Saturday, June 11, 2016

Jean Webster's: Daddy-Long-Legs

Jean Webster's epistolary novel Daddy-Long-Legs is ostensibly a romantic comedy in which a young girl of college age - Jerusha - is financially supported by an anonymous trustee, but this early depiction of the 'benefactor' could easily be read as indicating some sort of Gothic horror story with a bad ending:
The long lower hall had not been lighted, and as she came downstairs, a last Trustee stood, on the point of departure, in the open door that led to the porte-cochere. Jerusha caught only a fleeting impression of the man - and the impression consisted entirely of tallness. He was waving his arm towards an automobile waiting in the curved drive. As it sprang into motion and approached, head on for an instant, the glaring headlights threw his shadow sharply against the wall inside. The shadow pictured grotesquely elongated legs and arms that ran along the floor and up the wall of the corridor. It looked, for all the world, like a huge, wavering daddy-long-legs.
A daddy-long-legs is, of course, a creature closely related to spiders, such that the image implies - or could imply - the spinning of a web in which the poor girl will be trapped.

One of my students - spurred by my nudging - wrote her senior thesis on precisely this sort of Gothic feminist reading. It worked.



At 9:11 AM, Blogger N.E. Brigand said...

I've never read the book, but I saw the movie musical with Fred Astaire a long time ago, and the theater where I work presented the newer stage musical version about five years back.

At 11:17 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

The book was very popular with Korean girls until recently. Even a movie version was made here in Korea, a popular one, I gather.

Jeffery Hodges

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