In Which I Ponder Why Jo March Didn’t Choose Laurie. By Ripley Proserpina

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.

Mostly.

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’.

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5 Responses to In Which I Ponder Why Jo March Didn’t Choose Laurie. By Ripley Proserpina

  1. tlryder says:

    I used to justify this to myself by means of classifying Laurie as the “easy” choice. Prof. Bhaer wanted Jo to be her best self and encourage her to write to her full potential instead of just grinding out the easy tabloid stories. They’d have a school together and Do Good in the world and blah, blah, blah. Since then, I’ve come to realize that privileging Improving Fiction over Fun Fiction is a kind of snobbery. There’s room in the world for both, and clearly Jo had a talent for Paranormal Fic and enjoyed writing it.

    Plus, whereas perhaps we should be constantly striving to improve our craft it’s the job of a writing coach or teacher to mentor us in that, not our spouse who should love us unconditionally. So basically we have Jo turning her back on true love and using her writing gift in a way that pleased herself and others in order to become a Good Person ™. Meh. I think she should have married Laurie as well. Life’s too short to be “good” on other people’s terms. But Little Women was very much meant to be an Improving Novel, in which we learn being saintly is better than being wealthy or healthy. Or alive. Beth died in service to her saintliness, after all!

    • And look what happens to Meg’s husband in the following books. What I’ve read also suggests LMA may have chosen Prof. Bhaer for Jo because her readers wanted her to end up with Laurie, and she didn’t want Jo to marry anyone!

  2. Susan Hanniford Crowley says:

    I agree with everything said above. I felt that Jo had settled on “safe”. Laurie would have been an adventure and she would have written a variety of literature. I think Laurie married Amy to be a part of the family and hence part of Jo’s life even though not directly. Jo had turned him down.

  3. I completely sympathize… I’m OK with Jo having said no, because Laurie wasn’t really ready to propose when he did, but why didn’t Laurie return to her and court her and win her? The feeling I had reading the ending was what I imagine I would have felt if after having been rejected by Elizabeth, Darcy had run into younger sister Lydia, said to himself, “Ah, can’t have that sister, this one seems alright,” and married her instead… Felt so strongly about this I ended up writing a variation of Little Women.

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