Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster
Jerusha Abbott grew up her entire eighteen years in the John Grier Home. John Grier Home is a moderately-dismal old-fashioned orphanage. The children in the home were wholly dependent on charity. They were badly fed and had to wear other people''s cast-off clothes. Jerusha''s unusual name was selected by the headmistress off a grave stone. Her surname was selected out of the phone book.
When we first meet Jerusha she still living in the John Grier Home. She has done well at the local high and is at loose ends, still working in the dormitories at the institution where she was brought up.
Suddenly one day she is informed by the orphanage’s head mistress that a wealthy trustee of the home has offered to put her through college. The trustee has spoken to one of Jerusha''s former teachers and knows that she is an excellent writer. He will pay her tuition and also give her a generous monthly allowance. All he asks in return is that Jerusha''s writes him one letter per month, addressed to a "Mr. John Smith," to which he will never reply meaning thereby that he wants to remain anonymous.
So begins a delightful one-way acquaintance between Jerusha,and her anonymous benefactor who hopes will become a writer one day. Jerusha 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 hones her writing skills by penning him letters about her experiences in the altogether foreign environment of an exclusive women''s college.
She attends a "girls'' college." But the writer never identifies its name or location. Men from Princeton University are frequently mentioned, so it might be assumed that her college is one of the Seven Sisters. It was certainly on the East Coast.
Armed with intelligence, a kind heart, and a sprightly wit, she begins to blossom as she never would have in the John Grier Home. Her only sorrow is that she can never meet her benefactor, or even know his name. It is a rather one-sided correspondence! Anybody in her place would feel so; specially if you had lived all your life without any family of your own and without anyone showing the slightest interest in you, and suddenly, quite out of the blue, someone started to shower you with kindness? I expect, like Judy, you would be desperate to know more about your mysterious benefactor. In one of her letters she writes, ''I wish you''d come and take tea some day and let me see if I like you.
But wouldn''t it be dreadful if I didn''t? However, I know I should''.
Judy, a short name she has acquired has a wonderful time at college. She makes new friends and studies many subjects that are entirely new to her. To begin with though she feels very strange and isolated because she has so little in common with the other girls:
In one pf her letters to her benefactors she writes, “I have a new unbreakable rule: never, never to study at night no matter how many written review is coming up in the morning. Instead, I read just plain books - I have to, you know, because there are eighteen blank years behind me. You wouldn''t believe, Daddy, what an abyss of ignorance my mind is; I am just realizing the depths myself. The things that most girls with a properly assorted family and a home and friends and a library know by absorption, I have never heard of.”
Of course, over the years of her study at college Judy grows into a lively and attractive young woman who takes enormous delight in the little pleasures of ordinary life. It''s easy to see why Jervis Pendleton, her rich room-mate''s uncle, finds her company so enjoyable. And it''s easy to see why Jimmy McBride finds her fun to be with too. He''s the brother of her other room-mate.
And you do want to know who she falls in love with? I would d better read the book. It''s such a pleasant finish.
At the end of the book, of course, the identity of ''Daddy Long-Legs'' is revealed.
Film and TV adaptations
The themes of this book reflect Jean Webster''s interests in social work and women''s suffrage. This book was made into films in 1919 1931, 1935 and a 1955 film, Daddy Long Legs. In Japan, Daddy-Long-Legs were made into a musical anime TV special in 1979. This was followed in 1990 by another Japanese TV serial adaptation for the Nippon Animation studio.
I loved this book. It''s very quick and easy to read because of the letter format. It is touching and a charming story