Jo Marries Goethe, Louisa May Alcott and the German Writer

Niina Pekantytär

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Goethe Louisa´s literal idol

Goethe is still today a huge figure in Germany and in German-speaking countries, one must read at least some of his works to get into the university they want. Lots of research has been done between the similarities in Louisa´s novel “A long fatal love chase” and Goethe´s Faust but the connections between Goethe´s writings and Little Women is just beginning.

Friedrich and Jo are both mixed characters. Louisa wrote Jo to be an idealized version of herself, therefore Jo also has elements from women who Louisa admired. Louisa wrote Friedrich to be her own ideal man, so Friedrich has elements of men who Louisa loved and admired, and Goethe was one of these men.

“Mrs Kirk told me he was from Berlin. Very learned and good but poor as a church mouse”.

Goethe was not poor as a church mouse. He actually came from an aristocratic background but Friedrich shares Goethe´s intellectualism and the book gives hints that if Fritz would have remained in Germany he would have risen into great fame, because of his intellectualism.

In his native city, he had been a man much honoured and esteemed for learning and integrity. Jo felt proud to know that he was an honoured professor in Berlin, though only a poor language master in America and his homely, hard-working life, was much beautified by the spice of romance which this discovery gave it.

Goethe´s native city was not Berlin. He was from Weimar, but the two cities are only a hundred miles away from each other in the same region.

Quote from Megan Armknecht:

By the time when Alcott wrote Little Women, Berlin was gaining more and more importance and would become the capital of the new German empire in 1871.

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Goethe´s and Friedrich´s similar traits

There are similarities between Goethe´s and Friedrich´s personalities. Both were family men and loved children. Their characteristics include kindness and largeness of heart.

When Jo sees Fritz for the first time, he is helping a young servant girl to carry a heavy hold of cole.

In her letter home, Jo remarks on the incident.

“Wasn´t it good of him? I like such things for as father says, trifles show character.

Friedrich loves kids and is very good with them. After his sister Minna passed away, he adopted his nephews Franz and Emil and raised them as his own. For Jo, that Friedrich has children, especially boys, is actually something very attractive. Throughout the novel, the narrator (Louisa) mentions how much Jo loves boys and hanging out with boys and boyish energy.

Jo loves to observe how Fritz interacts with children. When she is staying in New York, she spies on him and little Tina, who is the daughter of the French maid at the boarding house.

Jo writes; “Tina has lost her heart to Mr Bhaer and follows him about the house, like a dog, whenever he is at home, which delights him, as he is very fond of children”.

Goethe biographer Herder writes that Goethe was a great child all his life. Eager to learn and willing to give whatever he had to make others happy. One of the things that Jo finds attractive in Friedrich´s character is the way he is always ready to look after people and himself. This is in contradiction to Laurie´s behaviour since for the most part of the novel, Laurie doesn´t know how to be an adult or how to look after himself and he expects that once they marry, Jo shall be his caretaker, not an equal partner, which is what Amy later becomes.

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Folklorist and historian. Alcott essayist. A host of the Little Women Podcast.

Finland, MN
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