Marriages in Little Women

Niina Pekantytär
Jonathan Borba/Unsplash

Discussion between Little Women researchers Christina Scott and Niina Niskanen.

Christina: I remember you said...I´m pretty sure it was you when you said that Meg and John were more grounded type, Laurie and Amy are the romantic types and then Jo and Friedrich are a mix of the two. They are grounded in the sense of what is realistic but they are deeply romantic with each other and that it carries on through the years.

Niina: One of my friends said that Louisa writing all these things to her journals, how she was lonely and envied her sisters marriages and how she wanted to get married, it was not something that she could say to the public if she had this fear that people would pity her because she was a spinster but also that during that time it would not have been something even appropriate to tell that I am not married and I am lonely. She was always afraid that she would lose her face. I have been reading this from a couple of different sources that she paid Laddie Wisniewski (the real life Laurie) some money that he would not go to the press and chat about their...I don´t know if it was an affair or a kiss or something more I think it is pretty clear that Louisa was afraid that people would find out that she had affairs with men. I think it was one of the Alcott studies that I read that Louisa and her publisher, they were the ones who came up with the "spinster image" that they could sell her books especially for the children because the children were her target audience. Even though nowdays a lot of people see Little Women as a young adult novel and some people even as an adult novel but back then it was really targeted for children. I don´t think Little Women is nessecarily a children´s book because I think it opens up a lot better when you have some years behind you but I think it explains a lot about why people have so many misconceptions about Louisa and marriage. There is a very big difference between this public image that Louisa and her publisher Thomas Niles created for her, so that they could sell her works and then there is this private Louisa who had these crushes to her older male friends and I think she did fell in love to Henry David Thoreau and she had a fling with Laddie Wisniewski. She was a very passionate woman who did want a career and romance and marriage. I also read that the early Alcott scholars, because they didn´t really want to admit the difference between the two, they cut out these certain parts about her diaries and didn´t include them to the public statements about Louisa May Alcott. It is really interesting when you go back to the Louisa May Alcott research and how in different time periods, certain elements have been removed from Louisa May Alcott studies. I read that in the 70s when the 1970 series came out, there was this big anti-Fridrich and anti-Laurie movement in Alcott research because of that series. The way it portraed Laurie and Friedrich and I kinda understand that because I don´t think that series does that great job portraying the male characters, but that is also really a shame, in terms of the research if you take this very angry feminist approach to the male characters.

Christina: The BBC version you are talking about?

Niina: Yeah. The one where Friedrich is really angry when he finds out that Jo has been writing sensational stories. 

Christina: That one is a very unusual version. I also remember that they did Mr March a little weird. I was like that doesn´t seem right to his character, to be his character to be oblivious like that. The one scene that stands out particularly is the one when Friedrich comes to visit and he is like "Oh my God it´s you" and takes him to his study and doesn´t even realize that "Oh maybe Jo wanted to see Friedrich" I was like, that seems so totally not in character with Mr March. It is a very unusual version and not to say that the BBC couldn´t do a version of Little Women, because obviously they´re British and we are American. It almost felt that time it was making fun of it. It had moments where I was just like I don´t know if you are making fun of the story or not, like there is something very off about it, which I almost felt was a shame because it does have some good moments. I think the actress that plays Jo is good. She could have been a really good Jo. She seemed to "Laurie? hello jerk, just leave her alone". It´s tough, and for anyone who doesn´t know, I took the time, that is so far today the only version that has an actual German Friedrich.

Niina: Half German, half English I think (the actor Frederick Jäeger) 

Christina: I am trying to find the list I made. One day I was just like "let me just see how many of them are actual Germans". Yeah, I found it. For anyone that is curious Paul Lukas from the 1933 version is Hungarian.  Rossano Brazzi from the 1949 version is Italian.  Then Frederick Jaeger from the 1971 version that we are discussing is German.  Shatner from the 1978 two-part series is Canadian.  Gabriel Byrne from 1994 is Irish.  Mark Stanley from the Masterpiece theatre mini-series is English.  Ian Bohen from the modern-day one is American and Louis Garrel is French. 

