Daddy-Long-Legs (novel)

Daddy-Long-Legs is a 1912 epistolary novel by the American writer Jean Webster. It follows the protagonist, Jerusha "Judy" Abbott, as she leaves an orphanage and is sent to college by a benefactor whom she has never seen.

Title cover
AuthorJean Webster
GenreYoung adult
Publication date
Followed byDear Enemy 

Plot summary edit

Jerusha Abbott was brought up at the John Grier Home, an old-fashioned orphanage. The children were completely dependent on charity and had to wear other people's cast-off clothes. Jerusha's unusual first name was selected by the matron from a gravestone (she hates it and uses "Judy" instead), while her surname was selected out of the phone book.

One day, after the asylum's trustees have made their monthly visit, Judy is informed by the asylum's dour matron that one of the trustees has offered to pay her way through college. He has spoken to her former teachers and thinks she has potential to become an excellent writer. He will pay her tuition and give her a generous monthly allowance. Judy must write him a monthly letter because he believes that letter-writing is important to the development of a writer. However, she will never know his identity; she must address the letters to Mr. John Smith, and he never will reply.

Judy catches a glimpse of the shadow of her benefactor from the back, and knows he is a tall long-legged man. Because of this, she jokingly calls him Daddy-Long-Legs. She attends a women’s college on the East Coast. She illustrates her letters with childlike line drawings, also created by Jean Webster.

The book chronicles Judy's educational, personal, and social growth. One of the first things she does at college is to change her name to Judy. She designs a rigorous reading program for herself and struggles to gain the basic cultural knowledge to which she, growing up in the bleak environment of the orphanage, never was exposed.

During her stay, she befriends Sallie McBride (the most entertaining person in the world) and Julia Rutledge Pendleton (the least so) and sups with them and Leonora Fenton.

Afterwards, Judy graduates college and is pursuing her dream to become a writer. However, Julia's uncle Jervis proposes to Judy and she refuses because someone like her wouldn't be good enough to marry a Pendleton. After this, Jervis catches a deadly illness during his travel at Canada. On the other hand, Judy was excited that she was invited to meet Daddy Longlegs at New York City. As she arrives at New York City, she discovers that Jervis was Daddy Longlegs and reconsiders about the proposal and accepts Jervis to be her husband. (THE END)

Characters edit

Jerusha 'Judy' Abbott - Although she came from John Grier Home, an orphanage, she entered college.

Sally McBride - Judy's college friend.

Julia Rutledge Pendleton - Judy's college friend.

Jervis Pendleton who is eventually revealed to be Judy's benefactor.

Jimmy McBride

Daddy Longlegs The mysterious man that sent Judy Abbot to college and financialy supporting her

Dedication edit

The book is dedicated "To You." Today this book is often classified as children's literature, but at the time it was part of a trend of "girl" or "college girl" books which featured young female protagonists dealing with post-high-school concerns such as college, career, and marriage. These books predated the contemporary view of adolescence. Other authors who wrote in this vein include L. M. Montgomery and Louisa May Alcott. In Georgina Castle Smith's children's novel Nothing to Nobody (1873), Daddy Long Legs [sic] is the name of the orphaned urchin who receives the assistance.[1]

Advertisement of Jean Webster's novel Daddy-Long-Legs

Current reception edit

Daddy-Long-Legs still receives good reviews.[2] Reviewers comment on its relatability to a wide variety of audiences and unique nature in comparison to other modern books' – it isn't filled with action or melodrama, but rather just regular life. Reviewers also note that people tend to be attracted to orphans and orphanages, especially now that they have been mythologized in fiction such as Little Orphan Annie. Judy's being an orphan makes her sympathetic and allows for more room for her to learn and grow while in college, reviewers note.[2]

Stage and screen edit

This book was Webster's best-known work. Webster herself adapted it into a stage play which debuted in 1914. In addition, it was adapted into a 1952 British stage musical comedy called Love from Judy,[3] as well as films in 1919 (starring Mary Pickford), 1931 (starring Janet Gaynor and Warner Baxter), 1935 (a Shirley Temple adaptation called Curly Top), a 1938 Dutch adaptation Vadertje Langbeen and a 1955 film, Daddy Long Legs (starring Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron). The latter two film versions departed considerably from the plot of the original novel.[4]

A four-part adaptation was featured in 1978 in anime anthology series Manga Sekai Mukashi Banashi (1976-1979) by Dax International and Madhouse.

Ashinaga Ojisan, anime TV movie produced in 1979 by Tatsunoko Production.

The 1990 TV anime serial Watashi no Ashinaga Ojisan (My Daddy-Long-Legs) was directed by Kazuyoshi Yokota for the Nippon Animation studio as that year's installment of the studio's World Masterpiece Theater.

In India, the novel was adapted into a Malayalam movie, Kanamarayathu in 1984. Anokha Rishta, a Hindi remake by the same director was released in 1986.

The 2005 Korean movie Kidari Ajeossi has elements of Daddy-Long-Legs transferred into a modern setting.

In 2009, the novel was made into a two-person musical play by John Caird (book) and Paul Gordon (music), which premiered at the Rubicon Theatre Company (Ventura, California) and TheatreWorks (Palo Alto, California).[5] On September 27, 2015, the musical premiered Off-Broadway at the Davenport Theatre with Megan McGinnis and Paul Alexander Nolan.

In 2020, the musical of Paul Gordon and John Caird was staged by director Aleksey Frandetti in Russia on the Instagram, transferring the events of the novel into the 21st century.[6] In 2021, the musical play made into Dear Mr. Smith and was performed by the same actors Ivan Ozhogin and Yulia Dyakina at the Theatre "Shelter of Comedians" by the same director.

References edit

  1. ^ "Smith, Georgina Castle [née Georgina Meyrick; pseud. Brenda]". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/41041. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ a b Martin, Ann. "An Introduction to 'Daddy-Long-Legs'". Retrieved 2019-09-24.
  3. ^ Keely, Karen (September 2004). "Teaching Eugenics to Children: Heredity and Reform in Jean Webster's Daddy-Long-Legs and Dear Enemy". The Lion and the Unicorn. 28 (3): 363–389. doi:10.1353/uni.2004.0032.
  4. ^ Phillips, Anne K (1999), ""Yours most loquaciously": Voice in Jean Webster's Daddy-Long-Legs", Children's Literature, 27: 64–85, doi:10.1353/chl.0.0124
  5. ^ TheatreWorks program, January 2010
  6. ^ First Instagram musical

External links edit