As far as I can recall, Little Women was my first “big book”. I was in 5th grade, and my sister V had to read Little Women in her “non-detail” class (remember those?). I decided to read along, and was totally mesmerized by the lively lives of the four sisters. I totally identified with Jo (tomboy, voracious reader, writer, didn’t like to dress up, was clumsy – too many similarities with self that I found striking even at that young age). The book that V’s class read was quite abridged, if I recall right. But my interest continued, so shortly thereafter, I hunted for and devoured Good Wives and Jo’s Boys as well.
Big shocker in Good Wives (if you’ve read the book, you know where I am going, don’t you?). Jo refuses the young, handsome, fun, and filthy-rich Laurie, and marries the portly, 39-year old (practically one foot in the grave in those days!) German Professor Bhaer!! Jo and Laurie were such close friends, soul mates even, and seemed just so perfect together. Even worse than Jo and Laurie not getting together, Laurie actually turns around and marries Jo’s younger sister Amy, ugh! I remember that I was totally crushed to read it back in my teens (perhaps because I identified so much with Jo, it all felt so super personal).
Last night, I found an old copy lying around, and eagerly tucked in to re-read some parts of it. And, of course, made a beeline for the chapter titled “Heartache” to see if I understand any better why on earth Jo refused Laurie. Didn’t understand it any better – indeed, the chapter just gave me heartache again (as evidenced by the fact that I am ranting the next day on my blog like this!). Seriously – what twisted, perverse thinking prompted Louisa May Alcott to come up with such horrible mis-pairings?!
The closing of “Heartache” has always haunted me.
““Oh, Jo, can’t you?”
“Teddy, dear, I wish I could!”
That was all, except a little pause. Then Laurie straightened himself up, said, “It’s all right, never mind,” and went away without another word. Ah, but it wasn’t all right, and Jo did mind, for while the curly head lay on her arm a minute after her hard answer, she felt as if she had stabbed her dearest friend, and when he left her without a look behind him, she knew that the boy Laurie never would come again.”
Sigh! Jo’s choice – after all these decades since I first read the book (and some 150 years since the book was written) – still drives me crazy and makes me want to shake that girl till she sees sense.
So. If you made it this far (thank you) and know what I am talking about, who gets your vote – Laurie or Bhaer – and why?