Why Jo Didn’t Marry Laurie: The Product of a Severe “Little Women” Hangover

I just finished reading Little Women, for the second time. Now that I am a good deal older and wiser, I can’t help feeling perturbed by a great many things, most significantly by the fact that Laurie and Jo didn’t tie the knot. (As I sigh over this, I feel the echoes of thousands of former Team Laurie readers sighing with me. Sigh.)

It’s very difficult and rather troublesome to relive Jo refusing Laurie’s proposal. I may be older, but I am not much wiser, and still think they were made for each other. Don’t most people end up marrying their best friends? Why should Jo and Laurie be any different?

It’s especially hard, because I simply was not satisfied with Amy’s change from the mercenary March sister willing to marry for money to being almost Jo-like in the way she no longer cared about the cash her groom came with. It was a slow-wrought transition that staying abroad might have had a hand in, but the way it was delivered made it seem like the Amy’s one serious fault was removed just so she might marry Laurie as quickly as possible, and not be judged ’cause Laurie was rich.

Bhaer really was much too old for Jo (they were fifteen years apart), and one can’t help feeling that Jo accepted him partly out of the fear of becoming a lifelong bachelorette, or, as it was known in those dark days, an old maid. At that time in her life, Jo was lonely, and grieving for her sister Beth, who had just passed away. Up pops Bhaer, in the right place at the right time, as it were, and she goes on and accepts him. If that blasted human mushroom had not decided to pop up, her feelings might have been decidedly different when Laurie came back from abroad. (Cue dramatic wringing out of a handkerchief full of imaginary tears, just as Laurie did under Meg’s window before John Brooke proposed to her).

Undoubtedly, both Amy and the future Father Bhaer loved their respective spouses, and vice versa, but I can’t help feeling that Laurie and Jo would have been infinitely more suited, and would have remained youthful and immortal, even as they grew stout and grey. When the pages contained Jo and Laurie’s exploits, they came alive with youthful spirit and irrepressible mischief. Amy and Laurie were altogether rather sedate, and a trifle sappy, though I suppose one could might excuse them on the grounds that they were “young and in love”. (Cue massive eye roll). Goldilocks and the Bhaer (one simply cannot resist the urge to poke fun at his surname) were altogether so kind and good that it was positively repulsive.

Laurie admitted to Jo that at one point he didn’t know which sister he liked better, Amy or Jo. I feel that if Jo had not been so reconciled to their match, and showed that her thoughts had changed, Laurie would have been confused between the sisters once again.

As my admiration and respect for Louisa May Alcott is positively infinite, I have endless faith in her judgement. Perhaps when I am stout (God forbid) and gray (I don’t mind) I will finally know why Jo didn’t marry Laurie. One thing makes me assured that she had some reason: Alcott wrote in her journal, “Girls write to ask who the little women marry, as if that was the only aim and end of a woman’s life. I won’t marry Jo to Laurie to please anyone.” My respect for her grew ten fold after reading those heartening sentences. If this post sounds quaint and old-fashioned, pardon me, but it’s the Little Women hangover.


7 thoughts on “Why Jo Didn’t Marry Laurie: The Product of a Severe “Little Women” Hangover

  1. “I can’t help feeling that Laurie and Jo would have been infinitely more suited, and would have remained youthful and immortal, even as they grew stout and grey. When the pages contained Jo and Laurie’s exploits, they came alive with youthful spirit and irrepressible mischief.” – I completely agree! I have to admit that as I married my own best friend, there’s a bit of bias here, but I too felt that Jo and Laurie would have made a stellar marriage. (Ended up writing a variation to Little Women so I could explore this ;))

  2. Great post. I, too, have a hard time reconciling Jo’s romantic choices even though “Little Women” is my uncontested favorite book of all time, and LMA was a truly incredible woman whom I admire for both her writing and her grit.

    In a sense, I feel that Jo’s marriage to Bhaer is, perhaps, metaphorical of Louisa’s own choices. I don’t know if you’re aware of the interesting history of adult Louisa’s pattern of befriending boys several years her junior, but there is a suggestion in her journals that, while in Europe, Louisa may have had a short-lived romance with a young Polish revolutionary she nicknamed “Laddie.” Later, she aggressively crossed out the entry and commented, “couldn’t be.” To me, it seems Louisa may still have had complicated feelings concerning her soldier-friend, and to marry her fictional alter-ego to his fictional alter-ego (she later claimed that Laurie is, indeed, in part based on Laddie) was either too painful or too simple for her. Instead, Jo married Bhaer, which to me is representative of the way Louisa “married” her writing. Bhaer is comforting, old, and literary, but not passionate, and in the same sense, Louisa in adulthood often wrote for money and not out of pure love of the craft and found writing to be a devotion which she was comfortable with.

    I would recommend checking out louisamayalcottismypassion.com if you’re interested. Sorry for the rant! Take care.

    1. Yes, I am aware! After reading the book recently, I scoured several archives online. Louisa also wrote to another friend, (not the Polish gentleman) telling him he was Laurie. I think the name was Alfred Fisher, or something along those lines. Thank you for the comment!

  3. Great post! Every time I re-read Little Women, I’m troubled as to why Jo couldn’t have married her next-door Prince Charming. Sigh.

    I guess it’s the mark of a genius author when a surprise is thrown in, or the happy ending you expect doesn’t come about in the exact way you imagined. Miss Alcott is one of my personal favorite authoresses… but I still wish Jo and Laurie could have married — heehee!

    This is only my first time on your blog, but it’s excellent so far. You and I seem to share common literary tastes! If you’d like to visit my blog, I’m hosting a Louisa May Alcott reading challenge that might whet your appetite. 🙂

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