What was the relationship between Jo and Laurie in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott? Discuss how Jo and Laurie become friends, the nature of their friendship before their conflict, and why they...

What was the relationship between Jo and Laurie in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott? Discuss how Jo and Laurie become friends, the nature of their friendship before their conflict, and why they are good friends.

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In one way, the relationship between Jo March and Theodore Laurence (Laurie) in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women is as simple as the relationship between any brother and sister; however, because one of them develops different feelings, the relationship undergoes a significant change.

The March girls are neighbors of the old Mr. Laurence, and the girls get to know Laurie (Teddy) when he comes to live with his grandfather. Though he is a charming but rather moody teenager, the March girls bring out the very best in him. They all do things together, and it soon becomes apparent that tomboy Jo is the most like Laurie. They are the closest in age, and the two of them get along famously--when they are not arguing like brothers and sisters are wont to do. 

While they know of one another, the two of them really only get to know each other at a holiday party. Laurie is hiding behind a curtain because he is shy, and Jo is socially inept and would rather just avoid the party. This is the real beginning of their relationship. Later, when Jo discovers he is sick, she determines to cheer him up--and she does.

Old Mr. Laurence is quite strict with his grandson, but when he sees that Laurie is happy when he is with the March girls, he loosens the reins a bit. Laurie is eventually allowed to be part of the girls' little club, and like Jo he is a good writer. Laurie and the girls all enjoy many escapades together, including picnics with his friends and other interesting and fun pursuits which are good for both him and the March girls. Of course Laurie begins to feel quite protective of all the girls. 

They go sledding and other activities, but Laurie is often rather moody and lazy. Jo is is the one who calls him out for this, and her words do motivate (and hurt) him. What is most notable in the relationship between Jo and Laurie, however, is that they turn to one another whenever things go wrong. They cling to one another during the minor crises of their lives, and they even plan to run away together at one point. Both of them are rather hot-tempered, and they certainly have their share of arguments and spats. 

What happens, of course, is that Laurie falls in love with Jo, and his feelings are not reciprocated. While Jo does love him, she does not love him in the way that she should if they were to marry. Mrs. March makes the best observation about this relationship:

"As friends you are very happy, and your frequent quarrels soon blow over, but I fear you would both rebel if you were mated for life. You are too much alike and too fond of freedom, not to mention hot tempers and strong wills, to get on happily together, in a relation which needs infinite patience and forbearance, as well as love."

This is not only a commentary on the unwise idea of their marriage, but it is also a description of their relationship. Jo is as much a tomboy as Laurie is perhaps just a little feminine in his interests. Neither of them likes to be told what to do, which if course causes a clashes of wills at times. They do love one another, but Jo understands that she does not love Laurie as he deserves and she says the hard thing:

"I can't say 'yes' truly, so I won't say it at all."

Alcott plays a bit of a trick on us, as we are convinced that Jo and Laurie will be a love match; however, we have plenty of evidence along the way that the two of them are too much alike to marry. They would spend the rest of their lives in a tumultuous, rather tug-of-war relationship. 

marinifern | Student

I think Jo and Laurie were impatient and hot-tempered. Therefore I believe Jo also realized this - she couldn't be matching person for Laurie, nor could he do it for her. She may have had romantic feelings for him sometimes, not as much as he did for her but feelings either way, but she could also see how it wouldn't work. Jo needed someone like her father was to her mother, and the Professor suites marvelously. He balances out her ups and downs, her impulses and her impatience, and she, on the other hand, helps him experience things in a more intense way.

Laurie needed someone like Amy, someone who would balance out his bad temper with gentle but firm words and his impulses with rationality. She, on the other hand, gained someone who truly admired her and wanted to let her flourish, but who wouldn't make that spoiled brat resurface like your average rich boy probably would have. Also, they both crave for adoration, which really confirms my opinion that they're well-suited for each other - they both ended up both admiring and being admired, which is a much more solid relationship than simply being admired.