Niina is an Alcott researcher and the host of the Little Women Podcast.
Two Very Different Proposals
The connection between Jo and Laurie was largely built by reinforcing ideas of toxic masculinity. This ultimately worked against them both. Jo lost the opportunity to travel to Europe as a result, and Laurie became more irritable and possessive. Examining the two proposals is the best way to understand why Jo rejected Laurie and why she did fall in love with Friedrich.
Laurie says he loves Jo because she has always been so wonderful to him. He does not love her because of who she is, he loves the way she treats him.
The young men who served as Laurie's inspirations were much younger than Alcott, may help to explain Jo's propensity to mother Laurie. Jo had a natural tendency to act as a mother figure. The March family included Laurie as a member of their family by adopting him. Given that sisters frequently take on the role of their brothers' pseudo-mothers, it seems perfect sense that Jo regards Laurie as her brother. In movies, we only see Laurie's suffering, but we never witness the strain or discomfort his behaviour places on Jo.
The idea that Laurie's dominating behaviour in the books doesn't matter and is a sign of love is perpetuated when we read the book and view Laurie's character through the prism of the movie. Laurie, however, is not in love with Jo in the book. He's infatuated with the concept of love. He is not in love. He is in love with the idea of love.
I´v tried to show it to you but you wouldn´t let me. Now I am going to make you hear and give me an answer for I can´t go on any longer.
“But girls are so queer you never know what they mean. They say no when they mean yes, and drive a man out of his wits just for the fun of it”’
Listen Little Women Podcast
Laurie seems to believe, that Jo must fall in love with him because that's what girls do. Similar remarks were made by Laurie when he was an adolescent. It's rather possessive of a 15-year-old guy to declare, "Someday I'll get you Jo," and it shows how much the two have fed each other with damaging gender ideals. Jo feels the urge to break out from this destructive cycle now that they are grownups. Not just for Laurie's sake, but also for her own sake, and it is toxic because Laurie was not able to make his own decisions. He was dependable on Jo's care for him.
Laurie wants to maintain the status quo in their relationship, so he doesn't need to become an adult. Making decisions was not Laurie's strong suit. He wanted his life to continue to be the same rather than different, which is why he is obsessed to marry Jo. Jo does not like or take pleasure in this kind of chasing. She is quite uneasy about it.
Movie Laurie's Missing Character Arc
The majority of adaptations have likewise opted for the easy way out by omitting to depict Laurie's gradual and arduous process of personal transformation. If we look at the second part of Little Women- There aren't any hints that Laurie is thinking about Jo or dreaming about a future together. We do get a peek inside Friedrich's mind after Jo departs New York, and he does admit to himself that he is in fact in love with her and wonders what life would be like with her. Due to Laurie's messy mind, the majority of his acts in the second book make no sense.
Jo tells Laurie the truth. She realizes that their disputes might turn violent if she marries him. The bond between Laurie and Jo is more codependent.
We ought to support Jo when she turns down Laurie, but Laurie's character arc is absent from 90% of Little Women adaptations. In the movies released in 1933, 1949, 1994, 2018, and 2019, he doesn't have a character arc and his temper is erased from 1994 and 2019 movies. Character arc is also missing from 1950 and 2017 series. Little Women the musical or animation in Japanese.
It is never wise to try to threaten someone you claim to love. Laurie wants to make Jo feel bad for turning him down rather than taking responsibility for his own conduct. He then makes her feel even worse by claiming that she will get married and when she breaks her words to never get married, she will look foolish. Laurie wants to guilt trip her forever.
Then Laurie acts like a brat boy from the 19th century and makes threats to go hurt himself if Jo won't marry him. Laurie's suggestion has typically been condensed or the dialogue modified in the movies. Although it is a quarrel in the books, it has been depicted as a love scene in the adaptations. Little Women does something incredibly special and profound, which makes it a book that is frequently misunderstood. The subject of Laurie's proposition was never Jo. It was all about him.
He still wants Jo to feel bad, and it's still all about him. Six months later, Amy reconnects with Laurie in Europe after a four-year absence. He has changed, and Amy notices this. Amy criticises Laurie for his attitude, but she means well since she recognizes Laurie's potential to make the most of his life. Then Amy carefully asks Laurie about what happened between him and Jo.
Listen 150 Year Laurie Problem
Amy´s lecture did Laurie good though of course, he did not own it until long afterwards. Men seldom do for when women are the advisers. The lords of the creation won't take the advice until they have persuaded themselves that it is just what they intended to do. Then they act upon it and if it succeeds they give the weaker vessel half the credit of it. If it fails they generously give her the whole. Little Women Chapter 41.
Amy's Influence On Laurie (Not In Most Films)
Although Laurie begins to feel the effects of Amy's comments, in his head Laurie believes that he had always intended to take action and that Amy's advice was unneeded. The main reasons why Laurie's growth is painfully slow are his pride and vanity as well as his inability to imagine himself in another person's shoes. Laurie still does not perceive women as distinct individuals at this time. In his mind, he is above them. He begins composing an opera in Vienna that will break Jo's heart and wrack her spirit. Once more, the opera is all about him, but things don't go so smoothly. All of Jo's peculiarities, flaws, and eccentricities come to mind when he tries to rekindle his romantic affection.
Friedrich's proposal is entirely different. He wants to express his feelings to Jo and let her make up her own mind. They had been exchanging letters since Jo left New York, and when he visits Jo in Concord, he hopes to see signals of affection from her. When he tells her that he has a job and is moving to the west, Jo's walls fall down.
He gives Jo complete authority and control, conveys to her the importance of her thoughts and feelings to him, and expresses his desire for her to share his feelings and align her actions with his. He doesn't propose to her. He is requesting her ability to love him. In comparison to Laurie, Friedrich's portrayals on TV and in movies tend to be more accurate, even if most of his scenes are cut out because he is a less idealized character, what Laurie is.
Friedrich is honest with Jo and wants what is best for her. Couple of chapters earlier, in the chapter "All alone", Jo confesses to her mother that she would like to try all kinds of love, including romantic ones and at the end of the chapter, she is reading letters that Friedrich had written to her and she missed him.
Listen Little Women Podcast
Laurie is based on Alcott's ex Laddie Wisniewski and Friedrich Bhaer on her first love philosopher Henry David Thoreau.
In Little Women, Jo says that Friedrich is her first love and therefore the best.
All images included in this article constitute 'fair use of any copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of U.S. Copyright law, which allows for criticism, comment and scholarship.
© 2022 Niina Pekantytar