I was curious one day, let me just research this and I got to say, as unusual as the 1970 version is, it had that going on but that is a shock, like seriously. Out of all of those mainstream versions that is the only one that is closest to how the book version is. It is very bizarre. 

Niina: It is not very loyal to the book. I think it did a pretty good job with Amy and Laurie in Europe. The dialogue was very close to the book but then it also had that scene of Laurie catfishing Meg, which is also in the book, but then I got so mad because they framed it to be Meg´s fault. That would not run today because it was all Laurie´s fault. 

Christina: Right! and it is not fair to say that´s Meg´s fault when why would she ever suspect that Laurie would ever do such a thing? as harmless as his other tricks before, she was probably just like "oh whatever" but that was not harmless. That was a very mean thing to do and that´s like the moment where you are kind of like "Laurie that was very low of you to go that way". Again I am not a fan of any version that has an adult playing Amy and I think as good as she was more mature in Europe, that is a good sequence but as a child, that actress got on my nerves. I couldn´t stand listening to her screech that way. So it was the same thing with Amy in the 1978 version, it was just like "Oh my God! Just grow up. You are grown up so act like it. 

Niina: You can not have an adult woman playing a child without making the character look immature. It happens every time. Every single time. 

Christina: and I do say I give props to the 1949 version that obviously when you look at the Margaret O´Brien is younger than Elizabeth Taylor. In that one, they actually switched it to be that Amy is older than Beth. While that is not accurate I can appreciate that they did try to accommodate it that way, so that it doesn´t look wrong. Again you can´t convince me that Margaret O´Brien is older than Elizabeth Taylor. So far only the 1994 version and the 2018 modern-day version actually did do a split between a child Amy and the adult Amy and it makes Amy so much more sympathetic when you kinda look at her. She is just a little girl. She wants to be with the older sisters, which is something I relate to. I am the youngest of four and my sister is five years older than me. So I always had that feeling "can I come too?" "No, you are not old enough for this". Let´s just say if I was 10 and she was 15 she was like "sorry, only teenagers can do this" or "you are not old enough for that". So I definitely can identify with Amy on that feeling of "I want to join too. It is not fair" and you feel bad because it´s like "she is just a little kid" but when you do get an older actress playing the part and doing the whole book burning scene, it doesn´t feel as sympathetic to Amy and you do have that sort of feeling like "Jo is right to be mad at her for as long as she has to because she is an adult and she should know better". Whereas with a little kid it is like "It was really bad that she did that, but you got to understand she is a little kid. Be a little bit more forgiving towards her". I don´t know why they feel, they need to. The only thing I can think of is I am assuming in general Hollywood when they do casting and they take an older actress to play a younger person is that they think that somehow you are going to lose momentum or you lose something in that but I´m like I can´t buy, as much as I do like Lily James, I can´t buy Lily James being a young Natasha in War and Peace. She is a little bit too mature looking to be a 12 year old. If you told me 16, I´d be like, that´s a stretch but whatever I can buy that more than 12. I don´t really understand it and it really loses a lot of the character for me. 

Niina: One of the things that came out about Amy in the book, is that when she was 12, what she really wanted was Jo´s approval. She wanted Jo to like her and there is nothing wrong with that but I think Jo also resented that Amy was so feminine and there is nothing wrong with her being feminine either. One of the things that I really liked about part 2 was this description of how Jo and Amy would fight about something and then they would burst out laughing when they realized that "this is really stupid, this argument we are having". Amy wasn´t anti-Jo. Jo wasn´t anti-Amy. They were just sisters. 

