In Praise of Laurie

From Little Women. Yeah. I had a crush on him too.

It just seemed like he and Jo were so … so … RIGHT for each other … When I first read the book, I was 10 years old, 11* – and oh my GOD how I resented Jo falling for the stupid tender-eyed German professor with his dumb-ass poetry and his boring umbrella. And I just hated the thought of Laurie – wild, sensitive Laurie – being with Amy – who, even though she learned her lesson with the stolen apples and getting whipped at school – and even though I did cry a tear or two during the chapter when she fell through the ice — still and all: Amy wasn’t Jo!! It was Jo and Laurie who needed to hook up!!!!

I suppose that was quite an adolescent attitude. Maybe Jo and Laurie were too alike. Maybe Laurie needed a conventional woman, a housewife type – and he knew it. I also know the story of how Louisa May Alcott felt pressured by her publisher to “marry Jo off”. She wanted Jo to remain a bachelor – like herself.

Which is why, I believe, stupid teary-eyed German dumb-bum annoyed me so much as a kid.

Get outta here, Kraut, you’re an afterthought!! I also despised the illustrations of the German in the copy of the book I had. He had a full flowing beard – coming down over his chest. Words cannot express how much this disgusted me. I almost had to stop reading the book.

I love the scene when Jo and Laurie meet up at the ball – and Jo is so embarrassed about her burnt dress that she hides in the hall so no one will see the burn marks on the back of the skirt. And she and Laurie end up talking, and then dancing – by themselves – out in the big empty hallway.

Come on. Romantic.

I am not at ALL wacky about Laurie’s name, and I never was. Not too keen on the androgyny of it. Maybe that was the point. Dont’ know. But Laurie’s personality was appealing enough to me to overcome these difficulties.

I will go to my grave wondering: But … but … what would it have been like if Jo and Laurie had just … given it a shot???

But then again. I’m a romantic. A romantic who has lost much. A romantic who has been severely disciplined by the universe just for being a romantic. So I stand on the sidelines. And I wonder about the alternate paths of fictional characters.

Either Jo and Laurie should have hooked up – or Jo should have stayed single.

German crumb-bum doesn’t work. For me. It didn’t work for me when I was 10 and it doesn’t work now. Put your umbrella away, dude. It’s not wanted here.


* weird memory: However old I was when I first read this book – I remember it was the book where I first really understood the concept of contractions. Maybe I had learned them in school – no idea – but Meg has a line in the first chapter where she says, “But I’m afraid I don’t!” And I was reading it out loud – maybe to my mom – and I said the word “don’t” like “dahn” – almost as though it were in the word “orthoDONtist”. I didn’t understand what I was saying. And I was corrected by my mom – “No – that’s ‘don’t’ – which actually means ‘do not’.” And I totally remember that moment of LIGHT breaking thru. Ohhhhh! “Don’t” means “do NOT’ – wow – cool!!!!

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29 Responses to In Praise of Laurie

  1. JFH says:

    Wait a sec, Laurie is the boy and Jo is the girl?? No wonder I never understood that book!

  2. red says:

    Tis a novel of Civil War era gender-bending.

  3. Lisa says:

    Isn’t Laurie just short for Laurence?

    And who is she married to in Little Men?

  4. red says:

    It is short for Lawrence – but so is LARRY. Laurie just always seemed weird to me. Still, though: he is an awesome character. I love love love love the chapter when Beth gets really sick and Marmee is called back from the Civil War hospital in the south – and Laurie waits up with Jo for Marmee to arrive – do you remember that chapter, Lisa??? Actually, no – the 3 sisters are bearing Beth’s illness themselves – and Laurie, without any of them asking him to, sends for Marmee. That’s what it is. He just felt that Marmee should be home and that all the girls needed their mother. And when Jo finds out that Marmee will be arriving that night – she flies at Laurie, hugging him, and sobbing …

    God. It just KILLS me that chapter. member???

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Devastation!!!!! That was the only way to describe it when Laurie married Amy instead. And I already disliked Amy way before she did this. She also stole Jo’s trip to Europe!

