The introduction to Jean Webster’s Daddy-Long-Legs (Puffin Classics)gives you a glimpse into the life of a young girl growing up almost like a slave a girl’s orphanage:
The first Wednesday in every month was a Perfectly Awful Day–a day to be awaited with dread, endured with courage and forgotten with haste. Every floor must be spotless, every chair dustless, and every bed without a wrinkle. Ninety-seven squirming little orphans must be scrubbed and combed and buttoned into freshly starched ginghams; and all ninety-seven reminded of their manners, and told to say, “Yes, sir,” “No, sir,” whenever a Trustee spoke.
Jerusha Abbott (later called Judy) is an orphan at the John Grier Home, which is nothing like the loving atmosphere of the orphanage in John Irving’s The Cider House Rules.
Already 18 years old, Judy’s future is uncertain until one day, the matron delivers some good news:
Hearing that she’s a budding writer, a trustee will sponsor her college education and even give her a monthly allowance! However, she has to write him (addressed to a fictitious “John Smith”) a letter every month but he will never reply 🙁
Mystified by these strange conditions, Judy sets herself to be a good student at college and dedicates her time well in writing her monthly updates to her trustee.
One day, she catches a glimpse of his tall, sinewy shadow or silhouette and starts calling him “Daddy-Long-Legs” instead.
The book is filled with Judy’s description of life at college, some amusing and some not so especially when she remembers her shabby background.
Her letters to “Daddy-Long-Legs” fill up a good portion of her book, including cute stick drawings 🙂
I could relate to Judy when I read the book because:
- I loved to write letters;
- I had a kind uncle who’d buy me things a young girl loved (who couldn’t afford them) e.g. cool sneakers, cool t-shirts, books etc and
- I also had strange and sometimes unfortunate escapades when I was a kid.
“Daddy-Long-Legs” is definitely one of my favorite books (read and re-read many times!) and reading Jean Webster’s biography, she’s my sort of heroine too! Daddy-Long-Legs was not only a successful piece of fiction but also a stimulus to reform the institutional treatment of orphans.
If you are too lazy to read the book, you can watch this Hollywood version of the book:
Daddy Long Legs (starring Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron)