Little Women: why didn’t Laurie’s grandfather bring him to America as soon as his parents died
I’m not a Womanhead, but I’ve been watching the 2019 and 1994 adaptations and reading a bunch of commentary.
And Laurie’s backstory bugs me like hell! (In the book and these adaptations.)
He’s born in Italy of an American father (call him F) and Italian mother (M). F and old man Laurence (L) have quarrelled and L has cut off F, financially and otherwise.
F and M die in Europe when Laurie is young (how young?). Meanwhile, L’s daughter dies young.
(I can’t remember we’re told whether L regrets breaking with F, or whether there were attempts at reconciliation. We are told he still grieves his daughter.)
With his parents dead, there is no reason for Laurie to remain in Europe, and every reason for L to take charge of the person who seems to be the presumptive heir to the Laurence estate.
(That, apart from feelings of responsibility for the estrangement, or pity on a boy without a family in a foreign land.)
And yet – Laurie remains in Europe! No mention (again, that I recall) of any relation or guardian in Italy, just that he went to school in Switzerland for some unspecified time, and took a trip to
Heidelberg with unspecified companions. How on earth could a young boy cope with that without severe mental suffering? Of which we see no evidence in the book (AFAIR!).
And then, years later, L brings him to the US, and sets up home with him in a house conveniently situated next door to the daughter of an old friend, who, equally conveniently,
has made a stable and loving family into which Laurie can fit like a glove. (I’m sure that was a set-up with Marmee; the coincidence otherwise is just too freaky.)
Why wait? He’s a rich man who travels to Europe on business, and is able to engage lawyers to complete the necessary formalities? Why take the risk that some accident or illness should
strike Laurie whilst he is (putatively) alone in Europe, outside L’s control, and cut off his last hope of continuing the Laurence family line?
Of course, had Laurie come to the US earlier than 1861, the March’s wouldn’t necessarily have been available to act as a surrogate family to him. But L would have been able to place him in
some setting more congenial than a Swiss boarding school!
There is an alternative timeline: Laurie is brought to the US some time before 1861, but only comes to Concord in that year. But we’re given nothing about any life in the US before
Concord, and the vibe is that he’s more or less fresh off the boat.
Given that canon is that he spent his childhood in Europe (as well as being half Italian), it’s amazing that there’s barely anything about his (to the Concordians) foreignness in the book or adaptations.
It’s SO romantic! Firstly, he’d have some kind of accent – especially if his father wasn’t around, he’d be speaking any language but English just to get by – and that is never acknowledged.
Second, he’d be steeped in European culture – music, literature: all the things needed to wow American little women who probably haven’t been outside New England.
Third, he’d led an independent life, and had to get on without the protection of a March household.
(Plus, he’s beautiful!)
The March sisters would have eaten him up, with his quoting Petrarch and Baudelaire, and travellers’ tales and general exoticism.
Of course, none of this could make it into a book for kids in 1868.
So we’re stuck with lonely Laurie, in Europe but growing up American, his grandfather twiddling his thumbs for years, waiting (per LMA’s instructions!) for the moment to hook him
back to Mass and kick the story off.
I hate it!
What am I missing here?