Saturday, July 23, 2016

Daddy-Long-Legs: Jealous Lover!

Jean Webster
All in Her Mind!
Google Images

I've noted before that the character "Daddy-Long-Legs" (aka John Smith) in the novel of the same name is a rather manipulative person. In the letters below, he is shown to be manipulating Judy (Jerusha) into staying at a place where he has access to her as "Master Jervie" without her knowing that this friend Jervie is also Daddy-Long-Legs and thus also without her knowing that jealousy is the motive behind the unreasonable demand imposed on her, as we shall see. Judy begins in a state of excitement in a letter dated June 2nd:
Dear Daddy-Long-Legs,

You will never guess the nice thing that has happened.

The McBrides have asked me to spend the summer at their camp in the Adirondacks! They belong to a sort of club on a lovely little lake in the middle of the woods. The different members have houses made of logs dotted about among the trees, and they go canoeing on the lake, and take long walks through trails to other camps, and have dances once a week in the club house - Jimmie McBride is going to have a college friend visiting him part of the summer, so you see we shall have plenty of men to dance with.

Wasn't it sweet of Mrs. McBride to ask me? It appears that she liked me when I was there for Christmas.

Please excuse this being short. It isn't a real letter; it's just to let you know that I'm disposed of for the summer.


In a VERY contented frame of mind,

But then comes a rude - truly discourteous - shock in a message that she refers to in a letter of June 5th, and she protests vociferously:
Dear Daddy-Long-Legs,

Your secretary man has just written to me saying that Mr. Smith prefers that I should not accept Mrs. McBride's invitation, but should return to Lock Willow the same as last summer.

Why, why, WHY, Daddy?

You don't understand about it. Mrs. McBride does want me, really and truly. I'm not the least bit of trouble in the house. I'm a help. They don't take up many servants, and Sallie an I can do lots of useful things. It's a fine chance for me to learn housekeeping. Every woman ought to understand it, and I only know asylum-keeping.

There aren't any girls our age at the camp, and Mrs. McBride wants me for a companion for Sallie. We are planning to do a lot of reading together. We are going to read all of the books for next year's English and sociology. The Professor said it would be a great help if we would get our reading finished in the summer; and it's so much easier to remember it if we read together and talk it over.

Just to live in the same house with Sallie's mother is an education. She's the most interesting, entertaining, companionable, charming woman in the world; she knows everything. Think how many summers I've spent with Mrs. Lippett and how I'll appreciate the contrast. You needn't be afraid that I'll be crowding them, for their house is made of rubber. When they have a lot of company, they just sprinkle tents about in the woods and turn the boys outside. It's going to be such a nice, healthy summer exercising out of doors every minute. Jimmie McBride is going to teach me how to ride horseback and paddle a canoe, and how to shoot and - oh, lots of things I ought to know. It's the kind of nice, jolly, care-free time that I've never had; and I think every girl deserves it once in her life. Of course I'll do exactly as you say, but please, PLEASE let me go, Daddy. I've never wanted anything so much.

This isn't Jerusha Abbott, the future great author, writing to you. It's just Judy - a girl.
But the protests are of no avail, as Judy's letter of June 9th shows:
Mr. John Smith,

SIR: Yours of the 7th inst. at hand. In compliance with the instructions received through your secretary, I leave on Friday next to spend the summer at Lock Willow Farm.

I hope always to remain,

(Miss) Jerusha Abbott
Judy's disappointment is palpable. From her perspective, no good reason is discernable for the command to spend the summer at Lock Willow Farm and thereby miss out on a summer of fun at a camp in the Adirondacks. Future knowledge will clarify the reason for the demand by Daddy-Long-Legs, but will she accept his jealous love?

Should she?



At 11:07 AM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

Why not write a postmodern version? Call it... Er... Mack-Daddy-Long-Legs?

At 3:27 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

A postmodern version would release forces capable of destroying the universe.

Jeffery Hodges

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