Is Professor Bhaer Jewish, and Other Mysteries

Sadie Stein at The Paris Review:

Last week, my parents saw Little Women. My mother immediately phoned me. “I think Professor Bhaer is Jewish,” she said, her voice vibrating with barely suppressed excitement. I said I didn’t think the facts supported this theory. But several days later, I got an email from her with the subject line “FYI!!!” When I clicked on the link, I saw it was Forward piece by Eve LaPlante headed, “Discovering Louisa May Alcott’s Jewish History on Portuguese Tour.”

I knew her game: my mom regarded this as proof that Alcott, apparently proud of her Sephardic ancestry—which, I read, the family credited with some of its dark coloring—had, indeed, written in a sympathetic Jewish foil for Jo. I couldn’t help but suspect that my mother was projecting; just because she had married a Jewish guy didn’t necessarily mean her favorite childhood literary figure had. “I just don’t see the evidence,” I wrote back, not without regret. “Bhaer is pretty Christian in the later books. He’s probably a 48er. And fwiw, the actor Louis Garrel isn’t Jewish, I don’t think.”

more here.