“Oprah seal on the cover”

HARRIS: It was a pleasure to meet you. I’ll read that book you recommended.

RORY: And don’t be fooled by the Oprah seal on the cover, it’s actually very good.

Rory refers to Oprah’s Book Club, a segment on the Oprah Winfrey Show, which highlighted books selected by the host, Oprah Winfrey. It ran from 1996 until 2011 (with a hiatus in 2002), and in that time it recommended 70 books. Because of the book club’s popularity, previously obscure works could become bestsellers, making an Oprah’s Book Club seal on the cover a highly influential piece of marketing.

Rory does not tell Richard (or the viewer) which book she recommended to the Dean of Admissions. However, due to the aforesaid hiatus, Oprah’s Book Club only recommended two works in 2002. My guess is that Rory recommended Sula, a 1973 novel by Toni Morrison, and her second published work.

The novel is set in the 1920s and ’30s in a fictional small town in Ohio (a favourite setting for Dawn Powell stories, one of Rory’s most admired authors). It is about two black girls named Nel and Sula who are close friends, but who take different paths in life (rather like Rory and Lane). While Nel chooses marriage, motherhood, and the close bonds of the town’s black community, Sula goes to college, lives in the city, and defies conventional sexual morality, bringing down condemnation from the town’s community.

It feels like a book which Rory would be interested in, and would also think suitable to recommend to a Dean, since it is by a Nobel Prize winning author, and the plot involves college and female education.

She could live at home”

EMILY: But think about this – you’re fighting so hard to send Rory off to Harvard no matter what that you haven’t even stopped for one second to consider that if she went to Yale, she could live at home.

It doesn’t seem feasible for Rory to live full-time at home while attending Yale, and she’d miss out on the whole college experience. Emily might mean that Rory could live at home on the weekends. When Rory does go to Yale, she spends at least her first semester coming home every weekend, or nearly every weekend.

You never went to college”

RICHARD: You never went to college, let alone an Ivy League college.

Lorelai did go to college. She studied Business part-time at the community college in Hartford as a mature student. Presumably Richard means that she never went to college straight from school. It does sound as though he is saying Lorelai’s education just doesn’t count, which is pretty hurtful, considering how much work it took for her to graduate while working full time.

Richard Arranges an Interview for Rory

RICHARD: Oh, I told him all about you and your grades and how well you were doing at Chilton. Well, of course, he insisted on seeing you. He wouldn’t let me off the hook.

RORY: But I haven’t applied to Yale.

RICHARD: Oh, I told him that you weren’t finished deciding, that you were being very picky. I think that made him want you even more. They can be very competitive, these Ivy League schools. He’s expecting you at three. Oh, look, it’s three now. Well, we timed this perfectly now, didn’t we?

While showing them the Administration Building, it transpires that Richard’s real reason for bringing Rory to Yale is to get her an interview with the Dean of Admissions, who turns out to be a good friend of Richard’s (shades of Chilton, where Headmaster Charleston was a good friend of Richard and Emily’s).

Lorelai is outraged by Richard’s manipulation, but he has a point. Lorelai has got a bee in her bonnet about Rory going to Harvard and nowhere else, and this was the only way that Richard believed he could give his granddaughter a chance to go to Yale if she wanted to. As he points out, Ivy League colleges are very competitive, and it would be easier for Rory to get into Yale as a legacy, because her grandfather went to Yale.

Although Emily didn’t know what Richard planned to do, she does try to defend him from Lorelai. She points out that if Rory got accepted by Yale, it might make her more attractive to Harvard, which I don’t think Lorelai would have thought of by herself.


LORELAI: What’s he so excited about?

EMILY: Oh, who knows? Dickens must have dropped a pencil here at some point.

English author Charles Dickens, previously mentioned.

Charles Dickens made his first trip to the US in 1842, and did visit New Haven and Yale University, praising both. In 1868, after another trip, he described Hillhouse Avenue in New Haven as the most beautiful street in America. It’s possible he really did drop a pencil somewhere on campus!

Yale University does have a quill pen once owned by Charles Dickens [pictured], held at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University. Richard may have taken Rory to see it, inspiring Emily’s comment.

“Lions and tigers and bears”

[The four of them are walking through the administration building]

RORY: Wow.

LORELAI: Lions and tigers and bears . . .

RORY: Oh my.

Lorelai and Rory are referencing the film, The Wizard of Oz, previously discussed, and a touchstone for the show.

In the film, Dorothy is walking through a dark forest with the Tin Man and the Scarecrow, and they become frightened by noises in the foliage. The Scarecrow wonders if there might be animals in the forest, and the Tin Man suggests there are lions and tigers and bears, which the others nervously repeat.

Dorothy gasps, “Lions and tigers and bears! Oh, my”. Pretty soon the three of them are skipping through the forest chanting, “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my”.

In fact, the very next creature they meet is a lion – the Cowardly Lion, who soon becomes their companion on the quest to see the Wizard of Oz.

Lorelai is suggesting that the administration building is intimidating, like the dark, scary forest, and that they need to keep their spirits up, like Dorothy did in the film. Like Dorothy, Rory will soon be confronted by a “scary” unexpected interview, although like the Lion, it won’t really hurt her.

Lorelai’s Dreams of Yale

RICHARD: You know, one day, when your mother was ten years old, she ran into my office and she said, “I’m going to go to Yale, just like you.” She actually took my diploma out of my office and put it in her room. She wouldn’t give it back to me for about six months.

Rory learns from Richard that Lorelai’s original dream for college, was not Harvard, but Yale. This was when she was ten years old, and presumably before her teenage years drove a wedge between father and daughter.

Richard’s point could not be clearer – if Rory is hanging onto a dream of going to Harvard to fulfil what Lorelai wanted, then that wasn’t even Lorelai’s original plan. And if Lorelai changed her mind, then Rory can too.

Timothy Dwight Dining Hall

RICHARD: See that? That is my favorite building in the whole school … Because that’s where the Timothy Dwight Dining Hall is.

This is the dining hall of Timothy Dwight College, a residential college at Yale University which opened in 1935. Presumably it was Richard’s old college. The dining room at the college is a replica of a New England town hall with maple tables and captain’s chairs. According to Richard, they serve a delicious pot roast (one of Rory’s favourite meals), although that no longer seems to be on the menu.