Merry meet Little Women fans. Today´s comment shoutout goes to Little Women fan Angela Gordon
Friedrich could have so easily went down to the level that Jo was at just to please her if he had complimented her writing. He wouldn't have lost her at first, but he knew she could do better. He expected more of her. He called her to higher intellectual and moral plane where he knew she would be happier and more content. Laurie never could have done that for Jo. He never would have been able to encourage her to grow as Friedrich did.
Jo and Friedrich argument in the adaptation has bothered me for ages, because it doesn´t happen in the novel and lots of Jo and Laurie actually use that as an excuse to hate Friedrich, sorry for repeating myself it does not happen in the novel, and just like Angela says, it is actually Laurie who does not have the mental capacity or any kind of interest to Jo´s writings.
It´s the last episode of season 2. I am working on season 3. I don´t have the release date yet, but it will begin sometimes in the end of this year. I will announce the date here in the podcast and all over social media. Since I started to look for Friedrich Bhaer analyzes from university database, I´v been getting tons of e-mails with studies about Henry Thoreau and Goethe, so I guess I will never run out of reading what it comes to 19th century German and American philosophy. Despite the fact that podcast is going on a break I am doing some fan fiction readings on YouTube which is exiting. I usually post videos on Thursdays.
Louisa May Alcott was in her early thirties when she wrote Little Women and lot of people don´t know this but Jo´s experience writing sensationalism is based on Louisa´s experience writing sensationalism. Couple of my listeners have asked me if I could speak more about the way Louisa´s Christian world view affected to the way she saw her sensational stories. That is one of the topics that we are going to touch today, and also all these literal heroes that Louisa had like Goethe and Waldo Emerson how they inspired Louisa and Friedrich´s character and the way adaptations between 1917 and 2019 do not include Jo´s inner conflicts about writing sensationalism.
This is Small Umbrella In The Rain Little Women Podcast Jo and Friedrich argument (does not happen in the novel)
Jo´s first novel is a flop
In Little Women, Jo´s conflicts about the quality versus money really begins in the chapter "Literary lessons" and this chapter takes place couple years before Jo travels to New York and she is in her early twenties. I´v heard people saying that Jo didn´t really care what she was writing about or that she didn´t care about the feedback, you can get that impression from adaptations like 2019 Little Women, where Jo got mad when she was receiving feedback, which ones again shows how this movie didn´t really have any respect for Jo or the author.
I would highly recommend everyone to read "literary lessons" because it shows very well how much Jo wants to improve as a writer and also how she actively seeks feedback from family members and she wishes that she would have some kind of a mentor who could help her. We will get into that.
Jo begins by writing and submitting "stress and thunder" tales to magazines and she earns some money f it. This is where we get our first German connection. Stress and Thunder, in German known as "Sturm und Drang" was a movement in German literature and culture in the end of the 18th century and Goethe, Louisa´s favorite writer was a prominent figure in the movement.
"Her story was full of desperation and despair as her limited acquaintance with those uncomfortable emotions enabled her to make it".
One of the most famous Sturm und Drang stories is Goethe´s "Sorrows of Young Werther". I made an episode about it. It´s called "Laurie and Werther, romanticsing the path to self-destruction". Laurie´s character arc it partially comes from Werther. Werther is this handsome aristocratic man who falls for a peasant girl Lottie, but Lottie is engaged to a respectable man called Albert. Werther begins to use his heartache as a way of self-sabotage and eventually that causes his life. In Little Women Laurie threatens to takes his life if Jo doesn´t marry him (that by the way, is not in the adaptations) Werther actually takes his own life.
Through out her life Louisa struggled with her mood changes. People often dismiss Jo´s anger as her just being a teen ager, of that she can be angry because she is a feminist. I am feminist and I say that´s bull, especially because when Jo is angry she often hurts people around her. In the book, when she has said something rude or mean she regrets it. She has difficulties to control herself and the impulses. There has been research made that Louisa may have had bipolar disorder. I think that might have very well be true. When a person has bipolar disorder they quite literary can´t always control themselves. Later in life when she became very sick with mercury poisoning, that would make her mood changes even more severe.
Sturm und Drang - Stress and Thunder movement, it was all about the emotional distress. If you ever read Sorrows of Young Werther, Werthers moods change very fast. Book is written entirely from Werther´s perspective. You never really know what other characters, like Lottie are thinking about. For Louisa who did experience this emotional distress, Stress and Thunder stories were a way to vent those emotions.
