and Friedrich attend a symposium. There Jo listens one of the young philosophers speaking about atheist world view, and this makes Jo quite upset.
"It dawned upon her gradually, that the world was being picked to pieces, and put together on new, and according to the talkers, on infinitely better principles than before; that religion was in a fair way to be reasoned into nothingness, and intellect was to be the only God. Jo knew nothing about philosophy or metaphysics of any sort, but a curious excitement, half pleasurable, half painful, came over her, as she listened with a sense of being turned adrift into time and space, like a young balloon out on a holiday".
"He bore it as long as he could; but when he was appealed to for an opinion, he blazed up with honest indignation, and defended religion with all the eloquence of truth - an eloquence which made his broken English musical, and his plain face beautiful. H had a hard fight, for the wise men argued well; but he didn´t know when he was beaten, and stood to his colors like a man. Somehow, as he talked, the world got right again to Jo; the old beliefs that had lasted so long, seemed better than the new. God was not a blind force, and immortality was not a pretty fable, but a blessed fact. Jo felt as if she had solid ground under her feet again; and when Mr Bhaer paused, out talked, but not one whit convinced, Jo wanted to clap her hands and thank him.
She did neither, but she remembered this scene, and gave the Professor her hearthiest respect, for she knew it cost him an effort to speak out then and there, because his conscience would not let him to be silent. She began to see that character is a better possession than money, rank, intellect or beauty, and to feel that if greatness is what a wise man has defined it to be "truth, reverence and good will" then her friend Friedrich Bhaer, was not only good but great".
In this case Friedrich is in fact, much more closer to the American philosophers like Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, who Louisa had often heard keeping speeches about religion. Despite the fact that the transcendentalists adored German culture and writings they were highly suspicious of German philosophers because they did not always share their religious views.
I know quite a few Little Women fans, who absolutely love the symposium scene. It is their favorite Jo and Friedrich moment. She says that "he was not only good, but great" Friedrich is no longer a crush for Jo. It becomes something a lot more serious. Jo remembered his passionate speech for the rest of her life. She even wants to clap when he stops talking. Friedrich, he managed to move something inside her. I have mentioned this in my articles before, one of the reasons why I always adored Jo and Friedrich love story and story line, is because it is one of the most realistic descriptions in literature, how it actually feels like to fall in love to another person and Louisa wrote from her experience.
Jo was attracted to Friedrich from the moment she met him. There is a build up in the novel how her crush and her curiosity about him deepens.
"He was poor, yet always appeared to be giving something away. a stranger yet everyone was his friend, no longer young, but as happy hearted as a boy, plain and odd, yet his face looked beautiful to many and his oddities, were freely forgiven for his sake. Jo often watched him, trying to discover the charm, and at last decided that it was benevolence which worked the miracle. If he had any sorrow "it sad with it´s head under it´s wing" and he turned only his sunny side to the world".
This what is said about Goethe´s personality: "Goethe was always an optimist, despite of the many setbacks he had had during his life. He often wanted to uplift others and bring as much success to others as to himself. Goethe believed that creativity was a gift, but only way to true success was through hard work and resilience. Goethe was emotional and vulnerable and yet he could be a light of the party. Sometimes he was generous to a fault, but always honest and loyal to those he cared about the most.
I personally really like the idea that Louisa gave Jo a husband and a partner that was inspired by Goethe. It makes a lot of sense that Friedrich who helps Jo to reach the next stages of her writing career was based on Louisa´s favorite writer, and that there are elements in Friedrich´s personality we can trace to Goethe.
I hope you enjoyed listening to this. Take care and make good choices. Bye.
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott, 150 years Penguin edition,
Sorrows of young Werter, Johann W. Goethe, 1787, Book Beat
Singing Mignon´s Song, Christine Doyle, John Hopkin´s university press, Children literature volume 31, 2003
"Jo marries Goethe, Dr Bhaer as the Goethean ideal in Louisa May Alcott´s Little Women", Megan Armknecht
Goethe in our time, Sarah Colvin, BBC Radio 4, https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p003c1c8