Christina: Again I sort of draw parallels between my sister and myself. I don´t know if we were very close when we were younger, and it is the same with every sibling, no matter who you are sibling wise. Whether it is two boys, two girls, one boy one girl type of situation, but when you reach a certain age you are just like "I want to do things I want to do, when I have to spend all my time with my little sister or my little brother". The younger sibling kinda feels like "you are leaving me behind" and then for once you get into a certain age, you almost reconnect. I feel I am definitely closer with my sister now because now we are both adults and we have that better understanding of each other and not that there was never any love between us in all those years, there was. It was just in away, and I think in general children are unintentionally selfish and we just go like "I want to do what I want to do within this age and I don´t care if my little sister wants to come along. It is what I want to do. Why should she? she can´t come along. I am not going to accommodate that because I earned my years to be able to do this and I am not going to be held back by her. So yeah I don´t think there was ever, like you said, anti-Jo, anti-Amy against each other. Whatever points they were in their lives it just did not need them to be as close as they were, but as they got older they understand themselves better as well as each other and that helped to create a closer and more developed relationship where they can actually be more like friends. I think that people tend to put them together because they both do so well with Beth. Between the two of them, they have a little bit more conflict. They grow out of it and particularly I felt with the Gerwig version, they put more attention on Jo´s and Amy´s relationship. "Oh, it´s symbolism because they are so different and contrasting each other" and it´s like, I don´t know. I don´t feel like there is that much thought in it. Just in general that is just the nature of how sibling relationships are. You start off being like "Oh my little sister, my big sister" and then you grow into that age of "I want to do more the adult things I don´t want to be around my little sibling as much as I used to" and then re-connecting and now that we are closer, in the sense of age-mentality, we can do those things together. I think people over-blow Jo and Amy relationship as if it is this full-on sibling rivalry which it really is not. Not at all.
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Niina: I was really surprised because, when I did research on Louisa May Alcott´s relationship with May Alcott. Yes, there was some sibling rivalry between them when they were younger. Like I said about the angry feminists and the 70s version, I think a lot of the Alcott scholars...well not necessarily Alcott scholars, but the public in general, when they are interpreting Little Women in different times they always tend to go to the tv version or a film version, instead of the book. When I was doing the research about the sisters. It really boggled my mind that there were so many Alcott scholars who were writing how Louisa envied May when she was living in Europe, and she was hanging out with Laddie Wisniewski (the real-life Laurie). Then I read these letters between Louisa and May. It seems that they both were fed up with him and I also got this feeling that not only had Louisa given him money. I don´t know if it was shutting him down about their fling or if she wanted to help him financially. I don´t know. It seemed that May might have also borrowed him money because she writes in a letter to Louisa that "he never paid his debt back" and people always say to me "Niina you really shouldn´t hate Laurie that much". I don´t hate Laurie. Laurie, he grows in his relationship with Amy and I really like that and that is a big part of his character but I can´t deny the fact that all these real-life Laurie´s: Laddie Wisniewski and Alf Whitman, who was also a friend of the Alcott´s. Laddie was an adult man and he seemed to have been borrowing money from his wealthy friends and didn´t seem to be very reliable or very interested in work and I think May also wrote about Alf ..." well he seems to be a bit lost in life and doesn´t really have a direction". That sounds a  lot like Laurie. I´ve read so many bad studies about Louisa and May and how they were "fighting" over Laddie, who was living in Paris same time as May. It doesn´t align with the letters that the sisters wrote to each other and why on earth would they be fighting about this guy. I think Louisa wrote Laurie to be this aspiring character who actually grows out of that disillusion that he has about artist life. It´s not just Laddie and Alf who were models for Laurie. You can find it from all these different books that Louisa read and all these young men she liked to hang out with. I think it´s really dismissive for both literal Jo and Amy and then the actual Louisa May Alcott and May Alcott, to present them as these sisters who just were having this love and hate relationship and only fought about this guy who wasn´t always that great. I actually really like Laurie in Little Men and Jo´s boys when he brings these poor boys to Jo. He always says that Jo was the one who raised him. He doesn´t speak about Jo as his first love or girlfriend. I just don´t like the romanticization of the young Laurie. I think a lot of these Alcott scholars try to present Jo and Amy as these people who just fight over Laurie. It´s not based on the book. That is based on the adaptations. I say the same about the people who say that Jo and Friedrich just argue. They don´t argue in the book. They argue pretty much in every single adaptation.