  6. red says:

    Yeah – I think Laurie will become Amy’s little lap-dog. And what man could put with that??

  7. nancy says:

    Thank you, thank you. I felt the same way. And I’m part German! Here’s why I didn’t like German-guy. He was presented as this wise older guy who would be able to teach poor misguided Jo. Yeah, some boring old philosopher put in her way to teach her how not to be so passionate. Great. Just what she needs.

    I swear, this is one of those books that I just wanted to rewrite. No, no, no, you did it wrong, Louisa. It was supposed to be Laurie. In some PG Wodehouse writings, he alludes to thinking of his books as plays. When he did this, he could see mistakes that he didn’t see before. Like he brought in a major character for one little scene and then left him with nothing to do. An obvious mistake on stage, but harder to see in print. Louisa should have done this. You don’t have Leonardo DiCaprio play Laurie and then just let the role fizzle out.

    Holy cow, I’m still upset about this.

  8. red says:

    Nancy – hahahahaha!!!! I’m still upset too!

    Oh – and honestly: NOTHING against Germans, seriously – it’s just that the German dude was not Laurie and I never warmed up to him.

    He also seemed too maudlin and sentimental. Like – why would Jo ever fall for that??? She was too prickly, too solitary.

  9. Maybe my own sense of humor is weird – I think it was even at the young age I read Little Women…but I kind of “got” the joke that Laurie was trying to make. I remember he told Jo that he got sick and tired of being called “Theodora” so he came up with a name of his own – and it was his way of punching back at his friends who tried to shame him with a female name, by picking a feminized version of his own…a kind of power play if you will “if youre gonna call me names, call me the ones *I* choose” and his sticking with the feminine was his way of letting them know he wasnt above being teased. I thought it was pretty clever.

    Yeah, I wanted Jo and Laurie to end up too…but I kind of understood Jo’s point : Laurie really was used to moving in elegant circles and Jo would go out of her way to rebel against that, even though she loved Laurie…and so felt that Laurie should be with someone who didnt make him wonder what she was going to pull next.

    I was bummed about the professor as well (hated all the illustrations of the gross beard too…but hey, those crazy Victorians, you know?!), but I did kind of like his personality. He said the kinds of things that as a writer (what little I do write) crave to hear: validation, encouragement, faith, and a drive to excellence. If nothing else he was the friend that Jo never had, not even in Laurie, and thats always a good start in a marriage.

    Maybe its because Ive been around Germans most of my life that I dont find it so odd that Jo was attracted to him. They really are quite passionate people.

  10. Oh speaking of which, I recently saw the LW version with June Allyson in it – apparently the director didnt too much like the big bushy beard for Baehr either…cant remember the actor they had play him, but MAN! I think I would have forgotten all about Laurie too.

  11. red says:

    His German-ness didn’t turn me off. It was the fact that he was not Laurie. Well, that and the beard. I thought it was FUNNY to keep repeating “German” in the post. Don’t get fixated on it as meaning anything, please. I know Germans too and they’re passionate lovely blah blah blah.

    I had forgotten about Laurie’s own joke about his name. Pretty funny!!

  12. red says:

    And I still think Jo’s true destiny – as in what she was meant for – was to be single. Something about the last 5 chapters of that book never really … seemed right to me. Somehow. Great writing, I’ve read it a bazillion times … but Jo seemed destined for different things. Not better things – just different.

  13. red says:

    Well – I mean – Gabriel Byrne played that character in the Winona Ryder one! (Let’s not even discuss how ridiculous Winona was as Jo. I still can’t talk about it.)

    Of course they didn’t have him have a big flowing beard either… it’s just so out of fasion now, nobody thinks that’s hot – but obviously, with the casting of Byrne – they recognized they had a problem on their hands: Why on earth would Jo turn down CHRISTIAN BALE? Ohhhhh …. for Gabriel Byrne! Of course!!! That makes total sense. :)

  14. I think you are right – on all counts. I didnt know until I read your post about it that the publishers had made Alcott marry Jo off and in that light, it is an odd pairing. Jo was so obviously Louisa.