In literary lessons Jo begins to write her first novel. It is not Little Women. It is a Stress and Thunder story. In Little Women, I don´t think Louisa even reveals the name of Jo´s first book. When Jo writes it she asks help from every single member of her family. Everyone of them gives her different advice and Jo does everything what they are saying.
"Having copied her novel for the fourth time, read it to all her confidential friends, and submitted it with fear and trembling to three publishers, she at last disposed of it, on condition that she would it down one-third, and omit all the parts which she particularly admired"
As crazy as it sounds, she took away the parts that she herself liked the most. Perhaps that is the reason why the book became a flop. It got mixed, mostly negative reviews and not that many sales.
This is what Marmee says
"It seems to me that Jo will profit more by making the trial tan by waiting" said Mrs March "Criticism is hte best test of such wrk, for it will show her both unsuspected merits and faults, and help her to do better next time. We are too partial, but the praise and blame of outsiders will prove useful, even if she gets but little money"
"Yes" said Jo knitting her brows. "That´s just it; I´v been fussing over the thing so long. I really don´t know whether it is good, bad or indifferent. It will be a great help to have cool, impartial person´s take a look at it, and tell me what theythink of it".
This is my problem with 2019, 2017 and 1994 Little Women adaptations. Here, Jo who is actually few years younger than the New York Jo, herself says that she appreciates criticism and wishes that she would have somebody to help her to refine herself as an author and encourage her to leave her comfort zone. This reminds me the discussion we had with Emily. That is the podcast episode called "Jo can handle feedback". Emily said that Jo was rather limited by the place she was living. This is very true. When she travels to New York, she opens herself to new ideas and experiences, both what it comes to her writing and the people she meets.
In New York Jo begins to write stories to a sensational magazine called "Weekly Volcano".
"Though very happy in the social atmosphere about her, and very busy with the daily work that earned her bread, and made it sweeter for the effort, Jo still found time for literary labors. The purpose which now took possession of her was a natural to a poor and ambitious girl, but the means she took to gain her end were not the best".
What it comes to sensational publishing, Louisa condemns it right way.
When Louisa was in her early twenties she worked for a New York magazine called "Frank Lesley´s weekly illustrated Newspaper. Weekly illustrated newspaper was part of yellow press. If somebody doesn´t know sensationalism is editorial tactic. Where newspapers are being sold with biased or emotional impressions rather than objective journalism. This happens still today. For example if one person only watch news from Fox and the other person watches them from CNN, they get very different views on world events. Lot of sensationalism today happens on social media, so it is a lot more difficult to control.
I will read you a quote about this particular Newspaper from Warren Fracke´s "History of Journalism".
"The headline "Startling exposure of the milke trade of New York and Brooklyn" was followed by an apology of sorts. Frank Lesley´s illustrated Newspaper rationalized the reporting of "the sickening details" of the swill milk conspiracy, assuring readers. "We are animated solely by desire to benefit our fellow citizens" in exposing the "liquid poison" that is decimating our population, bringing death into a thousand homes and demoralizing the general health of the city". Even with death, decimation and demoralization, further defence of a sensational subject and it´s sickening details seemed necessary. So the editorial leader declared.
"Ours has been no pleasing task! We should not have selected it for past time or amusement. We would rather have shunned it as we would avoid a place infected by the plaque!"
Then why sicken readers? Couldn´t the benefits of exposing frauds be achieved without all the details? Apparently not. Leslie´s sense of duty was matched by a belief in the power of basic reporting techniques, especially "the power of faithful and accurate illustrations" from staff artists, voluminous data from "detectives" and nauseating diagnoses of the medical doctor whose documents started the crusade. It was not a pretty business "penetrating into their loathsome pesthouses". If the quote "sickening stench" was not enough, these journalists were maliciously drenched with "the filthy liquid" because "the milkmaids" at the distillery milk barns feared being "truly depicted by the unerring pencil".
Thus began weeks of sensational exposures, unusually extensive and sustained for 1858, at about the midway point in that first half century of institutionalized newspaper reporting. Leslie´s swill milk reportage illustrates an ongoing problem: Certain subjects and certain details - label them sensational - find their way into the popular print. Editors must confess that this news will startle, shock, and dismay readers. Editors however, will seldom admit that such news was intended to merely titillate, entertain or satisfy morbid curiosity. In fact, editors commonly profess that they would shun such unpleasantries, if not for their grave duty to tell the truth, no matter how horrible.
