Little Women: Mutual Recognition of one-another

Niina Pekantytär
columbia pictures

In the "Under the umbrella" chapter in Little Women, when Jo and Friedrich go shopping Jo is very clumsy and Friedrich starts to see how Jo indeed goes by contradictions. In the store, she hides her cried face into a shawl. ”Does this suit you Mr Bhaer?” she asked. Turning her back to him, feeling deeply grateful, for the chance of hiding her face. I actually always thought that this scene was very intimate. It gives me some serious 1995 Sense and Sensibility vibes. The next moment she rummages the counters like a ”confirmed bargain hunter”. Jo´s pattern is to hide vulnerabilities into action, but Jo has got to a point where she is ready to let down all her walls. ”For now the sun seemed to have gone, in as suddenly as it came out, and the world grew muddy and miserable again and for the first time, she discovered that her feet were cold. Her head ached and that her heart was fuller of pain than the ladder. Mr Bhaer was going away. He only cared for her as a friend. It was all a mistake, and the sooner it was over the better. With this idea in her head, she hailed an approaching omnibus with such a haste gesture that the daisies flew out of the pot and were badly damaged”. This is where we get into the culmination. The mutual recognition of one another.

”I beg your pardon. I didn´t see the name distinctly. Never mind, I can walk. I am used to paddling in the mud. Returned Jo winking heard, for she would have died, rather than openly wiped her eyes. Mr Bhaer saw the drops on her cheeks though she turned her head away. The sight seemed to touch him very much, for suddenly stooping down he asked in a tone that meant a great deal. ”Hearts dearest why do you cry?” Liking someone is scary. These two have liked each other for quite a long time. When you first bring somebody into your life, it is scary because you have to admit to yourself that you are fully open.

Taking a step forward, to tell you to love them, it´s like standing on an edge of a cliff. Jo and Friedrich are both standing on that cliff and when Jo opens up Friedrich tells her that he has already fallen hard. ”Now if Jo had not been new to this sort of thing, she would have said, she wasn´t crying, had a cold in her head, told any other feminine fib proper to the occasion. Instead of that undignified creature answered with an irresistible sob, ”because you are going away”

”Ach mein gott, that is so good,” said Mr Bhaer, then he clapped his hands despite the umbrella and the bundles. ”Jo I have nothing but much love to give you. I came to see if you could care for it, and I waited to be sure that I was something more than a friend. Am I? Can you make a little place in your heart for old Fritz? he added all in one breath. ”Oh yes!” said Jo, and he was quite satisfied before she folded both hands over his and looked up at him with an expression that plainly showed how happy she would be to walk through life beside him even though she had no better shelter but an old umbrella if he carried it. Friedrich wants to go on to his knees, but they are in the middle of the street covered in mud. It makes it difficult so them to express their love by looking at each other and they no longer care about their surroundings. Jo calls Friedrich by his first name for the first time. Which delights him. He says that his sister was the last person calling him Friedrich. Poor man, that was five years ago. Friedrich also calls Jo Jo and not Miss March. The conversation is now open and tender.

Louisa´s love for Germany continues when Friedrich asks Jo to use the word ”thou” instead of English ”you”. For those of you who don´t speak German, there is ”Sie” which is how you address another person formally. Then there is ”Du” which is informal and in the 19th century context a much intimate. In old English ”thou” was the more intimate version of ”you”. Friedrich shows Jo the poem that brought him to her. The poem is called ”in the garret” and Jo wrote it after Beth´s death while feeling very lonely. In most adaptations, Friedrich has come bringing Jo her new book. The poem shows that Friedrich has taken the time to follow Jo´s career. When Jo asks what kept him away for so long, we find out that he has been looking for a job so that he could provide a home for Jo. This highlights Friedrich´s self-reliance which is a value that Jo appreciates. The chapter ends with the very famous ”not empty now” line.

”I am glad you are poor. I could not bear a rich husband”. Then added in a softer tone. ”Don't fear poverty I´v known it long enough to lose my thread and be happy working for those I love and don´t call yourself old. 40 is the prime of life. I couldn´t help loving you if you were 70!”

Professor found that so touching that he would be glad of his handkerchief. As he couldn´t Jo wiped his eyes for him and said laughing, as she took away a bundle or two. I may be strong-minded but no one can say I am out of my sphere now and bearing burdens. I am to carry my share Friedrich, and help to earn the home. Make up your mind on that, or I´ll never go”. She added resolutely as he tried to reclaim his load. ”Ach, thou give me such hope and courage, I have nothing to give back but a full heart and these empty hands”. Sighted the professor quite overcome. Jo never would learn to be proper. For when he said that as they stood upon the steps, she put both of her hands into his whispering tenderly. ”Not empty now” and stooping down kissed ”her Friedrich” under the umbrella.

Here is another quote from Christine Doyle. ”While Meg and John are the down to earth couple. Amy and Laurie are romantic's artists. Jo and Friedrich combine the two. One of Friedrich´s most compelling qualities is that he combines the domestic and the romantic heroism”. Most 19th-century courtship restrained from crossing the line until marriage, but that did not necessarily mean that all relationships lacked passion. Lystra mentions that middle to upper-middle-class couples often did not take physical consummation until marriage. However, during unchaperoned courtship, they would.

Here is a quote from Little Women fan Kymberly East:

”In the professor, Jo found a candidate for a kind of marriage she had not considered possible. A union between two people where freedom and partnership intertwine. In such a relationship, she didn´t have to sacrifice anything. As a matter of fact, she was able to realize a dream, that she otherwise may not have been able to achieve and in later books, she finds success as an author as well as providing a home for boys. Her liberation is completed and no sacrifice has been required of her”

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

Finland, MN

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