Daddy Long Legs
By Jean Webster
I recently revisited a childhood favorite of mine, Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster.
Daddy Long Legs was published in 1912 and contained drawings by Jean Webster as well. Unfortunately, I do not have a print copy of the book but was able to download the text for my kindle from Project Gutenberg here.
I probably read this for the first time when I was very young and read it over and over. I have not reread it since I was twelve or so.
I was surprised to find it was not what I expected. The character of Jerusha was still witty and charming with a bit of sass, but reading as an adult gives an entirely different perspective.
Jerusha Abbott is an orphan dependent upon the charity of a benefactor who wishes to remain anonymous. Daddy Long Legs is story told through a series of letters that Jerusha must write as a stipulation to receive college funds. Jerusha is smart, clever, and beautiful, if educationally stunted by her orphanage upbringing.
Daddy Long Legs is an easy to read book. If you are interested in women’s rights, social movements, societal changes, or the political history of the time period, you might be interested in this book.
Even though I kept in mind this book was published almost 100 years ago, I still felt uncomfortable at parts of the book by the behavior of Daddy Long Legs aka John Smith. Perhaps men of the day did typically treat women in such ways, but to a modern reader there is a high creepiness factor.
The author’s political view point and worldview come thorough in this story.
It would make for an easy and enjoyable way to study the issues and topics of the day.
A book from a slightly later time period reviewed on this site is Miss Buncle’s Book by By D.E. Stevenson. Both books are humorously clever and easy to read with a female protagonist making her way in the world.
As a child, I thought Daddy Long Legs was a simple story about an orphan who is rescued by a rich man who then falls in love with her. There are no mature themes in the book, but Daddy Long Legs was written for young ladies, not children.
The new view of my old favorite was somewhat disappointing. I still liked the character of Jerusha, but the story felt a bit disorienting, like approaching a once familiar place from a different direction.
Have you reread a childhood favorite and had a similar experience?
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