Tuesday, September 06, 2011
Unlikely Literary Confessions: the Alcott Edition
I mean to end this for once and for all….
I LIKE PROF. BHAER!
I know it is unpopular and I know that there are more Laurie/Jo shippers in the world than anything --- and I also know that Laurie and Amy make exactly as wretched a couple as you are imagining Laurie and Amy are making; but I always loved Prof. Bhaer for Jo.
From the first time I read Little Women.
I think it’s partly because I have always had a penchant for the older, professor type in literature and partly because he was German and bought the little Meg March/John Brooke babies fruits and nuts and daisies --- he has such a big heart; but mostly because he represents the greater world of culture and philosophy that Jo had always dreamed of.
Much like Alec in Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom, Prof. Bhaer emblemizes a Transcendalist philosophy that Alcott’s father subscribed to. That sturdy undercurrent of morality, of finding the good in the world, of equality and purpose for women is very much sought out by Prof. Bhaer and his ilk. Moreover, his championing of Jo’s new prospect of opening a school for boys at Plumfield speaks wordlessly to his internal cause.
Prof. Bhaer encourages Jo in her writing. Many think that his directing of her focus from magazine serials to serious (albeit sentimentalized) fiction in the re-telling of her familial story sets her a boundary; but I think it liberates her. Prof. Bhaer forces Jo to face that which she has always known: that her talent as a writer lay in her knack for triviality, the familiar, the romance and adventure of the domestic hearth. After all, Jo’s conceptualization of the macabre and the sensational is deep rooted in the play-acting she undertook with her sisters and, to lesser degree, the journey fiction realized through their gripping encounters with John Bunyan. This is not unlike Gilbert Blythe holding the truth to Anne’s success: that Anne needs to revisit the life she has known and loved in Avonlea on the page…
Laurie is a suitable childhood friend and he does supply the witty repartee; likewise life-long love for the spirited, uncouth Jo in the tradition of boy/girl romances we pine for. But, Jo is mature beyond her years and Jo needs a man.
Romantics need look no further than the “Under the Umbrella” scene which concludes the Prof. Bhaer/ Jo story to realize its true romanticism. It makes falling in love in the rain, under the umbrella, clasping squelching damp hands together a realization of the most potent kind of love story.
Jo and Laurie would fight; they would never quite shirk the playful passion that encompasses their developmental years; but with Friedrich Bhaer, Jo has the chance of ultimate creative support and ambition as well as a solid foundation.
Think of all the things he can teach her: the languages, the scope of philosophy. In turn, think of how she thrives utmost when circumstances demand a tightening of the belt loop.
It’s a great, smart, “adult” romance and I have long known that the opinion I have harboured for, oh, almost two decades is an unpopular one; but for me there was never any alternative
(although I do love the scene when Laurie bids Jo to “fly at him again”)
This blogger likes him, too.