Why Friedrich is Poor (Little Women Explained)

Niina Pekantytär

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When Friedrich tells Jo that the sensational stories can corrupt a person´s mind, Jo agrees with him because these sensational stories have been already corrupting her mind. Louisa did the same as Jo, she wrote sensational stories and then she had a moment of clarity. We could compare this to a person who is working for a company. Payment is small, they get no appreciation and they are asked to produce content that goes against their own values.

Friedrich helps Jo to see all that and by doing that she gets her self worth back. Her writing also improves because after this Friedrich gives Jo a set of Shakespeare´s novels and Jo begins to search her own literal style.

The Amazing thing is that Jo does exactly the same to Friedrich. Fritz is described to be a very friendly, extroverted person but the narrator also mentions that he feels quite isolated. He is not in a place in his life where he would like to be. He is in a job that doesn´t give him professional satisfaction. The narrator (Louisa) mentions that he dreams about falling in love and starting a family. He loves his nephews but he is also painfully aware that it would be difficult to find a person who would accept the boys to their life as well. Louisa also points out that Friedrich has experienced discrimination for being German and that makes it difficult for him to find a job.

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The best adaptation that shows this is Little Women musical. It even has a line where Friedrich tells Jo that ever since he started to fall for her his students told him that he is much happier and smiles all the time. In the novel, it is the night before Jo is leaving. Fritz gets his moment of clarity “Oh my god. I´m so in love with this woman. What should I do”.

The reason why Jo goes back home is not that they argue like in the films. It´s because Beth gets ill and Friedrich lost a sister. He knows what that is like. Jo does the same to Friedrich what he has done for her. She inspires him to take life by the balls. He starts to look for another job so he could provide both Jo and his nephews and when Jo accepts his proposal and they begin to turn Plumfield into a school Jo returns him his previous status as a professor and he simultaneously supports her career as a writer.

This is how Jo addressed her family about her plans: “Now, my dear people,” continued Jo earnestly, “just understand that this isn’t a new idea of mine, but a long-cherished plan. Before my Fritz came, I used to think how, when I’d made my fortune, and no-one needed me at home, I’d hire a big house, and pick up some poor, forlorn little lads who hadn’t any mothers, and take care of them, and make life jolly for them before it was too late. I see so many going to ruin for want of help at the right minute, I love so to do anything for them, I seem to feel their wants, and sympathize with their troubles, and oh, I should so like to be a mother to them! …I told my plan to Fritz once, and he said it was just what he would like, and agreed to try it when we got rich. Bless his dear heart, he’s been doing it all his life — helping poor boys, I mean, not getting rich, that he’ll never be. Money doesn’t stay in his pocket long enough to lay up any. But now, thanks to my good old aunt, who loved me better than I ever deserved, I’m rich, at least I feel so, and we can live at Plumfield perfectly well if we have a flourishing school. It’s just the place for boys, the house is big, and the furniture strong and plain. There’s plenty of room for dozens inside, and splendid grounds outside. They could help in the garden and orchard. Such work is healthy, isn’t it, sir? Then Fritz could train and teach in his own way, and Father will help him. I can feed and nurse and pet and scold them, and Mother will be my stand-by. I’ve always longed for lots of boys, and never had enough, now I can fill the house full and revel in the little dears to my heart’s content. Think what luxury — Plumfield my own, and a wilderness of boys to enjoy it with me.”’

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Philosopher Waldo Emerson was Louisa’s friend and neighbour; I will read you a quote from his book Self-Reliance: ‘What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is harder because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own, but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.’

What Waldo is saying there is that trusting your own instincts is always the best path to take, and it is also the more difficult one because there are always people who try to convince you to go against what you know is right.

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

Finland, MN
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