  15. red says:

    I remember reading that in some biography of Louisa – that she had submitted a draft where Jo stays single, and his publishers were like: Uhmmmm, not a chance in hell, lady.

    hahahahaha

    I have a soft spot for Meg as well. I love how she comforts Jo when Jo sells her hair. Member that scene???

  16. Yes :D I laughed so much over Jo’s angst for it though…her one girlish vanity!! I wanted hair like Jo’s so *I* could go off and do something brave with it ! LOL

    When my daughter started reading it, she asked me to also read aloud to her from the book..and I refused because it never fails that I get to Beth’s passing and I SOB MY HEART out!! I think that has to be a classic bit of writing…

    Then there were the sugared spiders….

  17. red says:

    Oh my gosh – totally – that whole section is just soooo devastating, even though you know it’s coming. I love Beth. sniff. I don’t think I could get through a paragraph of that whole section!!!

    Also – I just always found it so beautiful that Jo – rough and tumble Jo – had the kindred spirit thing with BETH – the gentle one.

  18. nancy says:

    Oh dear, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to come off as one of those tiresome people who stalks around the internet looking for things to take offense at. “German, indeed! We prefer the term Teutonic-American.” I completely understood that it wasn’t about Germans and that it was only meant to bash this one, particular, fictional German. And more power to you. He was pretty wet. He could have from New Zealand for all it matters.

  19. red says:

    Teutonic American!! ha!!!

    No, no, no worries. :)

    Carry on with the Laurie love.

  20. red says:

    For some reason – I don’t have as clear a memory of Little Men. I do remember Jo’s Boys.

  21. amelie / rae says:

    it pains me to tell you, sheila, that the only version of LW i’ve seen is the one with Winona Ryder. [but, mmm, Christian Bale!]

  22. red says:

    Mmmmm indeed!!!

  23. Heather says:

    I never liked Amy. I think it’s because she reminded me of the parts of my personality I didn’t like. I felt very cheated when she and Laurie hooked up instead of he and Jo. The whole book, up to that point, made it seem like they were meant for each other, only to have that little blonde pixie snap him up. I was crushed.

    But Laurie was still hot. Especially when he looks like Christian Bale. Hmmmm.

  24. red says:

    So everyone here: who all did you relate to the most of the March sisters?

  25. red says:

    Me too. Nobody else even comes close.

  26. tracey says:

    I cannot get past this one sentence:

    /Words cannot express how much this disgusted me./

    Hahahahahaha!

    And my answer: Jo, of course. I wonder though, if most women would just naturally say Jo. I mean, she represents so much of what a young girl might *want* to be, even if her nature is, say, more like Beth’s.

    I mean, if we all asked a girlfriend which March sister she thought we were most like, would we be disappointed to hear anyone other than Jo?

    “Tracey, I think you’re most like, uh, Amy.”

    “Oh, awesome. Thaannnks.”

  27. Harriet says:

    Wow, go away for the weekend and look what I miss!

    I actually liked that she ended up with the Professor. I think she and Laurie work better as “chums” than lovers. I really enjoy reading about them all as adults in Little Men and Jo’s Boys and seeing how they all relate to each other.

    As for me, I’m probably a combination of Meg and Beth, with bits of the other two thrown in. I’m often like Jo in my imagination, but that doesn’t usually get shown to other people, and when I was younger I sometimes had Amy’s tendency to try to act more grown up than I actually was. I do like Amy, though–she was the spoilt baby, but she still managed to grow into a good woman. And aside from the actual people, I think she was best suited to deal with Laurie’s wealth.

  28. red says:

    It’s so funny, Harriet – my friend Kate left me a long phone message after reading this post (one of my favorite messages I’ve ever received) – and she hated the Professor like I did – but she felt, in a way, the way you describe – that Jo and Laurie were almost TOO close, they were like brother and sister – or maybe Laurie is like “Jo’s gay friend” – and it would never work.

    And that’s a very good point about Amy being able to handle Laurie’s wealth.