A "Book Boyfriend"
@ Stuck In Books
It looks as if The Introverted Reader has quietly retired her Character Connection meme. (No official word yet about Shredded Cheddar and the Locus Focus meme. =P) It was while looking for a substitute that I started considering the Book Boyfriend of the Week link up. While it's obviously more limited (and limiting) than Character Connection, that just makes it another sort of challenge. Besides, the character I've been eager to write about for a month is a "boyfriend" of sorts, so this exercise was kind of made to order.
by Jean Webster
I only saw Master Jervie once when he called at tea time, and then I didn't have a chance to speak to him alone. It was really disappointing after our nice time last summer. I don't think he cares much for his relatives--and I am sure they don't care much for him! Julia's mother says he's unbalanced. He's a Socialist--except, thank Heaven, he doesn't let his hair grow and wear red ties. She can't imagine where he picked up his queer ideas; the family have been Church of England for generations. He throws away his money on every sort of crazy reform, instead of spending it on such sensible things as yachts and automobiles and polo ponies. He does buy candy with it though! He sent Julia and me each a box for Christmas.
You know, I think I'll be a Socialist, too. You wouldn't mind, would you, Daddy?
Call me crazy, but I have a feeling that Judy's mysterious "Daddy" won't mind at all. =P
When I reread Jean Webster's Daddy-Long-Legs last month, I was surprised to find myself feeling critical toward the character of Jervis Pendleton. For the first time, I could see him as an "older man" who can't help but have the upper hand in everything when he gets into a relationship with college girl Judy Abbott.
Now, it's not quite a Lolita or a Trilby thing: Jervis is only fourteen years older than Judy (which seems like a big difference today, but probably wasn't when Daddy-Long-Legs came out in 1912), and he looks and acts younger than his years. Since he gets to know Judy properly through her roommate, his niece, his original intentions toward her are also quite avuncular. It doesn't take long, however, before he starts to think that he knows better--so much better that he can tell her what to do.
. . . [Jervie] insisted on my going to Europe. He said that it was a necessary part of my education and that I mustn't think of refusing [your offer]. Also, that he would be in Paris at the same time, and that we would run away from the chaperon occasionally and have dinner together at nice, funny, foreign restaurants.
Well, Daddy, it did appeal to me! I almost weakened; if he hadn't been so dictatorial, maybe I should have entirely weakened. I can be enticed step-by-step, but I won't be forced. He said I was a silly, foolish, irrational, quixotic, stubborn child (those are a few of his abusive adjectives; the rest escape me) and that I didn't know what was good for me; I ought to let older people judge. We almost quarreled--I am not sure but that we entirely did!
This is the third or fourth time I've read Daddy-Long-Legs, but the first time it occurred to me that Jervis stops feeling like a surrogate uncle long before they argue about Europe. Contrary to what he says, he doesn't want Judy to take the trip so she can further her education, but so she can go on dates in London, Paris and Rome with him! In that case, however, shouldn't he back off when she says that she'd rather do something else? Would he really be happy having his own way with her if she spent the whole time wishing she were somewhere else? (To answer the second question: I don't think so. But he doesn't seem to have connected the dots when they have their argument.)
I wanted to write about Jervis as a "Book Boyfriend" because his relationship with Judy highlights what actually matters when people who aren't "equals" in age, experience, wealth, or social standing fall in love. As she writes to her "Daddy" soon after she graduates from college . . .
I wish I could make you understand what [Jervis] is like and how entirely companionable we are. We think the same about everything--I am afraid I have the tendency to make over my ideas to match his! But he is almost always right; he ought to be, you know, for he has fourteen years' start of me. In other ways, though, he's just an overgrown boy, and he does need looking after--he hasn't any sense about wearing rubbers when it rains. He and I always think the same things are funny, and that is such a lot. It's dreadful when two people's senses of humour are antagonistic. I don't believe there's any bridging that gulf!
So he is wiser than she is about most things, and she admits it . . . but she is more sensible than he is about other things, which I can imagine he concedes as well . . . though they happen to be perfect peers when it comes to one thing that can never be compromised on: humour. =)
I've tried to avoid spoilers in this post, but those who know the ending of Daddy-Long-Legs may feel free to mention anything and everything in the combox! Those who don't but are new to Shredded Cheddar may want to check out the spoiler-free Reading Diary: Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster.
Image Source: Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster