In my last week’s blog post, I talked a little bit about reverse harem, and the idea of the female lead character not having to choose between love interests. Thinking more about this, I realized there are a lot of times when I appreciate a good love triangle, or a main character making a hard choice. Whether it’s choosing the man who supports her passions or wants her to play it safe, or the one who understands who she truly is versus who she used to be. I get it.
My caveat to the love triangle is the character has to choose right (and yes, I decide who is right, not the author— it’s my reader prerogative). I was all about Peeta over Gale, and Edward over Jacob. I never wanted Jane Eyre to end up with St. John instead of Mr. Rochester, even if he did look like Adonis and Jane clearly told Mr. Rochester, “she did not think him handsome.”
But one story has been bothering me since I read it and re-read it, and watched it, and found myself, despite knowing the ending, still hoping for a different outcome.
So I proclaim here: I’m pissed Jo March didn’t marry Laurie in Little Women.
Most people have read Little Women, but in case you haven’t, it’s the story of four sisters living with their mother in Civil War-era Massachusetts. Jo is the second oldest sister, and the one who wants to be a famous authoress. Laurie is the rich boy who lives next door and worships Jo and someday hopes to be a great composer. They get into scrapes together and have adventures, and he’s handsome and funny.
There wasn’t an instance in the book where Laurie wanted Jo to be something she wasn’t. He never asked her to give up writing or settle down (though he asks her to marry him— but he wants her to “bash” around Europe with him! Bash!), or act like a lady, or any of those other things that would have immediately turned me off from him.
But she says no, and instead chooses Professor Bhaer! Huh?!
I remember the scene where Jo writes a book she believes is a masterpiece and shares it with Mr. Bhaer, the German school teacher who lives in the boarding house where she resides. And he tells her it stinks! She ends up in tears, and yeah, okay, maybe he felt bad telling her that, but just because he didn’t like paranormal romances, did that mean she shouldn’t continue to write them? Perhaps this is what endeared him to Jo. Compared to Laurie, though? There was no contest. Laurie had so many other great qualities— he was passionate, and had an unsinkable belief in Jo’s awesomeness.
And you know what the ultimate betrayal was? Because yes, reader, it gets worse. Laurie marries the most annoying of Jo’s sisters, Amy.
Amy. The snobbish little brat. GAH! Come on! I will allow the Amy who married Laurie wasn’t the little girl Amy who so annoyed me, but I certainly hadn’t come around to her side. The pain of reading the scene where Laurie and Amy return from Europe and tell Jo they’ve married. I felt hope die. It literally died in my poor little twelve year-old girl heart.
It turns out I’m not the only one who remains upset about Jo’s choice. Besides bloggers like myself who mourn Laurie, there is also an article in a philosophy journal, The American Transcendental Quarterly, reflecting on this very issue. Clearly there’s a doctoral student somewhere who seethed over Jo’s choice as well. (See, “Why Jo Didn’t Marry Laurie, March 2001, Volume 15, No. 1).
For me, Jo choosing Professor Bhaer was akin to Anne Shirley not choosing Gilbert Blythe, or Elizabeth settling for Whitcombe and not Darcy. Blasphemy! In fact, I would have been fine if Claire stayed with Jamie and died with him on the battlefield rather than return to Frank (I’m a harsh reader. Die for love, Character! Die! Die!). As an aside, I’m a much nicer writer than reader— having birthed my characters, I like them to be happy. Just sayin’.