How does an editor disassociate himself or herself from the information printed, from those "sickening details"? by portraying the techniques of reporting as something akin to runaway technology. Then reporters come as helpless as sorcerer´s apprentice. If reporters are not gleeful gatherers of grisly lore, if not lip smacking solicitors of the sordid and salacious, then what are they? Sometimes they are not reporters at all. They are both innocent tourists and jaded tour-guides. At times they are detectives and sanitary inspectors, inmates or "special commissioners" and when they are not overtly posing in other roles, reporters may pretend to be amoral technicians: the broom sweeps them.
Thus their reports are products of both their duties and their techniques. They may was their hands of their sensationalism under such rubrics as "seeing is believing" or through that routine act of reportorial dissociation: don´t blame me attribution which transfers responsibility to documentary and interview sources. Just as Leslie´s distanced itself in 1858 by warning the "squeamish and the prudish not to read" and then claiming "It is however a record of unimpeachable facts, unutterably abominable, but true". Stead then proceeded to utter the abominable.
Yet well into the 20th century, one scholar could look back at the rich narrative reportage, the muckrakers and credit some of their success in the early 1900s to the claim that they wrote freely "in a time of oppressive literary gentility". Whatever degree of gentility might have inhibited the literary contemporaries of the muckrakers, many of their journalistic predecessors, working for 19th century publications, were not so oppressed.
As you can see Frank Lesley´s newspaper it was not a reliable source for news or very fact based. Louisa herself did not like Mr Lesley. He was a newspaper mogul. He was a very wealthy man and he lived very lavished lifestyle. Even when Louisa became rich, she was not somebody who bragged with her wealth. Louisa also took it to her agenda, to encourage other wealthy people to help the poor. This happens a lot in her novels. For example in Little Women, Laurie turns from somebody who took his wealth for granted to a philantrophist and thanks to that really goes to Amy.
Being said that there is a scene in the novel where Laurie has bought pair of fashionable gloves to himself and Jo makes fun of it and criticises how he spends his money. Maybe Lesley´s lifestyle was something that Louisa did not like, but more likely reason is the pressure that was put upon her to write things that she did not feel comfortable.
Magazine mostly ran sensational stories of murders, executions, prize fights, wars and assassinations. If you read Louisa´s stories that she wrote during this time, these are not her themes. Neither are these stories horrible or immoral. Kinda reminds me the episode Emily and I did together, the podcast episode called "Jo can handle feedback". Emily said that Louisa May Alcott herself is quite an elitist. You can see that in her writings even from young age she included moral teachings to her stories. Most of her themes are in fact women who have great deal of emotional distress. Goethean Stress and Thunder tales, but as you heard from that paragraph Mr Lesley wanted everything to be more shocking, more disturbing and preferably without no morals, because that is what sells.
This becomes a big internal conflict within Jo, because she wants to make a living with her writing but she is working for a magazine, which main selling points are murders, executions and scandals, and those are not the things that Jo wants to write about.
Jo hardly knew her own MS. again, so crumpled and underscored were its pages and paragraphs, but feeling as a tender parent might on being asked to cut off her baby's legs in order that it might fit into a new cradle, she looked at the marked passages and was surprised to find that all the moral reflections—which she had carefully put in as ballast for much romance—had been stricken out.
"But, Sir, I thought every story should have some sort of a moral, so I took care to have a few of my sinners repent."
Mr. Dashwoods's editorial gravity relaxed into a smile, for Jo had forgotten her 'friend', and spoken as only an author could.
"People want to be amused, not preached at, you know. Morals don't sell nowadays." Which was not quite a correct statement, by the way.
Not only is Jo´s story rejected because of the morals. Louisa who is the narrator also makes a point, quite cheekily saying that the editor is wrong, morals do sell. Louisa´s most well known book Little Women, is based on characters moral growth.
In this chapter narrator also points out that, Jo as a writer is dispensable, and that if she is not fit to be their writer, she is easily removed. She needs to write her stories so that they fit into the magazines agenda.
This does not work for Jo, because Jo has actually very strong morals.
