Friday, February 3, 2012

Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster

My Mother is such a good book-picker-outer.  She recently bought and read the book Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster and it's now my turn to read it.  What a wonderful book!  I love this line from page 49.

"It isn't the big troubles in life that require character.  Anybody can rise to a crisis and face a crushing tragedy with courage, but to meet the petty hazards of the day with a laugh--I really think that requires spirit." 

Hmmm, that's true enough.

In the book we meet Jerusha Abbott (Judy), an orphan who has had a rough life growing up in the John Grier Home (an orphanage).  She's been treated like a Cinderella and is not treated well by Mrs. Lippett the home's matron.  Jerusha is eighteen and should be moving on but has no where to go.   Until, a generous man sends her to college on his dime.  The man wishes to remain anonymous, the only thing he asks of her is for her to write him a letter once a month about her studies, but she may not know who he is or ask him any questions (she does anyway).  She writes to him often, sometimes weekly and through her letters we enjoy her college adventures as if we were right along side her.

So far, Daddy Long Legs is an excellent book.  The girl's letters to "Daddy Long Legs" are witty and full of details about college life in the early 1900's.  I'm looking forward to finding out how she fairs in school and who this mysterious "Daddy Long Legs" really is!

     "I'm going to be good and sweet and kind to everybody because I'm so happy.  And this summer I'm going to write and write and write and begin to be a great author.  Isn't that an exalted stand to take?  Oh, I'm developing a beautiful character!  It droops a bit under cold and frost, but it does grow fast when the sun shines. 
     That's the way with everybody.  I don't agree with the theory that adversity and sorrow and disappointment develop moral strength.  the happy people are the ones who are bubbling over with kindliness."----from Daddy Long Legs pg. 52

Later............Well, I have finished the book and it too has become another favorite.  The ending is a sweet surprise!  I won't spoil the plot for all of you that might go on to read it yourselves, but I will share some of my favorite passages and ideas from the book.   My copy (thank you Mom) has a rainbow of paper tags hanging out of the side as I marked each favorite passage with a sticky note. 

This book would probably be best suited for 12 year olds and up, but it would depend upon the maturity level of the reader.  Judy uses some difficult vocabulary-type words in her letters that I had to look up (she is a writer after all).  But there is nothing "bad" in it really,  Especially when you compare it to all the vampire-loving, boy crazy, way-too-old-for pre-teens trash (that no ten year old should even know about let alone be reading) that is found on the young-adult shelves nowadays (yuck).  This book is such a better choice for pre-teens and even teens. 
Here are just a couple of my favorite paragraphs from this wonderful book...

"I think that the most necessary quality for any parson to have is imagination  It makes people able to put themselves in other people's places.  It makes them kind and sympathetic and understanding.  It ought to be cultivated in children.  But the John Grier Home instantly stamped out the slightest flicker that appeared.  Duty was the one quality that was encouraged.  I don't think children ought to know the meaning of the word; it's odious, detestable.  They ought to do everything from love."--pg 96
The paragraph above seemed familiar to me in a paralleling kind of way.  Maybe some Law and Gospel?  We love not because it is our duty, we love because we are loved unconditionally by Christ.  We love not out of obligation, or out of fear of burning in hell, for how can anyone love under those conditions?  Instead we are like children encouraged to live with imagination.  We love because He loved us so much that he died for us.  The connection is in my brain..I'm just not sure it's coming across on paper (or screen) in a coherent way.
Here's another of my favorites...

"It isn't the great big pleasures that count the most;  it's making a great deal out of the little ones--I've discovered the true secret of happiness, and that is to live in the now.  Not to be forever regretting the past, or anticipating the future;  but to get the most that you can out of this very instant.......I'm going to enjoy every second, and I'm going to know I'm enjoying it while I'm enjoying it.  Most people don't live;  they just race.  They are trying to reach some goal far away on the horizon, and in the heat of the going they get so breathless and panting that they lose all sight of the beautiful, tranquil country they are passing through;  and then the first thing they know, they are old and worn out, and it doesn't make any difference whether they've reached the goal or not."--pg 134

Because I stay at home, I tend to enjoy a slow paced, life.  I'm never rushed to meet a deadline, I'm my own boss so I'm never striving for a promotion.  I have time to look at the sunrise every morning (at least in the winter) or a sunbeam shining through the window.  I usually see my Nemesis, dust, floating in the sunbeam, but, even that can be interesting?  I get to enjoy a child's giggle or their amazement at how a simple glass of water plus sunlight can make a rainbow. "Jen!!!  There's a rainbow on the floor!!!"   We all have these magical moments happening around us, even if we have a goal we are rushing towards, we just have to take the time to stop and see them.

When I did research on the author of Daddy Long Legs, Alice Jane Chandler Webster, I found that she lived a very short life.  She was born in 1876 and had a privileged upbringing.  She did charity work with children and this was her basis for Daddy Long Legs, written in 1912 under the pen name, Jean Webster. In 1915 she married Glenn Ford McKinney, but tragically died the following year.  She died of "childbirth fever" on June 11th 1916, a day after giving birth to a daughter.  (June 11th is my birthday).  I feel bad she didn't get to raise her daughter.  After reading her book it seems she would've been a wonderful mother.
Alice Jane Chandler Webster whose pen name was Jean Webster

Well, I've gone on long enough about this wonderful book.  I encourage anyone, young or old, to pick it up for yourself and read all of the little tid-bits about life that it offers.
Until later,
Have a happy day!

1 comment:

  1. I love this movie. I may have to borrow the book from you sometime and read the book.