Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster

Jerusha Abbott is a young girl who has lived in orphanage her entire life. She has been there so long that she has been put to work so that she can earn her keep. One day she is called into the office thinking she is in trouble. The headmistress tells her that she will be going to college and that a Trustee of the orphanage has agreed to pay for her education as a result of her writing. The trustee would like her to attend college to become an author provided that he remain anonymous and Jerusha writes a letter to him monthly to keep him up to date on her progress. Jerusha is of course excited to have a chance at a life outside of the orphanage. On her way out of the office she thinks she sees the Trustee, she has seen some of them before but is curious to know what her Trustee looks like. The man she saw in the shadows was tall and she names him Daddy long-legs.

Daddy Long-Legs is told through Jerusha’s letters during her four years at a girl’s college. She is very excited and bubbly and therefore writes many more than the required amount of letters. They are filled with her explorations of new friends, college life, society, and the classroom. She is observant, inquisitive, cheerful, and at time outraged at Daddy-long-legs’ silence. Her letters are filled with full descriptions of her life and her surroundings complete with the occasional illustration for further emphasis. What I think is most interesting is her character which shines through her letters. Jerusha (who quickly changes her name to Judy) learns that she is not a throw-away, that an opportunity at a life outside of the orphanage can change her life provided she takes full advantage. She has many opinions and often offers commentary about what she is learning in school and about society as a whole. She is writing at a time when women did not have the same rights as men and the political climate is changing. We know exactly what happens and how Daddy long-legs reacts to her stories without ever seeing his secretary’s responses. There is even an interesting twist at the end.

I just knew I had to read Daddy-Long-Legs after reading posts by both Nymeth and Aarti. And I think it would make an excellent selection for the Women Unbound Challenge. Jean Webster did produce a (sort of) sequel called Dear Enemy which I am interested to read.

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4 responses to “Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster

  • Verity

    I just love this book. And you’ve reminded me that I want to read Dear Enemy too. I read this at school and found it such a wonderful read.

  • Aarti

    Yay! I’m so glad you read and enjoyed this one 🙂 It was so very heart-warming in a way the sequel was not (probably because I was overthinking some of the events/thoughts in the sequel). It reminded me of Anne of Green Gables, in a way, but Judy is a lot more firm, I think, than Anne is.

  • BuriedInPrint

    This is one of my favourites as well. I don’t remember being disappointed in Dear Enemy but I always prefer the earlier books in series like that, when the heroine is younger…maybe because she’s a bit freer to rebel against convention?

  • LeaningSun

    Verity, I wish I’d had this one in school. I’ll be interested to see what you think of Dear Enemy whenever you are able to read it.

    Aaarti, I plan on reading Dear Enemy soon. I think sometimes we have such high expectations or we just really loved the first so much we want it to continue.

    BuriedInPrint, I agree! a younger heroine usually means higher adventure, more open thoughts, and yes rebelling against convention. It seems convention begins to take hold as we get older.

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