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.
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.