Long Legs in the Winter Sun

It’s probably a reflection of the rarity of bright sunshine in London in the winter months that I noticed how very long my shadow was on the station platform.  The sun was very low in a brilliant blue sky, and I spent the interlude waiting for my train moving around to observe the effect of my shadow bending up the side of the ugly shelter, across the tracks and intersecting with the shadows of my fellow passengers.  Needless to say I garnered some funny looks too.

The image immediately conjured a memory of reading Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster when I was a child.  The part of the book that has stuck in my mind was the fleeting image the heroine caught of her unknown benefactor, a shadow in a corridor with disproportionately elongated limbs, her re-imagining of what he must be like, and my satisfaction in knowing, when his identity was revealed at the climax of the book, that I had not been fooled by all the misleading clues in the story into believing the same thing as the protagonist.

To write this, I’ve had a quick look online for other people’s comments on the book, and it seems that I’ve not retained the ‘big themes’ in the book about women’s education and the righting of social inequality, and may be alone in recalling the image of the misleadingly attenuated shadow so vividly. But then, each of us remembers something slightly different from every experience.

The last time I thought about Daddy Long Legs was when I read the revelation about Sayuri’s benefactor in Memoirs of a Geisha  by Arthur Golden, because, I think, of a glancing similarity in the relationship between the mystery supporter and the innocent protagonist.  But now I’ve written that down, it looks like quite a controversial comparison to make, and potentially puts me in the same camp as those who criticised Daddy Long Legs for its anti-feminist paternalism, in which I don’t really belong: it’s a book for children about a girl receiving an education, with a dollop of romance at the end.

Meanwhile, maybe there’s a PhD somewhere in the role of the mystery benefactor and the subjugation of women in 20th Century American literature…….

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