A Deep, Heart-warming Tale


Do you know what it means to read a goof novel? It’s when the characters and the story of the material you are consuming get along with our own stories and make us feel connected with them. This novel, Daddy Long Legs, is one such novel to which we can relate easily and connect strongly to. It is written by Jean Webster and has been translated into numerous languages, connecting millions of readers worldwide.

What happens inside the pages?

First of all, I should say that Daddy Long Legs is an epistolary novel, which means the plot is developed through letters that the protagonist writes. So, basically we are going to read a bunch of letters written by someone to somebody. Oh! Don’t feel awkward please, they are meant to be read by everyone.

Our young protagonist of the novel, Jerusha Abbott, is raised in an orphanage called John Grier Homes, and being the oldest of the pupils-already having overstayed for two years; she has to make sure that she is not kicked out from the orphanage by helping to take care of the other kids and engaging in minor tasks. Standing as a foil to the pathetic dull life she lives there in the orphanage, Jerusha is characterised as a cheerful and imaginative person with sharp humour and sarcasm. Oh and above all, she writes!

Since she loves writing, she writes-about the life at the orphanage; how hard but at the same time how nice it is. One day, a trustee of the orphanage-a person who funds the orphanage- gets to read one of the Jerusha’s essays written for school talking about her life as an orphan child, and quickly recognises her inborn potential to write. Being really impressed by her writing skills, he comes forward to grant Jerusha a scholarship, hoping that she would become a great writer one day, though under one strange condition: Jerusha must produce him a letter once a month, telling him about the school and studies and her life but should not expect any replies from him. Yes, he stays anonymous! SO, that’s how the novel unveils; in letters.

Letters grow

Though this person stays in the shadows, Jerusha once catches a glimpse of him from the back but the only detail she can gather is that he, whatever he is, is very tall. So, she starts to address him with an affectionate nickname in her letters- ‘Daddy Long Legs’, which in fact gives the novel its title. Gradually, in her letters, Jerusha begins to spill all the beans about her life at orphanage as well as in the school before her Daddy Long Legs. He seems to become Jerusha’s confidant.

I wish Mrs. Lippett would use a little more ingenuity about choosing babies’ names. She gets the last names out of the telephone book–you’ll find Abbott on the first page–and she picks the Christian names up anywhere; she got Jerusha from a tombstone. I’ve always hated it; but I rather like Judy. It’s such a silly name. It belongs to the kind of girl I’m not–a sweet little blue-eyed thing, petted and spoiled by all the family, who romps her way through life without any cares. Wouldn’t it be nice to be like that? Whatever faults I may have, no one can ever accuse me of having been spoiled by my family! But it’s great fun to pretend I’ve been. In the future please always address me as Judy.

By and by as Jerusha matures and learns about the world, the letters also mature. The initial silly and cute letters, later on, changes to become insightful, political and revolutionary. But one thing never changes; Jerusha’s love for Daddy Long Legs

Dear Comrade,

Hooray! I’m a Fabian.

That’s a Socialist who’s willing to wait. We don’t want the social revolution to come tomorrow morning; it would be too upsetting. We want it to come very gradually in the distant future, when we shall all be prepared and able to sustain the shock.

In the meantime, we must be getting ready, by instituting industrial, educational and orphan asylum reforms.

Yours, with fraternal love,

Fun to read and heart-warming

Since the story is told through letters, it comes through the point of view of Jerusha, and my god what a view! In fact, her sharp, sarcastic humour and subtle irony make the perfect blend, and give the novel a real fun taste. Under the wave of jolly good humour runs a current of pathos of a girl who has to endure hardships of life to chase her passion. She blooms in a full glow despite all the suppression and oppression that she undergoes. It really touches the hearts!

Oh one last thing; Brace your brains tight-the latter half might be such a shock!

By Induwara Athapattu


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