But Mr. Dashwood rejected any but thrilling tales, and as thrills could not be produced except by harrowing up the souls of the readers, history and romance, land and sea, science and art, police records and lunatic asylums, had to be ransacked for the purpose. Jo soon found that her innocent experience had given her but few glimpses of the tragic world which underlies society.
She thought she was prospering finely, but unconsciously she was beginning to desecrate some of the womanliest attributes of a woman's character. 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.
Louisa May Alcott Author´s Development
I am going to read you some quotes from Lorraine Tosiello´s novel "Only Gossip prospers". This book takes place in the time when Louisa was in her fifties and she was visiting New York for health treatments. This book is historical fiction.
"The crowd bustled as a curious entourage crossed the far end of the squire. At the center f the maelstrom stood a debonair man with a beautiful woman on his arms. He seemed t be barking orders and suggestions too the men around him. Some peeled off on errands and others jotted notes as he spoke. From his bowler hat t his buttoned boots, the man exuded charisma. He sported a broad plaid jacket, two fobbed watches and an unkempt beard. There was a swirl of energy, of imperative motion about him".
"The woman in his arm was not young. She was glamorous, but seemed made of steel. She had a presence that declared she belonged in the turmoil; in fact, that she thrived on it. At times, the man turned and ask her a question, then nodded at her reply and barked it to the lackey near by".
"Louisa drew her breath and turned her head sharply away from the scene. Frank Leslie! And then the woman at his side must be Miriam Squire Leslie, his wife. They were among the most notorious newspaper people in the land, not only for their often tawdry reports but for the scandalous way they conducted their lives. They had openly lived together along with her first husband and co-editor for ten years. The gossip was that Mrs. Squire herself had finally set up her first husband in a scandal with prostitutes and then had it reported in Leslie´s newspaper. She divorced him for the escapade, committed him to a madhouse and went on to marry Frank Leslie".
"Frank Leslie was just as flamboyant and titillating as his publications, frequently involved in the city´s gossip. Two years before he had been indicted for obscenity. He published a rag called The Day´s Doings, which concentrated on romantic liasons, wayward women and any other tantalizing it of scandal he could dredge up. But it was the suggestive and lascivious personal advertisements in the back pages that got him into trouble. Louisa has seen the columns of print devoted to treatments for venereal disease, lewd books, marriage manuals, with illustrations. Leslie had beaten obscenity charges over those advertisements and seemed to have come out f the scuffle with no repercussions on his own notoriety. But his wild assertions and virulent prose could damn another´s reputation".
Frank Lesley did have a larger than life reputation. I guess we could call him as the Rupert Murdoch of the 19th century. It is ironic that somebody who exposed and created scandals for living eventually got caught into one themselves and didn´t find away out of it. Louisa´s love life. Louisa´s love for Henry Thoreau and especially the relationship with young Ladislas Wisniewski, it could have been a scandal if people had find out about it.That is why Louisa tried to censor connection about her romantic affairs from her journals. Following what happened to Frank Lesley, that actually might have contributed to Louisa´s decision to guard her reputation even more.
People have made all kinds of theories why Louisa left Frank Lesley´s Newspaper. When I was reading Louisa´s diaries I came across something, that also happens in Little Women. The narrator points out that doing the research for these stories actually begin to cause Jo mental health problems. She comes across stories that make her feel disgusted and give her anxiety.
This is a diary marking from Louisa
November–Proof began to come, and the chapters seemed small, stupid, and no more my own in print. I felt very much afraid that I'd ventured too much and should be sorry for it. But Emerson says "that what is true for your own private heart is true for others." So I wrote from my own consciousness and observation and hope it may suit some one and at least do no harm.
She says that after the proof read and the editor´s notes, she can not recognize her own story and she also mentions that Emerson has encouraged her to write something that she feels to be true in her heart and then Louisa says that she has done just that. I loved finding this quote, because that is almost word to word what happens in Little Women.
In Little Women Friedrich encourages Jo to leave the magazine, and write something that she is happy and comfortable with. Louisa herself even when she was in her twenties, didn´t put much value to her potboiler stories. Like Jo in the book, she called them trash. What I have read them, they are not terrible but maybe because she doesn´t have respect for the publication where the stories were appearing she didn´t put that much heart into them.
Waldo Emerson was Louisa´s next door neighbor and a very influential figure in her life. Louisa called Emerson as "her Goethe". This is a quote from Alcott scholar Susan Bailey "It is no secret that Louisa had a girlhood crush on Emerson, and if Bhaer is based on him, then her affection for him was deep and authentic".
