Today, we're talking about first love with Melanie from Wild About Words. Every time we open a book, we meet a new character and find new guys to crush on. But what about that first guy that made your pulse beat a little faster? Melanie's talking about that today!
YA Bachelor Month: Teddy versus Freddy? Who would you choose?
I’m really excited to be blogging for Amber and participating in YA Bachelor Month on “Down the Rabbit Hole.” When I saw Amber’s call out, I knew that give my research (read obsession) the past couple of years about literary boy book crushes and observing how this is being discussed online, I just had to be a part of it.
When I blogged on YA Bookshelf earlier this year about my literary loves and writing the perfect man, I talked about how much I wanted Almanzo Wilder from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House Series to take me riding, or, how I wished that Gilbert Blythe from L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables Series would be the one to kiss behind the stacks at the local library.
I had originally intended on focusing this blog post on Teddy/Laurie from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, but I realized that there were two bachelors in this novel, not one, and both needed their time to shine.
I was combing through a used book store in Michigan where I stumbled upon an abridged edition of Little Women with a man and a woman on the cover. The young woman has a book open, while the man is biting a pen. Given that most covers focus on the four girls, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, I thought that this cover gave the impression that the book was somehow a romance. The question is, the romance between whom? Jo and Laurie or Jo and Friedrich?
Theodore Lawrence/Laurie/ The Laurence Boy/Teddy is the artistic lonely boy next door. Upon Joe and Laurie’s first meeting, it seems like they are destined and will end up together. “Both peeped, and criticized, gentlemanly demeanor amused and set him at his ease...” (39). Jo also seems to like his looks: “Curly black hair, brown skin, big black eyes, long nose, nice teeth, little hands and feet...very polite...and altogether jolly” (39). (I’m not sure why Jo mentions how small his hands and feet are.)
Like many best friends, sometimes one person feels just that much more than the other. You can live in denial all you want, but, eventually the truth will come out. Laurie was so sufficiently heartbroken by Jo, that a younger version of me was confused and annoyed because like that abridged cover indicated, it was meant to be!
Nothing is more attractive or romantic than unrequited love –particularly when it is the handsome, intelligent and compassionate boy next door. Upon hearing that Meg is getting married, Laurie teases Jo about who will be next, he says, “with a sidelong glance, and a little more color than before in his sunburnt face,” “You won’t give any one a chance” (272).
Poor Laurie, he never had a chance. Mrs. March, explains it quite well why it couldn’t work:
I don’t think you suited to one another. As friend, you are very happy, and your frequent quarrels soon blow over; but I fear you would both rebel if you were mated for life. You are too much alike, and too fond of freedom, not to mention hot tempers and strong wills, to get on happily together, in a relation which needs infinite patience and forbearance, as well as love” (348).
Although Laurie persists that they are meant to be, Jo never changes her mind. She sees him as a friend and nothing more. The reason why so many fans of the book are heartbroken when Jo eventually rejects Laurie is because he so clearly loves her. His last words to her when Jo goes off to New York are: “My eye is on you; so mind what you do, or I’ll come and bring you home” (360).
Wow...intense. Poor Laurie. One wonders how he eventually ends up with Amy.
Interestingly, one never hears of young girls swooning over the somewhat older and more grounded literary bachelor, Mr. Friedrich Bhaer. Perhaps it is hard for a pre-teen to understand his appeal. He isn’t that good looking, and not very fashionable: “...rather stout, with brown hair tumbled all over his head, a bushy beard, droll nose” but he has the “kindest eyes [Jo] ever saw” (363). They are friends first, but this time they feel the same way about one another. Perhaps it is because he pushes Jo to really take her craft seriously and is her intellectual equal, that he eventually wins her heart.
To me, the second last chapter of Little Women, “Under the Umbrella” is probably up there as one of the most romantic moments in classic YA literature. As memorable as when Gilbert proposes to Anne at the end of Anne of the Island or when Almanzo gives Laura a ring on one of their many Sunday buggy rides, this moment when Bhear and Jo profess their love for one another is steeped in the sweetness and melodrama of any good romance.
While walking together under the umbrella, Bhaer tells Jo that he didn’t feel worthy of her because he was so poor and when she tells him that it doesn’t matter, he says: “Ah! Thou gifest me such hop and courage, and I haf nothing to gif back but a full heart and these empty hands” (516). Jo responds by putting both hands in his and whispers, “Not empty now” (516).
Let us take a moment of pause and just sit in those three words.
Returning to the man and the woman on the cover above, I wonder if he is supposed to be Mr. Bhear. Given he is the one that Jo chooses. Although, I cannot see him chewing on a pencil, they are studying together, not play acting like Jo and Laurie did.
What do you think? Who do you think it is on this cover? Did you think that Jo made the right decision? Which Bachelor would you choose?
Biography:Melanie Fishbane is a freelance writer, starting her second semester at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. With over fifteen year working in YA/Kids lit at various Canadian book chains, she decided it was time to write a novel herself. She writes book reviews for the Canadian Children’s Book News and is active with online communities promoting children’s literature, Laura Ingalls Wilder and L.M. Montgomery. You can see her blogging about writing, YA and her love of classic children’s lit at http://melaniefishbane.blogspot.com/. Feel free to contact her at email@example.com
Thanks so much to Melanie from Wild About Words for that insightful post! Make sure to hang around tomorrow to find more bachelors to love! For now, why don't you tell me who your first literary crush was?