Book Review: "Daddy Long Legs" by Jean Webster
In my opinion, the most amazing thing about books is that they can have a different meaning for us in different moments of our lives. The book I am going to speak about is one of those I read as a child, and after enjoying it numerous times the last few years I have decided to name it my favorite one.
"Daddy long legs" tells the story of a young girl, Jerusha Abbott, who has been raized in an orphanage. Being the oldest of the pupils, she has to work hard for her pension, helping to take care of the other kids. Despite the sad and boring life she leads, she is a cheerful and creative person and has a talent for writing.
One day, one of the trustees of the orphanage reads one of the essays she has written for school, talking about her life as an orphan child, and it impresses him so favorably that he decides to pay for her to go to college, believing that she has potential to become a writer. But he sets a strange condition: Jerusha must write a letter to him every month, telling him about her life and her studies, but she must never expect any letters from him in return.
Jerusha has only had the chance to see this mysterious man once from the back, and the only thing she knows for sure about him is that he is very tall. With just that fact (And the powerful imagination that characterizes her) she creates her own image of her benefactor, as well as an affectionate nickname to address him: Daddy long legs.
This "Daddy long legs" becomes the confidant of Jerusha's joys and sorrows, and an implicit help to fight against "the petty hazards of the day", as she calls them. Daddy long legs is never seen by his protegee, he never writes her back, but he finds a way to be present every time she needs him.
Of course, in the end, Jerusha manages to meet her Daddy long legs. And she gets a big surprise!
Why should you be reading it?
This book is probably unlike any you have read, and certainly not like the ones that are the fashion nowadays. There are no dramatic dialogues, no violence, and no heated romances. And I think that it is precisely the point.
One of the most difficult tasks for a writer is to find a way to make the characters believable, true, to give them their own voice. The story is composed almost entirely of Jerusha's letters to Daddy long legs, which means that we get to see things from her point of view. And what a view!
In Jerusha we find a girl full of dreams and aspirations, wanting to progress and become the best she can in spite of all the difficulties. She is reflective. She has a great sense of humor and is capable of laughing at herself. She is optimistic. She has strong convictions. But most importantly, I think she is a character that we can all feel identified with: A girl trying to make a place for her in the world and facing the struggles of growing up on her own as well as she can.
"I'm going to enjoy every second, and I'm going to KNOW I'm enjoying it while I'm enjoying it."— Jean Webster
We see her efforts to fit in at school, her friendships, her attempts to develop her writing skills, her first experience with love, all told in an innocent and amusing tone that made those simple topics delightful and interesting to read. As time goes by, her letters began to show the changes that education and social life have made in her, and how she is quickly turning into a woman.
The strongest point of Jean Webster in this book is the simplicity of the writing. It is easy to understand, as well as direct and touching, and the letter format makes you feel that Jerusha is, somehow, addressing you, choosing you as her confidant as well.
I also find that the author makes clear in this story a great conviction of hers: That everyone, no matter which his/her origins are, can find success and happiness in life. Sometimes, the only thing that a person requires is a chance.
Being as it is, I find quite incomprehensible the fact that this book is not as widely known. Every time I say out loud that it is my favorite, most people do not know of which book am I referring. I can tell; not everyone knows it! And it is certainly a pity.
I am convinced that absolutely everyone, from children to adults, can enjoy it greatly. I highly recommend it.
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