Friedrich is a mixed character who is based on several men who Louisa loved and admired. What it comes to Friedrich being Jo´s supporter and a mentor figure what it comes to her writing that we can trace Johan Wolfgang Goethe and Waldo Emerson.
This is a quote from Megan Armknecth"
Emerson was more than just a neighbor, for Louisa he was her idol. When Anna Alcott married John Pratt, the Emerson family was present, Alcott, then twenty-seven, wrote in her journal that "Mr Emerson kissed her (Anna Alcott) and I thought that honor would make even matrimony endurable, for he is the god of my idolatry, and has been for years. Emerson’s kindness and friendship toward the Alcott family only deepened Alcott’s love for him. She looked to him in everything and regarded his advice as “the best inspiration of [her] life. When Emerson died, forty-nine year-old Alcott described him as “the man who has helped me most by his life, his books, his society. I can never tell all he has been to me from the time I [was] . . . a little girl.
Stories Based On Real Life
Before Jo has final break up away from the Weekly Volcano, there is a very important event before that and that is the Symposium. Jo and Friedrich attend a symposium together and Jo is really exited to go there, but after a while she begins to see that these people who she has been admiring from distance are just regular people.
"her reverence for genius received a severe shock that night and it took sometime to recover that the great creatures were only men and women after all".
in New York help to broaden her mind and she also begins to observe people, more by their character, than their wealth, looks or possession. I know lots of Little Women fans, whose favorite scene in the entire novel is the symposium, and the more I have read I think that is the time when Jo actually begins to fall in love with Friedrich.
This is where the Christianity comes in. In the symposium Jo sees one young man starting to speak about atheism and questing the existence of God. You have to remember that Jo is very religious. Her father is literally a pastor. Jo is blown away by what´s happening and the narrator mentions that her world turned upside down. Jo was quite shocked and upset and didn´t know what to think and then Friedrich started to speak for religion.
"He blazed up with honest indignation, and defended religion with all the eloquence of truth - and eloquence which made his broken English musical, and his plain face beautiful".
"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. She felt as if she had solid ground under her feet again ; and when Mr Bhaer paused, out talked, but not one with convinced, Jo wanted to clap her hands and thank him".
How can anyone not love Friedrich after reading that. This is also where Friedrich is no longer a German philosopher. He actually becomes an American philosopher, because during this time period there was a rising school of atheism going on with the German intellects, but Friedrich who is German is in this case a lot more closer to Louisa May Alcott´s transcendentalist world view and philosophers like Henry Thoreau and Waldo Emerson. Louisa was a highly spiritual person and transcendentalism it was a bit different compared to the mainstream Christianity of the time, because the transcendentalist were somewhat pantheistic. They believed that nature was the ultimate manifestation of god and they were also somewhat pacifistic and quite tolerant what it came to other religions. For example Louisa´s father was accused of being buddhist when Louisa was a child. Louisa was somewhat a spiritual seeker through her life. What it came to romance and love. she saw that the spiritual connection between two people was as important as anything else. That was a big part of Louisa´s relationship with Henry.
This is a quote from blogger Skirmish lit and wit. "I come back to Thoreau's work a lot when I'm feeling existential. He has such a lovely way of contextualizing complex thoughts about life in his poems. She was probably attracted to his existential musings and the spark they shared likely came from intellectual stimulation and being able to talk about life's Big questions together".
The symposium is 100% connected to Jo´s development as a writer. It is all about her starting to put more thoughts on her characters and the messages that she wants to say in her works. The adaptations they show Jo and Friedrich arguing, which doeasn´t happen in the novel, but they have never adapted the symposium.
What happens is that Friedrich sees a copy of Weekly Volcano and he expresses his dislike about the sensationalism. Jo who has been writing this type of stories, is bit upset but she is not upset with Friedrich, she is upset with herself. Ever since she started to write those potboiler stories she has had this inner battle about it. She doesn´t particularly enjoy it, publisher keeps erasing the parts that she likes and the payment is not that great.
Friedrich compares that reading sensationalism almost has the same effect if he would give gunpowder for his nephews. If we take a look at that a bit deeper, couple years back maybe you remember there was lots of talk about the way the giant social media companies had spread false information online before elections in different parts of the world and also give platforms for hate speech, and they only agreed to censor themselves was when the advertisers said that they are going to leave the platform (that´s exactly what happened on YouTube couple years ago). In the 19th century that was the way the sensational press was working. Louisa May Alcott being a transcendentalist, abolitionist and a promoter of gender equality, would have had very serious moral questions what are the platforms that she was okay to work with.
