I’ve been thinking about Little Women and Jo March’s romance all weekend, and I think the difference of reader opinion about who she should’ve married–Laurie Laurence or Professor Bhaer–is rooted in our own perspectives on love and marriage. The two men represent very different kinds of relationships, and our response to them is largely determined, I think, by which sort of marriage we like, want, or have.
Laurie’s Kind of Marriage
Being married to a person like Laurie would be an adventure. He’d want you along for all his schemes, helping him get in and out of trouble. You’d be his best friend, and, for it to work well, he’d have to be yours. He’d share everything with you: his worries, frustrations, struggles, successes, striving for your approval, looking to you for comfort. You would be everything to him, and for the marriage to work, he’d have to be everything to you. You’d have to want his companionship and be interested in his “doings,” willing to share your world with him just as he shares his world with you.
Professor Bhaer’s Kind of Marriage
Being married to someone like Professor Bhaer would be steadying. He would be your anchor in the midst of the struggles of life. He would give you space, and you’d both have your own pursuits and interests, but he would always be there when you needed him. You would comfort each other in trouble, but he would be the primary rock of wisdom, the source of strength. There’d be less arguments, but there would also be less overlapping life. For this marriage to work, you’d have to have your own resources and be capable of entertaining yourself while he reads and studies (or does whatever it is that is his hobby), and there would be details of both your lives that you wouldn’t share, since your interests wouldn’t overlap.
In this kind of marriage, your husband might not be your closest confidante on every subject. Life would be a journey, but not necessarily an adventure. As you both walk the same road together, you might point out a flower, he’d note the picturesque view, but he won’t come up with crazy schemes for plunging into the woods, climbing trees, and jumping streams. There would probably be more planning and less spontaneity, and any wild schemes you have would be toned down a bit before execution. Thus, you’d get into less trouble, but you’d live a quieter more predictable life as a couple.
After looking at it in this way, it isn’t so surprising that Jo chose Professor Bhaer. Like her mother before her, she wanted a man who would give her life the stability she can’t give herself. She was full of spontaneity, and she wanted to have a school for boys, which added more crazy schemes and erratic eccentricity to her life.
If she had Laurie for her husband, she would have lost herself in hectic chaos, but with Professor Bhaer to guide her and her school safely through life, she manages to become a happy, well-adjusted mother and writer. Her husband gives her time to pursue her scribbling without constant interruption; if she’d married Laurie, she would have done more but written less, as they’d have gone exploring in Europe, and possibly other continents, following one wild, exciting idea after the other.
It would have been fun, it would’ve been an adventure, and when the two of them finally settled down, she could’ve written a best selling memoir, but ultimately, that wasn’t the kind of marriage she decided she wanted, and we cannot blame her for that, even if we think we would’ve made a different choice.
Copyright 2014 Andrea Lundgren Photo by hotblack, Creative Commons