Friday, February 15, 2008

Literary Detective Wanted in Little Women

I've been thinking about Jane Eyre (see the comment on yesterday's post). And that got me thinking about Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair, a novel in which everyone cares as much about literature as I do (and in the sequels they play croquet, too). Fforde's main character, Thursday Next, is a Literary Detective, and in her world, Jane Eyre ends with Jane going off to India with St. John Rivers. Thursday changes the ending by going through a prose portal into the novel and standing underneath Jane's window to say "'Jane, Jane, Jane!' in a hoarse whisper the way that Rochester did." Then Jane comes back to the now blind Rochester and they marry. ("Reader, I married him.")
What I want is for a Literary Detective to go into Little Women. I have always been dissatisfied with the ending, from the point that Jo refuses Laurie's love. As a child, I found it completely stupid and inexplicable. As an adult, I see some of the strictures on Jo as a woman of her time, but it doesn't change my emotional reaction, which is that Jo and Laurie deserve to find joy together, and not as staid adults of their time. I want to see Jo having fun in Laurie's world, rather than have to be decorous (as only Amy is capable of being in her new maturity after Beth's death). I want to see Laurie and Jo with a house full of boys. I don't want to see Jo fooling herself into thinking that she's in love with an old man who can't possibly love her the way Laurie does.
So far I haven't thought of a definitive moment that will change the ending of the novel, as Thursday's whisper under Jane's window does. Some people may argue that Jo doesn't feel the right "chemistry" with Laurie, but I'm not a believer in chemistry as a basis for love. Most of the successful marriages I know are based on friendship, not just on shared goals or hero-worship, which seems to be the basis of Jo's attraction to that old story-spoiler, Mr. Baer.

7 comments:

CSchu said...

Interesting. I have a very different take on this. Though the original reaction in the book to Jo turning down Laurie's proposal is disbelief, I come to believe later on in the book that though he is a fun playmate, it doesn't go much deeper than that. He simply isn't intellectual enough for Jo who is, ultimately, a creature of the mind. I find her love for Baer entirely believable and, in the end, perfectly fitting.

Jeanne said...

I think that Jo has to limit herself to being only "a creature of the mind" when she falls for Baer. She deserves a fuller life. She deserves the full spectrum of human experience!

Cschu said...

Ah! But your comment seems to take it for granted that life with Laurie would be a fuller life. My take on things is that life with Laurie would have had lots of crazy vapid adventures and a dearth on the intellectual side. In what sense is this a "full spectrum" of the human experience? In what sense is this an improvement over what she gets with Baer?

Jeanne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeanne said...

What makes Laurie "vapid"?? His intelligence is manifested in his ability to do many things well. He went to Harvard, he plays the piano--he has so many career choices that he's undecided for a while about going into the family business. And one of Jo's reservations about returning his love is that they fight all the time--there's a passion between them.

Joan said...

I enjoyed the Eyre Affair, and my novelist students loved it. However, I always thought Jane would have done better with St. John; I felt the story was unfair to him. Christian missionaries often make good husbands.

I also thought Thursday Next would have done better with Bowden than the self-righteous army veteran she married. A good thing I didn't write the book.

Kayleigh said...

Commenting 2 years later I have to agree with you! I haven't re-read Little Women in a long time so all I can remember is my absolute dismay at Jo not choosing Laurie. Perhaps if I read it again now it'd be different. I doubt it though!