This is what Jo says to herself:
"They are trash, and soon be worse than trash if I go on; for each is more sensational than the last. I´ve gone blindly on hurting myself and other people for the sake of money. Jo stuffed the whole bundle into to the stove, nearly setting the chimney afire with the blaze.
"Yes that is the best place for such inflammable nonsense. I´d better burn the house down, I suppose, than let other people blow themselves up with my gunpowder".
One of the listeners of this podcast said to me that the reason why this chapter is difficult to adapt is because it is not really a conversation between two people, it is mostly a dialogue that happens inside Jo´s head. They have a great point. It is easier to film a conflict between the two, than an inner conflict, but the filmmakers never should show Jo and Friedrich arguing because Jo 100% agrees with Friedrich, and when you read the book, she actually has this same inner battle about sensationalism and being pressured by money-hungry editors going on at least two years before she even meets him".
Goethe was Louisa´s favorite writer. She had both English and German editions and she even asked her publisher friend Thomas Niles to send her new Goethe editions when they appeared. Louisa loved Sturm und Drang, this ability to really go all in writing about characters that are constantly in emotional distress because of their turbulent emotions, what she did not love that much was these crimes and murderers and scandalous elements that she had to sneak into her stories, when she was working for Frank Lesley.
For example Louisa was an abolitionist, but the stories that sold were actually pro-slavery and promoting racist stereotypes. There is an element of Sturm und Drang, stress and thunder tales that actually appear throughtout Louisa´s published work, and that is the psychology of obsession in relationships. You can see that even in Little Women the way Laurie is pursuing Jo, despite the fact that she constantly says no to him or Tom pursuing Nan.
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".
That Alcott imposed a knowledge of certain literature on her protagonists, especially Jo, because she, as Jo’s living counterpart, was herself acquainted with that same literature. Although still distinct from Alcott, Jo becomes an extension of her philosophies and ideas and is shaped by Alcott’s environment and upbringing".
What Happens In The Movies
In 1933 and 1949 films Friedrich gives Jo feedback on her writings and tells her that she can do better and Jo never shouts at him.
In the 1949 film June Allyson´s Jo says "If I can´t stand the truth I am not worth anything"
Little Women fan Jimena tagged this saying Someone please shout this at 2019 Jo. This is how a mature person handles criticism".
In both series from 1970s Jo and Friedrich argue almost entire time. In the 1978 adaptation, you kinda get the impression that these arguments make Jo a better writer because her articles begin to appear in New York post and such, but it is really difficult to watch because first of all Friedrich is not written to be an argumentative person, and second Jo was always mature enough to handle feedback.
In the 1994 film Friedrich and Jo argue once again. He criticises sensationalism and then Jo snaps at him, and what I have read analyzes Jo in this case represents 90s working girl. I love this adaptation for the most parts but unless if people know the novel really well, they don´t nessecary understand Jo´s growth as a writer in this film because it is pretty subtle. After this argument Friedrich aplogizes and they go to the opera and kiss passionately. Then the next day Jo has written some kind of pirate novel and Friedrich gives what I always received as a very decent and well put constructive criticism and Jo gets angry and travels back home. Which doesnt make any sense.
Then after Beth passes away Winona Ryder´s Jo writes her version of Little Women, and she is clearly thinking about Friedrich when she is writing it and she sends him the manuscript. Like I said, people don´t always see how Jo grows as a writer in this film, unless they are more familiar with the book. I have heard lot of people saying that the only thing they remember is Jo and Friedrich arguing and maybe them making out in the opera. Wouldn´t it be better that a film would show Jo herself coming to the conclusion that she doesn´t want to work for the magazine. I have problems with the 1994 adaptation, but not as many problems that I have with 2019 film.