Christina: I always have felt that out of all of them, Jo and Friedrich would be the ones with the best communication skills, because, like you said they never argue or yell at each other, they always just somehow manage to discuss the situation and I think people also just sort of think that "Oh Jo has a temper" and they think she carries that throughout. That she always has a temper, but like, she knows how to control it by the time when she goes to New York and most of the adaptations will have her to play out like "Oh there is that temper of hers" but no. She learns how to control it by thanks to Marmee and even Mr March when he comes back, but it is also not in Friedrich´s nature to be argumentative either. He is not a temperamental type of guy and as we find Jo has tempers when she reacts to something negatively in a very strong way, but we never see her yell at Beth. She never yells at Beth for anything, even when she doesn´t agree because why would she yell at Beth? She is the least offending person ever and I feel, if I had to compare Friedrich to any of the sisters it would be Beth. You know he is a very quiet, gentle soul. Who, unlike Beth is able to when the moment needs to, rise. He can stand up and say "No!, I don´t agree with that". He is more willing to put himself out there if the situation comes to it. He can sit there and be "I may not agree but that´s fine" and as we see in the novel when they are at the symposium and someone says something regards to religion and that is that moment when he is like "I need to stand up and say something, but in the nicest way possible" with strong facts to hold him behind and that is when Jo gets that extra boost of respect for Friedrich. So it would be very surprising and almost negative towards Jo´s character to say one that this temper that she has been working on, all the sudden comes back and to say that she would yell at someone who is so unoffensive, unlike Laurie who likes to yells and says these very negative things towards her where she responds negatively whereas Friedrich approaches her with the very kind and gentle way so there is no reason for her to respond in that way. Yeah, I don´t really understand why people feel that, that it is so important to have them argue when it is not close to who their characters are and it changes how you almost see their characters because why would Friedrich act that way when he doesn´t and why would Jo yell at him when there is no reason to yell at him.

Niina: I think Amy also had a very calming influence on Laurie. Amy is a very visual person and then we have Laurie who likes these very pretty things. He likes nice clothes.

Christina: Right.

Niina: A man who likes to take care of his looks. Which is kinda opposite to my man Fritz. There are times when Jo makes fun of Laurie. There are times when he likes to buy nice clothes, fancy gloves and Jo laughs about it because why are you spending your money on these irrelevant things. She doesn´t really have much appreciation for Laurie taking care of his looks and one of my friends pointed out that all the three couples have their own special aesthetics so to speak. John and Meg, have this whole cottagecore aesthetic and Jo and Friedrich. They are not too picky. Jo was that kind of person who didn´t really romanticise life. Even though Jo and Fritz are a very romantic couple like you said but Jo was never a very visual person. In Little Men, it´s almost like she and Fritz have this mutual agreement that Plumfield is going to be this topsy-turvey upside-down place. If boys sticky hands make places dirty, that´s okay and we can have pillow fights once a week. So they can release their energy and then it is completely different in the Lawrence house because Amy and Laurie they like to have these fancy balls and dinner parties and things to be visually pleasing and I always thought that Amy and Laurie were a match made in heaven because him being the way he was something that Amy found visually pleasing and of course Jo found Friedrich very attractive.

I really love that scene where Amy and Laurie are in Europe and she takes his hand and says "this is like a lady´s hand, you haven´t done any real work in your life" and Amy knows the struggles of being poor and Laurie doesn´t have any experiences of that and then Amy says that Jo hates lazy people and Amy herself also hates lazy people, and that is Laurie´s wake up call. That is when he turns from a boy into a man, and that scene was not in the 2019 film, which has made millions of people think that Laurie just moved on from Jo to Amy without any good reason. It´s better in the 1994 film because Laurie says to Amy that he is going to work to make himself to be worthy of her, but before that he says to Jo that he is going to work to be worthy of her as well, but that is not in the book. Needless to say, none of that is in 1933 and 1949 films and Amy inspiring Laurie to be productive was not in the 2017 series either.

