Little Women

Little Women

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Umbrellas Symbol Icon
When Jo and Professor Bhaer become engaged in a rainstorm, it’s revealed that Jo is overjoyed “to walk through life beside him, even though she had no better shelter than the old umbrella, if he carried it.” Umbrellas in Little Women tend to play key roles in romantic scenes, such as the one quoted here. They can be seen as symbolizing male protectiveness.

Umbrellas Quotes in Little Women

The Little Women quotes below all refer to the symbol of Umbrellas. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Role of Women Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Signet Classics edition of Little Women published in 2012.
Part 2, Chapter 46 Quotes

“Oh yes!” said Jo, and he was quite satisfied, for she folded both hands over his arm, and looked up at him with an expression that plainly showed how happy she would be to walk through life beside him, even though she had no better shelter than the old umbrella, if he carried it.

Related Characters: Josephine "Jo" March , Professor Friedrich "Fritz" Bhaer
Related Symbols: Umbrellas
Page Number: 482
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Jo has finally allowed herself to be open to romantic love. She realizes that Professor Bhaer is someone she genuinely loves and with whom she is compatible, and she wants someone to go through life with just as her mother has with Mr. March. After hunting down the professor and confessing that she is heartbroken that he is planning to take a job far away, Jo makes Professor Bhaer realize that his feelings for her are requited and he proposes. This is another example of the March girls striving to find husbands who are kind and virtuous and who complement their personalities, rather than trying to marry for status or wealth. Professor Bhaer has only a shabby umbrella with him, but Jo recognizes that the care with which he holds that umbrella over her head is all she needs in a marriage. It's also significant that the March girls have had so much agency in choosing their husbands. Jo and Amy both turn down proposals from wealthy men in order to be with better and poorer men, which is not a freedom that every Victorian family would have permitted their daughters. 

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“Ah! Thou gifest me such hope and courage, and I haf nothing to gif back but a full heart and these empty hands,” cried the Professor, quite overcome.
Jo never, never would learn to be proper, for when he said that as they stood upon the steps, she just put both hands into his, whispering tenderly, “Not empty now,” and stooping down, kissed her Friedrich under the umbrella.

Related Characters: Josephine "Jo" March (speaker), Professor Friedrich "Fritz" Bhaer (speaker)
Related Symbols: Umbrellas
Page Number: 488
Explanation and Analysis:

Once Jo lets Professor Bhaer know that she loves him, the professor is overcome with joy. He had worried that he did not have enough to offer her because he didn't have much money, but Jo has never been someone particularly impressed with status. This exchange, in a sense, turns Victorian expectations for women on its head; Bhaer laments that all he has to give are "these empty hands" and Jo responds by putting her hands in his and telling him they are "not empty now." Instead of the man needing to offer material security to his bride-to-be, Jo is confident in her own ability to support herself and her ability to give love equal to his. Putting her hands in his symbolizes her assertion that she can equally contribute to the relationship and, while she appreciates the love and protection that Bhaer provides (as symbolized by the umbrella), she is choosing this marriage because it enriches her life, not because she needs it. 

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Umbrellas Symbol Timeline in Little Women

The timeline below shows where the symbol Umbrellas appears in Little Women. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 23: Aunt March Settles the Question
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
...(who seems love-struck) is an object of scrutiny, and Jo shakes her fist at the umbrella Mr. Brooke happened to leave at their house. (full context)
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Mr. Brooke arrives to collect his umbrella just as Meg finishes her speech. Jo, flustered, tells Mr. Brook that she’ll fetch it... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 46: Under the Umbrella
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Genuineness, Simplicity, and Natural Beauty Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
...hope that she would run into the professor). Her mother reminds her to take an umbrella before she leaves – Jo forgets this. (full context)
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
...a glimpse of the professor. It begins raining, and Jo chastises herself for forgetting her umbrella in her foolish search for the professor. As she walks, she notices that an umbrella... (full context)
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
...arrive at the March family’s house, Jo kisses him while they still stand under the umbrella. (full context)