Literal Origins of Friedrich and Jo and Laurie and Amy

Niina Pekantytär
Toa Heftiba/ Unsplash

When people study Louisa May Alcott´s life, were they then hobbyists or scholars people choose an area that they are interested and one of the areas that I study is the literature that Louisa May Alcott liked to read and how these certain storylines from these books can be found from Little Women and when I started that research, I quite soon came to the conclusion that Louisa May Alcott planned both Jo´s and Friedrich´s marriage and Amy´s and Laurie´s marriage years before she wrote Little Women. They can all be found in books that she read as a young person. Jo and Friedrich type of relationship can be found in Susan Warner´s Wide Wide World. This book appeared when Louisa was about 18 and if we believe her journals, around that time she fell in love with her friend Henry David Thoreau, and in Susan Warner's book, there is a spirited young woman who falls in love with her older male friend who also is a philosopher. When people complain that "Little Women is sentimental". I´d recommend reading Wide Wide World, it´s 100 times more sentimental than Little Women. Another Jo and Friedrich story would be the story of Eliza and Charles Follen and that was a book that Louisa read at the age of 12. The real-life story of an American female writer who falls in love with a German immigrant. The connection there is so obvious no one can argue with that.

Laurie´s story can be traced to Louisa´s favourite book Goethe´s "Wilhelm Meister´s Apprenticeship". Wilhelm is very similar to Laurie. He wants to run away and become an actor, but his father wants him to take on the family business. Laurie wants to run away and become a musician, but his grandfather wants him to take on the family business. Wilhelm starts out having an affair with Mariana and then moves on to Natalia. There is a scene in Wilhelm Meister, where Natalia and Wilhelm are in the garden and he confesses his love to her and the teenage Louisa May Alcott has penned there the word "beautiful". So when people say that "Oh Louisa didn´t won't marry Jo to Laurie, so she just married him to Amy without any reason" I digress. I think the only way that Jo would have ended up with Laurie is if Louisa May Alcott would have married Laddie Wisniewski and that never happened. She considered it but rightfully turned him down. Then Friedrich is based on her first love, Henry. One of the themes in Wilhelm Meister is the idea that the male character grows as an individual when he moves on from Mariana to Natalia because the next relationship is the one that brings peace to him. In the chapter where Laurie is trying to compose an opera he is indecisive, and his moods change from 1 to 100 very fast. Jo, in the book, also had mood changes when she was younger but she, unlike Laurie, learned to control her temper and when Laurie starts to harass Jo, and they are in their early 20s at that point, Marmee says that she doesn´t think that Jo and Laurie are a good match because they are so similar and that´s when Jo travels to New York. Laurie is harassing her and she doesn´t want to be around. For some unexplained reason in Little Women films between 1933 and 2019 Jo goes to New York after Laurie has proposed to her, but in the book, the proposal happens when Jo has returned and she has started to fall for Friedrich and even defends him when Laurie proposes and he is badmouthing Friedrich. That´s not in any Little Women movie, and what I've heard from Jo and Laurie shippers who only watch the films, they expect Jo to come back and say yes to him, but that was not the reason she went to New York in the first place. Laurie made her feel uncomfortable. He is very demanding in the book when he proposes. Very aggressive, so it´s very different to the 1994 and 2019 films or the 2017 series.

My favourite is the 1933 film where Laurie is very demanding when he proposes and that is a lot closer to the novel. Laurie is not a bad person in the novel, it just goes to show that he had a very different relationship with Jo than with Amy. He and Jo make pranks, they were more like brothers, but Jo also had a very maternal relationship with him, and few listeners have told me that they've had experiences of dating somebody and being in this group of boys and where women wanted to be part of the guys, so to speak, and because there was some misogyny among those boys and even the girls in those groups, these women they tried to hide their feminine side and made fun other girls. This has not happened to me, but a couple of listeners told about these experiences and how they would relate to Jo, that she wanted to leave that environment, and actually explore her femininity a bit more. There are scenes in the book where both Jo and Laurie make fun of girls who try to flirt with him, but Jo starts to question that behaviour. This reminded me of something that one of my friends said. She had been on the town and she saw her ex with his new girlfriend, and the way her ex looked his new girlfriend, my friend said that she had never seen him so happy, and he never was that happy with her. That pretty much sums up how Jo and Laurie can´t give each other what they need. Jo wants an intellectual connection and somebody to who she is very attracted and who helps her to become a better writer and wants a big family. Laurie at first wants Jo so that he doesn´t need to grow so that he can stay the same, but what he really needs is somebody who admires him, but also tells him when he is not being the best version of himself. I think a lot of people could actually benefit from seeing Laurie´s growth process. How he does manage to change and a lot of that is thanks to Amy. How many have been in bad relationships and then found another relationship where not only they feel good about the other person, but themselves as well. This is really the missed message in Little Women. Greta Gerwig even said that she wanted to portray Little Women as a way to dismiss romantic love and marriage. First of all Gerwig herself is married, and second; that doesn´t at all align with Louisa May Alcott´s views on marriage when she writes that marriage should be taken very seriously and that.

"tempers and minds should go together in harmony"

It is such a terrible misreading of the novel that the 2019 film didn´t show Laurie doing any work for Amy and it just seemed that he moved on from Jo to Amy, without any reason and there wasn´t any personal growth and then showing Jo and Friedrich arguing when in the novel Jo and Friedrich don´t argue (it is Jo and Laurie who argue, but that was erased from the 2019 movie). The narrator mentions that he has the ability to calm her, unlike Laurie who makes Jo feel very agitated. There is also a scene where Jo says to Laurie, and I´m paraphrasing now "Amy is so good for you. We always argue.

Another book with Amy and Laurie storyline is Mary Yonge´s the "Heir of Redcliffe" and this book appeared when Louisa May Alcott was 21. It tells about a rich young man called Sir Guy Morville and he falls in love with his cousin whose name is Amy Edmonstone. Yes, the girl´s name is Amy. The connections between Laurie and Guy are very obvious, they are both orphans who live with their grandfather. The guy is a very indecisive young man and Amy of the story helps him to find the path he wants to take. That is a lot of evidence that shows that Louisa May Alcott very likely planned these marriages already when she was writing part 1, perhaps even earlier since she had read some of these stories since childhood. There is a reference to the Wide Wide World in part 1 of Little Women. It is mentioned that Jo is reading and crying over the wide wide world in the apple tree. So we have 15-year-old Jo, reading a story that has Jo and Friedrich type of couple in it. In the chapter "Lawrence boy" Jo has been reading the "Heir of Redcliffe", which has the Amy and Laurie type of love story. If you don´t believe me, read Little Women. It´s all there.

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

Finland, MN

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