Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Of Literature and Love

I’ve always been a reader, and at least as an adult I’ve always been a fan of great literature. My favorite book is Jane Eyre, with books like Little Women, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Jungle Book close behind on the “favorites” list. So this past weekend, when I got the opportunity to see some friends perform in a production of the musical “Little Women”, I jumped at it. And it was wonderful.

“Little Women” is delightful to me, not so much because of a fascinating plot or even a particularly eloquent writing style, but because of the love story. Most people don’t think of it as a romance, but to me, the love story between Jo March and Professor Bhaer is just about as romantic as it gets. Maybe it’s because I see so much of myself in Jo: a late bloomer with a love for writing and a temper that gets the better of her. Like me, Jo watched those around her marry and begin families, with (in her mind, at least) no prospect for the same. Words were her love and her stories were her children. But just as she had resigned herself to spinsterhood and begun to achieve real success with her writing, love came into her life in the form of Professor Bhaer.

Another reason that I love the love story of “Little Women” is that Professor Bhaer is not a typical romantic hero. He is, in Jo’s words, “old” and gray-haired. He is no dashing rake, but instead dresses neatly but shabbily. He woos Jo not with his words but with his wisdom. She falls in love with his sweet gentleness, his love for children, his admiration of culture and the arts. He offers her not a splendid castle full of servants, but a school full of students. I, like Jo, would much prefer the latter.

I think I also love the romance in this story at this point in my life because I see so much of my husband and I in both Jo and the Professor, and I see so much of our relationship mirrored in theirs. Like Professor Bhaer, my husband is older, more worldly, more cultured, and more experienced. He opens my eyes to new thoughts and new experiences. And like Jo, I am impetuous and unguarded in a way that allows him to be spontaneous and to occasionally act without thinking. Like Jo and Bhaer, we are alike in terms of our character and moral backgrounds, but sometimes vastly different in our ways of thinking – but in a completely complementary way.

So reading (or watching) “Little Women” is like seeing my own love story. What’s not to love about that?

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