And I am struck with how the character Dan just steals the entire book. I mean, she drew some unforgettable characters - Tommy Bangs, always in trouble, Nan Harding and the beginnings of her desire to be a physician, Nat and his fiddle (and the fact that Jo liked him but thought him weak), Daisy the little housewife (I have stuff to say about her cookstove) and Bess the Princess whom, right now, I heartedly dislike. No little girl can or should be that perfect or universally loved like that. It makes me cringe.
But Dan. Dan is, at age fourteen, a romantic hero. One thing is that he's not written as fourteen, and I have to remind myself that he is all the time. He's written as a grown man - even at the beginning when he gets two other boys to drink and swear (well, they don't actually swear) and gamble (okay, play poker - no mention of actual gambling) with him. Because when a fire begins (his fault, ultimately, for giving a ten-year old a cigar), he's one of the two boys who help put it out. And we also see that he has formed a tight bond with Jo's little Teddy. That is a manly thing to do, and a thing guaranteed to melt many women's hearts. It certainly does mine - to me, there's few things sexier than a grown man competently holding a baby in his arms. Please - I melt when I hear Greg Allman sing, "Let me rock your cradle."
(I think that's one of the reasons many of us love babyfic - for the humor, but also because it means we get to see our favorite boys that way. Yum.)
Dan is strong and handsome. He's too rugged to spend time indoors with books, but he's more than bright enough to know all about rocks and insects, and to teach them to others. He can't be kept caged, but he always comes home. He's also gentle with small children and loyal to a fault, and very protective of those he loves. And nothing he says or does feels like a teenager. He's a man. And he's an action hero. And I think Alcott fell a little in love with him herself. I can't blame her - he's the big strong hero with the little boy held gently in his arms.