Niina: Louisa May Alcott worked as a nurse in the war. She took care of sick people. She saw bodies lying around. She wasn't squeamish. Maybe because she didn´t consider herself very attractive always and that also had to do with her illness. When you read Little Women, there is sometimes criticism of the way people tend to pay more attention to the way things look outside than the way they look inside. You know what I mean. Jo is not a very visual person.

Christina: I had forgotten about the pillow fights. Oh, that is so adorable. Each relationship works out for each of them in the best way. Friedrich and Jo are a little bit more like "Oh let´s just do whatever suits us at whatever time and Laurie and Amy are these people who are like "We have to have dinner ready by 5 because we just have to". No earlier no later, but it works for them because that is the lifestyle that they want and if you have someone like Jo who is just like "eh let´s just eat whenever whatever" and Laurie is like "No I want to have it at this specific time and specific meal" that is going to clash. Again I think that makes how she handles these relationships very well that it´s not just "Oh you can trade one sister for another" No. They are so different. Their relationship with Laurie is so different that it will not have the same outcome as you think that it will. You can´t have Laurie just be with Jo and expect to have the same outcome as Laurie and Amy, because it won't work. Not at all. In some ways, it is a story of opposites attracting as well as people who are similar attracting. You often hear people saying differently "be with someone who is completely different from you" but then you have some people like "get someone that is completely the same to you" and I got to find the passage but I think Marmee said it perfectly. This is when Jo wants to leave for New York, and Marmee says I think it is not just because you want to leave but you want to leave because of Laurie.

She says that "as a friend, you are very happy, and your frequent fights fall over but you both would fall off if you made it for life. You are too much alike and too fond of freedom. Not to mention high temper and strong wills to get on happy with each other in a relationship that needs infinite patience and forbearance and a lot of love". So on the one hand, the fact that they are very similar is going to be detrimental to them. That would ruin their relationship because really what makes a relationship work is what is similar about the two of you is, your morals, your points of view on some of the bigger topics of things and your interests but you need to be different enough to allow some sort of growth to happen. If you have two people who are exactly the same and have the same sort of ways of living life, there is a very slim chance that they can grow that into something more progressive, into something more deep and meaningful I think. It´s kind of like "what do you want to do today?" "I don´t know, what do you want to do?" "I don´t know" and then just, you don´t do anything. You need to get someone that is at least a little different from you and you go "I don´t know, what you want to do?" "Why won´t we do something a little different, out of our comfort zone. Let´s do it, let´s go". I think that in a way they both have that, as you said, Amy pushed Laurie to be more responsible and realize what kind of grown-up he needs to be and Friedrich helps to ground Jo and be..he tells her "You can still have those dreams. You can still be a writer. You can do it. I believe that you can. In a way, Amy and Friedrich are what Jo and Laurie need because some ways they ground them but also give them what is it that they need, not necessarily what they want. Laurie thinks what he wants is a housewife that is just going to do what he wants them to do. in they needed was a wife that is like "You know you could stand and do a few chores around this house". I think that is why some people have that idea "Jo and Laurie are great together because they are so similar, but there lies the problem. They are too similar, they are too similar and they are like a reflection of each other and I think if you spend too long, too often with someone that is just like you, you are going to see some of the more negative stuff about yourself and you are not going to like it. You are going to hate how you are as a person and then you are going to start resenting that person because you recognize some of the more negative stuff about yourself.  "I can grow and learn from this" but the person that you are with has not done the same and you are like "I am moving ahead and you are staying right there and we want different things" and I think no matter what Jo´s and Laurie´s relationship would have ended into a disaster because one will grow and the other will not and you can´t have a relationship where you are not going together somewhere. Whether both of you stay in one place, or one stays and one goes.
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Niina:  That is absolutely right. You said that Jo and Friedrich don´t really have any reasons to argue. Henry and Louisa, from what I have read, had this sort of telepathic way of communication. That they would understand each other without words. I think you can see some of that in Little Women in Jo and Friedrich the way they communicate, and as you said, they probably have the least problems in communication, what it comes to the different couples in Little Women, because they know each other so well, so it is really interesting that Louisa and Henry had this telepathic rapport between one another and even though Louisa had temper tantrums, Henry was, what I´ve read, quite a peaceful person and didn´t really care too much about arguing. I think it brings another extra layer to Little Women, and to Jo´s and Friedrich´s relationship. I think you can see a lot of that in Little Men especially when they have these teasing conversations with one another. Well...they really don´t argue a lot in the sequels and they don´t argue in Little Women. Why would they argue? they don´t have any big conflicts? Jo and Laurie are the ones who have the conflicts? and even with Meg and John ...well there was a reason for that argument. After that, they were a better couple. Meg realized that she had problems leaving behind this idea that she wished that sometimes they would have more money and John realized that Meg has more needs.