In an interview for Indiewire magazine Heidi Thomas who wrote the script to the 2017 Little Women series, said that she never understood why Louisa May Alcott married Jo to a German who disapproved her writings, and because of that she made him to apologize Jo, that he was criticisng her "honest" ways to make money. 2017, 209 and 1994 adaptations they want to portray Jo as a victim of patriarchy who has the right to write these stories that Jo in the book actually calls "trash". It sounds really silly when you hear that outloud. The last episode I made was all about the way the film makers romanticize Jo´s and Laurie´s relationship and they keep erasing Laurie´s personality and the way he is sometimes really terrible to Jo and when Laurie proposes Jo he says he doesn´t want her to write anymore. People like Greta Gerwig and Heidi Thomas they don´t want you to like Friedrich.
Greta Gerwig said that she is Jo March, that Jo March is her hero and that she hated that stuffy professor Bhaer was giving her scratchy feedback.
If Greta Gerwig is Jo March, why she doesn´t pay any attention to the way Jo feels about writing sensationalism.
She was living in bad society, and imaginary though it was, its influence affected her.
Gerwig also said that Friedrich prevented Jo from her writing her book..where she comes up with these things.
Like I said there are film makers who just don´t want you to like Friedrich, so they straight out lie to the public. If you think about the promotion of the Little Women 2019 Greta Gerwig told to to one group that Jo hates marriage.
In the chapter all alone in the book Jo says that she would like to know what romantic love feels like. So that´s a straight out lie, then she tells another group that Jo should be with Laurie and the third one that Jo should be gay and her reasoning is that she doesn´t think that Friedrich is attractive and she doesn´t like Germans. Which is really stupid. I´ve said this before but the love interests in Louisa´s novels are bearded older men because Louisa liked bearder older men. Louisa May Alcott she actually criticises the sensational aspect of the entertainment publishing and Greta Gerwig´s Little Women the way it was promoted by the director speading inaccurate information about the events of the novel and the author´s life was exactly the thing that Louisa was criticising, and it actually continues through the novels. In Jo´s Boys Jo´s nephew Demi wants to become a journalist and Jo is quite harshly against it.
I spoke with somebody who said that they really hated the 2019 Friedrich the way he was mean to Jo and said that they didn´t like her work. This person said that they adored Greta Gerwig and also they turned out to be a Jo and Laurie shipper. Now we are getting to the source of this problem. Do you see Laurie in this movie trying to prevent Jo from writing, or him saying that he is going to kill himself if Jo doesn´t marry him. That all happens in the novel, it is not in this movie. Jo and Friedrich don´t argue in the novel, but that is in this film.
I´v actually heard quite a few people saying that the feedback scene in the 2019 film made them feel very uncomfortable, because Jo was basically attacking Friedrich without any reason. My friend Jimena who read the book after seeing the film was really surprised because there wasn´t any kind of confrontation and she had expected Jo to hate Friedrich based on what Greta Gerwig had said, and then she was surprised that in the book Jo actually seemed to be crazy about him.
If these film makers really care about Jo that much why they portray her as this immature person who doesn´t want to grow. Greta Gerwig even said that we admire Jo because she doesn´t want to grow. I for one never admired Jo for being horrible person who shouts at people who are trying to help her and I´m genuinely upset if that is how people see Jo as a character because of this film.
Another listener of this podcast asked recently is it even necessary t have this part about the sensational story in the adaptations, because there are lots of scenes in the book between Jo and Fritz that have never been adapted? I don´t think it even needs to be there, especially since it never even follows the story. Having Jo and Friedrich arguing when in the book he is helping her, that doesn´t contribute anything to the story. It makes people even more confused about it, because when they do that, they automatically erase Jo´s growth as a writer.
Together with the 1949 film the only movie where Jo actually is mature when taking feedback is the modern day setting Little Women from 2018. In this version Friedrich is a university professor of literature which works in the context of this movie. Jo wants to take herself seriously as a writer and same way as the book Jo, movie Jo appreciates the feedback she receives. Jo really has anger management problems but they never argue about her writing. Together with 1994 film I think movie also shows a lot of that intellectual connection that the two have in the novel.
In the novel after Jo has burned the sensational stories. She tries different types of stories. For a while she writes children's stories. Then she writes stories that only has moralities in them. Nothing feels as her own so she decides to keep a creative break.
"I don´t know anything. I´ll wait till I do before I try again, and meantime "sweep mud in the street" If I can´t do better that´s honest anyway" which decision proved that her second tumble down the bean stalk had done her some good".
The book Jo is not a immature person who can´t handle feedback like the film Jo is. She takes her writing career seriously and wants genuinely to become a better writer.
