Jo Marries Goethe, Louisa May Alcott´s Love For The German Poet

Niina Pekantytär

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Wilhelm Meister, Jo moving from Laurie to Fritz, Laurie moving from Jo to Amy

Louisa read Wilhelm Meister´s apprenticeship first time as a child and it was a novel that she always went back to. The way Laurie is chasing Jo is very similar to what happens in another famous novel by Goethe “sorrows of Young Werther”. Louisa´s affection for Eliza Follen´s biography on her husband Charles and the love story between an American woman and a German immigrant is also reprised in Little Women in Jo´s and Friedrich´s characters. Another book that Louisa read in her early youth. This knowledge can change the course of Louisa May Alcott research, especially what it comes to Louisa´s own perceptions on Good Wives. Alcott scholar Daniel Shealy writes in his essay “Wedding Marches” “in the remaining correspondence between Louisa and her publisher Thomas Niles there are no indications that Niles would have had any say on the character relationships, the marriage decisions were all Alcott´s”. Louisa had built the basis for the love stories in Little Women decades before she was asked by Niles to write a book for girls. Good Wives (Little Women part 2) was never an afterthought but an exploration between immature love versus mature love. Yes, some of that we can see in Louisa´s own love life in her relationships between young Ladislas Wisniewski (Laurie) and Henry David Thoreau (Friedrich), which is probably the reason why, Louisa later in life tried to detach herself and her own love life from the love life of her literal counterpart, because it became all too personal.

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Geraldine Brooks declares: Another reason Alcott crafted the direction of Jo’s life in this way was that 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.

After doing this research for a few years now, I´ve come to the same conclusion. When I read Louisa´s letters from her later life, where she says she is happy for her sisters when she sees them flourishing in their marriages, she envies them and feels lonely and she believed that in her next life she would get the things she wanted but never could have, a safe and loving relationship and children of her own.

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

Finland, MN
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