Since my aunt’s boyfriend got me a Kindle, I’ve been rereading a lot of classic books. It’s not just because many of them are free — it helps, of course — but because I enjoyed reading books such as Little Women, The Secret Garden, Tom Sawyer, etc. as a kid. So I happily spent hours downloading and poring over childhood favorites the day I got my Kindle in the mail. Some things, like The Secret Garden, were shorter and simpler than I remembered. Then I got started on Little Women; halfway through, I stopped reading because it upset me more than I realized it would.
It’s that Jo-and-Laurie thing again. I cannot get over it.
I had always taken issue with how Louisa May Alcott married off Laurie, Jo’s best buddy, to her bratty sister Amy. Don’t try to convince me that Jo and Laurie were too fiery for each other — the book is a testament to a period when women were expected to conform to a particular ideal. Marmee discouraged a relationship with Laurie so that Jo’s temper could sweeten and make her a gentler woman, instead of the firebrand she would remain with Laurie.
And Amy, who burned Jo’s first novel, went to Europe in Jo’s place, and was generally a bratty social climber throughout the book, is married to Laurie. Amy! Amy, of all people. My blood boils.
I know that Alcott, a spinster herself, probably saw herself in Jo and wanted to justify her decisions through the character, but why marry her to a 40-something professor who was as “poor as a church mouse” if she wanted to go down that road?
I realize I’m being silly. But my first exposure to Little Women was piecemeal; I read an anthology of notable chapters from classic books, and the excerpts from it included the first Christmas scene and Jo and Laurie’s meeting. I loved Jo’s character — she climbed trees, didn’t care what people said, and was a voracious bookworm. Like thousands of kids everywhere, I thought of myself as Jo. So reading the entire book was a disappointment because Jo’s mellowed-down character hardly set her apart from the others. Of course, I’m reading it 150 years after it was published, and standards have changed since then.
But it didn’t lessen the disappointment of rereading it.
Update: A Facebook commenter summed it up perfectly: “Bratty social climbing is rewarded with a trip to Europe and marriage to the handsome, wealthy boy next door. Meanwhile, the intelligent, independent girl gets the penurious professor. It upsets me to this day.”