Christina: It´s a growing thing. It´s not easy. It´s a growing thing. You got to learn each other idiosyncrasies. You got to learn what does it mean to have another person in your life, that is so close to you. It´s just like when people say when they have kids, they have that realization of "Oh I have just realized that it is not just going to always be about me. Sometimes it is about them and that doesn´t mean that you necessarily are sacrificing the overall picture of what you want for them but just take a step back and go "I got to realize that even though I approach this situation this way, it doesn´t work when I go with this person of who I am living with and love and whatnot. I think that with Meg and John because they were already so shy with each other at the beginning of their relationship, that it took a little bit more time for them to sort of understand what does it really mean to be in love and to be married. They are such an underrated Little Women couple. It is such a sweet little romance and it´s like "ah they love each other" and then you can watch them blossom to these developed parents who truly care for their children, and surprisingly John being a lot more hands-on than you would expect any man from that time period to be with their kids. It really goes to show that marriage is not always as easy as one would think.

Niina: In Little Women when there was the cat-fishing sequence I think there was a moment afterwards, Meg was looking that Laurie wasn´t going to do any kind of jokes with John. She was keeping eye on him more closely. She didn´t want anything bad to happen to John. I think I would do the same if that would happen to me. John is really an underrated character. I always love that scene in Camp Lawrence, when he defends Meg being a governess. He is like..well these American girls need to earn their living too. It is such a nice scene.

Christina: I don´t really think that moment, in particular, has been in any version. I mean we do have certain versions that do have the beach/boating scene and those first hints of "Oh I don´t have any family to worry about" and Meg be like "Oh I would miss you if anything would happen". It´s precious, the fact that he is so patient with her because he knows that he loves her but, he knows that Meg isn´t fully sure but he is not pressuring her the same way that Laurie would have. He is just like "it´s alright. I´ll wait if you like". I am always here if you do realize that you do love me and that´s okay you´ll take your time. You do what you have to do". He is such a sweet character, and the fact that he just wants Meg to be happy even at the sacrifice of getting a new coat for her to get a dress, is just special and it is such a big moment for Meg, to be like "You know what, I don´t need a dress, I just need you" and it is such a lovely relationship. That really doesn´t get as much love that as the other two comparatively and I think that is a shame.

Niina: Both Friedrich and John are parallel in the sense that at one point they feel that they are not worth these women. With John, it is that Meg has all the pressure to marry a rich guy because she is the prettiest of the sisters and especially aunt March wants her to marry some rich man, and then there is that rumour going on that Meg has something going on with Laurie and Marmee is really mad about it which is understandable but I think John also felt that he was too poor for her because Meg came from a poor family too but he didn´t feel that he could give her what she needed. That is also one of the reasons why they waited. Why he waited for her.

I love that scene in Little Women, when Friedrich feels that he is not worthy of Jo but it is also because he thinks that Jo is engaged to Laurie and he can only base his views on Laurie to what Jo has told him. Which is not a lot. Only that he is this rich neighbour and Jo´s best friend and that´s pretty alarming when you are in love with this girl when you hear that. "Okay, are they engaged?" and he doesn´t know that and then he is so happy when he comes to Concord two years later and then he finds out that Amy and Laurie are married. Jo is available.

