My immediate reaction when I learned this was favorite characters week was, duh, Jo March. She’s been my go-to fave for a while. Little Women is one of those books you can read again and again, and each time you’ll come away with a whole new understanding of the March family. (It’s an entirely different read as a 10-year-old girl than a 22-year-old woman, especially given some sisters’ emphasis on how a woman must be married off to tend to her husband and children. It seemed so romantic when I was in fourth grade, and so he-doesn’t-own-me! when I was a fresh college graduate yearning for a career.)
When I was applying to Northwestern, where I eventually went to college, one of the questions was, “What fictional character do you most identify with?” Duh, again. Jo was a tomboy. I was a tomboy! Jo loved to write. I loved to write! Jo had no time for sexy next door neighbors because she was going to be a serious author. I… well.. I found plenty of time for silly boy drama in high school. But you get what I’m saying. She was me. I was her.
And yet every time I reread Little Women, my relationship with the second-oldest March sister gets more complicated. These days, it’s like I love Jo so much that I get frustrated with her. It’s as if she’s my own little sister and I see her making mistakes and want to shake her and scream, “He loves you!! Love him back or he is going to end up with your bratty little sister who is totally going to throw your manuscript in the fire!” Perhaps you will argue that she didn’t love Laurie, he was like a brother, blah blah blah. But I won’t hear you, because I will have shoved my fingers in my ears and stuck out my tongue. THEY BELONGED TOGETHER.
My more recent answer to the favorite character question comes from another reread. My book club revisited To Kill a Mockingbird this year, and I have to admit, I fell in love with Dill. He’s hilarious!
To provide you with a mental picture of Rachel making this discovery: It was a Friday morning. I was on vacation in Orlando, waiting for my two friends to arrive for our girls’ weekend trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (yes, we are huge nerds). I sat alone by the pool at 11 AM, margarita in one hand, Harper Lee in the other. Laughing out loud. It was a good day.
Dill’s had it rough, to be sure. But what I love about him is that he always makes me laugh. When Scout finds him under the bed? And he emerges after having been squished under there and then just says “hey” as if nothing was out of the ordinary? Classic. Or when Jem tries to leave the note for Boo Radley with a fishing pole, and Dill is ringing the “alarm” bell right in Atticus’s face? For some reason, whenever I think of that scene, of Atticus Finch staring at Dill has he rings that bell with all his might, I can only laugh.
So, I guess, the lesson for today: We can fall in love with a story on a first read, but to really appreciate a character, you need a reread.
Which characters have you discovered upon a second reading?