When all this happens Friedrich gives Jo some literary advice. He encourages her to observe people around her, so she can write more well-rounded characters and as a New Year´s gift he gives Jo a set of Shakespeare´s novels.
I found another connection between Friedrich and Emerson. For Louisa´s 18th birthday Waldo gave Louisa a copy of Goethe´s "Wilhelm Meister´s apprenticeship" and he said to her that hopefully it helps to create interesting and meaningful characters.
Next time when you hear someone complaining how Friedrich was terrible to Jo and stopped her from writing, you can freely quote that and prove how wrong they are.
When Jo takes Friedrich´s advice to study character, she actually begins to study Friedrich, without him knowing and she starts to fall in love with him.
"I don´t know wheter the study of Shakespeare helped her t read character, r the natural of instinct of a woman for what was honest
Followed by my personal favorite quote from Litttle Women.
Then there is a long paragrahp where Jo thinks about his hands and how nice he looks in his homely ragged clothes. It´s probably just Louisa writing about Henry again. When Jo leaves New York, she and Friedrich are friends. She doesn´t go away because she thinks he doesn´t like her writing which happens in 1994 and 2019 films.
In the chapters when Jo is in New York, you do get the sense that Friedrich has strong feelings for Jo. After Jo says that she must return home because Beth is ill, there is a scene where Friedrich is alone and he is thinking about Jo and he wonders what it would be like to be with her. There is some of that in the 1949 movie, where you can see that Friedrich is quite lonely sometimes and he has a longing for her, but in the book Jo starts to fall for Friedrich as well.
"He helped her in many ways, proving himself a true friend, and Jo was happy: for while her pen lay idle, she was learning beside German and laying foundation for the sensation story of her life".
Jo does write the poem about Beth and it becomes very successful. After Beth´s death Jo goes through a period of grief and then when she is in the attic she finds a pile of letters that Friedrich has written to her. It is that reminder from him that Jo can be a great successful writer that sparks the interest for her to start writing again.Then she is surprised when the poem becomes successul and she doesn´t know why and Marmee says it is because it is genuine and she wrote without trying to please anyone. You can see Jo´s growth as a writer also in the novel, despite the fact that it is not yet Little Women that she is writing.
Jo is married and she has a family when she writes Little Women. This happens sometimes between the sequels "little men" and "Jo´s boys" and I don´t think the narrator, Louisa even mentions the name of Jo´s successful book. Just that it is a story about her family. Louisa herself wasn´t a huge fan of Little Women. Which kinda makes it silly when people complain that Jo in Little Women doesn´t write Little Women. Little Women in away is a wish fulfillment. Louisa wanted to marry and have a family. She got sick after the war and never truly recovered. She was very lonely and then her most popular book was a story the way she had wished her life to be more like. It is no wonder she had mixed feelings about it.
IN Jo´s Boys There is a even a quote where Jo says how lucky she is to have a husband who is always supportive about her writing and career.
Susan Bailey once wrote in her blog that if Louisa had met a real life Friedrich later in life, somebody who had accepted her flaws and support her career, she would have married them and be happy.
This is a quote from Megan Armknecht:
Professor Bhaer and Jo March complement each other, bringing out the best in each other, similar to how Goethe’s writings brought out the best in Alcott’s intellect. German influence on Alcott and her literary work helps prove that Alcott’s books—Little Women, Little Men, An Old-Fashioned Girl and so on—are more than just children’s novels. They are collections of philosophies, ideas, and culture which can be used as important tools for understanding nineteenth-century culture and values on both sides of the Atlantic.
I hope this episode has given you more in depth thoughts about both Jo and Friedrich and Louisa as an author. I have become convinced that Louisa planned Jo to marry a Friedrich type character even before she began to write Little Women. In her journals from the time when Louisa was in her early twenties she actually has a draft of a story which is about her life, and this is like ten years before she was asked by her publisher to write a book for girls. Louisa said that Little Women would "write itself", I think it´s very possible that Louisa has this idea of Jo and Friedrich and Amy and Laurie way before Little Women existed and you can trace both of those love stories to books that Louisa liked to read but more about them in the season tree of Small Umbrella In The Rain. Thank you for listening. Take care and make good choices.
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?
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
sMALL UMBRELLA IN THE RAIN
Small Umbrella In The Rain is an on-going series of video essays, articles and podcast episodes that examines the different intersections in Louisa May Alcott´s Little Women.