In hunting down literary-critical articles on the Jean Webster novel Daddy-Long-Legs, I came across a May 2014 feminist analysis titled "Breaking and Catching Feminism: Female Roles in Literature for Young Adults, a master's thesis in English literature by Hanne Gyløien for the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in the Faculty of Humanities, Department of Language and Literature, under the supervisor Domhnall Mitchell. The thesis manuscript is a bit careless, but it offers some useful points. Recall that Jerusha's benefactor keeps his name secret, so Jerusha gives him one herself, as Gyløien relates:
Jerusha names him Daddy-Long-Legs in memory of an insect of that name she observed in a corner the same day he visited. Lacking a description of the man, the only associations are those of the daddy-long-legs spider living in dark places trying to catch his prey through shaking his web making escape nearly impossible. Is this the future for Jerusha? His secretary explains to her that the benefactor "desires you" to write because "he wishes to keep track of your progress" and that these "obligatory" letters should be "respectful in tone" (p. 10). His explanation is like a manual explaining how Jerusha should behave; this is what is expected of her. (page 13)The Daddy-Long-Legs intended by Jean Webster is certainly not an insect, which has merely six legs, and almost certainly not a true spider, but a related eight-legged creature also of the class Arachnida, and Jerusha did not see a Daddy-Long-Legs the same day that her benefactor visited. Nevertheless, the two eight-legged creatures are often conflated, a tendency that Webster might be making use of, for the spider known as a daddy long legs does spin a web and does shake the web to catch unwary prey.
One can easily see how this Cinderella story could have become a Gothic novel - or even a horror tale! These aspects of different genres need some attention . . .
Labels: Literary Criticism