Christina: Again, props to the 1970 version, as flawed as it is, they do handle that scene exactly as I imagined it in the book, when he is like "Oh yes you are the friend. Hi nice to meet you"  and Laurie is like "Oh yeah, this is my wife" and he is like "Ooh you´re married oh yeah, we can be friends". Now there is nothing holding me back. But the fact that he was willing to gracefully step aside for Jo if that was the case, is very endearing. It is after he realizes that Laurie is married to Amy and is not at all with Jo that he is like "Now I can finally say my feelings" which is very true of every version when he finds out that there is no Jo and Laurie. It is like "Now I can finally say how I feel. Otherwise before I was just willing to internalize and just make me feel sad forever". Poor Friedrich. He was willing to do that for Jo if that was what she wanted but it ended up working well for everyone.

Niina: It´s such a nice scene when he is like "Oh" and the narrator mentions that "Laurie thought he was nicest German he had ever met". He was so friendly. It´s a really funny scene. I really love the whole courting episode in the novel. He always wants what is best for Jo.

Christina:  Again, it makes me go "oh you two idiots. You love each other". How they always seem to be happening in the same spot "Oh I didn´t see you" "Oh, maybe I´ll go with you to see your sister" "Maybe I´ll go home to make sure we have coffee, not that I was waiting to see you" Jo being all "Friedrich, I mean the professor, he likes coffee". It is very clear to everyone except to each other it would seem, that you are madly in love but I guess love makes you share one brain cell in this case, but then it leads into probably one of the most romantic scenes ever of them taking shelter of each other under an umbrella and saying how much they just love each other. It all comes out in this moment of "I can´t believe you are going away, that makes me sad" "No, I am not going away, I promise I never leave you, I love you too much" I love it. I love that scene too much.

Niina: It´s a really romantic proposal.

Christina: "I have nothing to give you but a full heart and empty hands" the whole her taking his hands, saying "Not empty now" it´s like this is true, classic romantic case on. You know when people talk about Pride and Prejudice Mr Darcy holding Lizzie´s hands and people want to say "Jo and Friedrich are not romantic". "How dare you?" "you must have not read or watched that scene properly".

Niina: It´s like when people say that Jo and Friedrich are not passionate enough and then in the umbrella chapter he is holding her when he sees her crying and then he asks her "why are you crying" and she is like "because you are going away" and then we find out that he has been keeping Jo´s poem with him for months and months and they pretty much start to make out right after the proposal.

Christina: Right and the fact Jo is pretty much the one who jumps on to Friedrich, despite the fact that they are in the middle of a muddy road. She is like "I just got to kiss you because I can´t hold it in. Them making out when people are passing them and it´s raining and their clothes are all muddy. Who cares they got to kiss here and now, who cares who seems them and what not and particularly back then. That was so scandalous.

Niina: Yeah, in the 19th century it wasn´t really seen as appropriate to have such public expressions of...

Christina: affection

Niina: Yes. I read another Louisa May Alcott novel "Work, the story of experience" there is a scene where David, who is once again based on Henry David Thoreau when he confesses his feelings for Christine, who is the protagonist, he almost has this similar blurt, that Friedrich has in the umbrella chapter, that he has been holding all these feelings inside and then he lets it all out there when he confesses his love for her and I think it´s something that Louisa kinda recycles in her stories. There is something similar in Rose in Bloom when Mac confesses his feelings for Rose. When I read about Henry he is quite similar to Friedrich in that sense that he would take his time to think things through before he would express his opinion or, something that he really wanted to say. There are lots of descriptions about him that he was sort of more of a deep thinker and yet in some ways a very passionate person. Yeah, I think some of that must have come from Louisa´s own experiences. Why else would she write about it in her novels?

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

Finland, MN

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