Posts Tagged ‘Louisa May Alcott’
February 26, 2016 | by Sadie Stein
This week, Sadie is taking an in-depth look at Professor Bhaer, the most divisive character in Little Women. Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. Today: Professor Bhaer in film and TV adaptations of Little Women.
1933: There aren’t many Bhaer-centric clips available online for this Katharine Hepburn version; its fans are clearly and firmly in the #TeamLaurie camp. At the two-minute mark in the trailer, though, you can see the professor in action. And what action it is! Bhaer, “blundering in,” is played in this version by the Hungarian actor Paul Lucas. He is kind of sleazy and unctuous and dandified in a way that makes any Bhaer partisan—or indeed, any lover of fairness—tremble with indignation. Even so, he gets points for using actual dialogue from the book, and whoever casted him should be lauded for drawing, kind of, from Bhaer’s actual region of the world.
One Bhaer Read More »
February 25, 2016 | by Sadie Stein
We know he’s kind, emotional, and paternalistic. We know he loves children. But how many facts do we really have about Professor Friedrich Bhaer, aka Father Bhaer, aka Old Fritz, aka Lager Beer, aka Ursa Major? (NB: Those are the nicknames for him the young bucks at the boarding house use. And if you’re wondering how to pronounce his name, Alcott tells us, “It isn’t pronounced either Bear or Beer, as people will say it, but something between the two, as only Germans can give it.”) Read More »
February 24, 2016 | by Sadie Stein
Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious by these sons of Bhaer!
Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Men, or Life at Plumfield with Jo’s Boys, in 1871; Jo’s Boys, and How They Turned Out: A Sequel to “Little Men” came in 1886 and marks the official end of the March series. Both sequels, if such you can term them, take place at Plumfield, the progressive boys’ school Jo and her husband, Professor Bhaer, run out of a New England mansion she’s inherited. While the books deal primarily with the antics and travails of the various pupils, they also feature an older Jo and, you guessed it, Professor Bhaer, whom I’ve been taking a close look at this week. It’s in these two books that Bhaer really comes into his own. Read More »
February 23, 2016 | by Sadie Stein
As often as I’ve read Little Women, I found that I didn’t have very distinct memories of Bhaer—not the way I did of Jo or Amy or Laurie. Despite his recurrence in the later books, he’d faded into a somewhat two-dimensional character for me. When I first encountered the book, I was probably nine or ten—too young to appreciate a character like Bhaer, and more receptive to Laurie’s obvious charms. Bhaer had seemed pedantic and unromantic, and I’d retained that notion. As a grown-up, would I feel differently? By this time, having known loneliness and love, and indeed having married someone a few years my senior, would I have more sympathy for this more mature relationship?
“You’re my professor Bhaer,” I said experimentally to my husband.
He paled. “That’s the most horrible thing you’ve ever said to me,” he replied. Read More »
February 22, 2016 | by Sadie Stein
He isn’t old, nor anything bad, but good and kind, and the best friend I’ve got next to you. Pray don’t fly into a passion; I want to be kind, but I know I shall get angry if you abuse my Professor. I haven’t the least idea of loving him, or anybody else. —Little Women
Literature has known many divisive characters. The dubious morality of Humbert Humbert, the disreputable spikiness of Holden Caulfield, the judgment and snobbery of Emma Bovary—all have pitted readers against one another since time immemorial. That said, there’s one character more controversial than all of these put together: Friedrich Bhaer. Read More »
February 3, 2015 | by Sadie Stein
Here’s a phrase you don’t read much nowadays: brown study. First cited in the sixteenth century (specifically in a book called Dice-Play), the expression—which describes a state of intense, sometimes melancholy reverie—really seems to have hit its stride in the nineteenth. Dr. Watson describes “falling into a brown study” in the course of “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box.” In Louisa May Alcott’s Eight Cousins, Uncle Alec “paced up and down the lower hall in the twilight for an hour, thinking so intently that sometimes he frowned, sometimes he smiled, and more than once he stood still in a brown study.” In David Copperfield, Dickens uses it like this: “I fell into a brown study as I walked on, and a voice at my side made me start.” Meanwhile, here’s Conrad, in “Thrift and the Child”:
He ceased and sat solemnly dejected, in a brown study. What day? I asked at last; but he did not hear me apparently. He suffused such portentous gloom into the atmosphere that I lost patience with him.
These were all books written for a popular audience; presumably the phrase was in regular use in both the English and American vernacular. What seems puzzling now would not have to a population who knew brown as a color associated with sadness. Indeed, brown was once used the way we do blue today—to connote melancholy. And it’s a good phrase, well suited to stories sustained by brisk narrative pace; in such cases as these, it was doubtless useful to be able to sketch interiority in a couple of words. Read More »