Mrs Dalloway

While Lorelai and Emily are talking, Rory takes out a copy of this book, and reads it. It is the second work by Virginia Woolf we have seen Rory read – the first one being A Room of One’s Own.

Mrs Dalloway, published in 1925, is one of Woolf’s best known novels. Based on a short story she wrote called “Mrs Dalloway in Bond Street”, it details one day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a high-society woman, with the action taking place in June 1923. It is often compared with James Joyce’s Ulysses, another modernist work from the 1920s set on a single day in June, and this is a natural progression for Rory after reading the novel by Joyce.

Tuesdays with Morrie and Who Moved My Cheese?

RORY: Thirteen million volumes? I’ve read like, what, three hundred books in my entire life and I’m already sixteen? Do you know how long it would take me to read thirteen million books?
LORELAI: But honey, you don’t have to read every one of them. Tuesdays with Morrie? Skip that. Who Moved My Cheese? Just stuff you already know.

Tuesdays with Morrie, a memoir by Mitch Alborn, previously discussed (apparently Lorelai read it and wasn’t impressed).

Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life by Spencer Johnson is a motivational business fable first published in 1998. An immediate best-seller, it remained on the business bestseller list for five years, and spent 200 weeks on the non-fiction best-seller list. It remains one of the best-selling business books of all time. Lorelai’s appraisal of “just stuff you already know” is one of the milder criticisms the book has faced.

Past Graduates of Harvard

LORELAI: Past graduates. Henry James … isn’t that a beer?
RORY: And a novelist. Go on.
LORELAI: John Adams. That’s a beer!
RORY: Our second president. He’s very in right now.
LORELAI: W.E.B. Du Bois, Yo-Yo Ma. Oh cool! Fred Gwynne.
RORY: Who?
LORELAI: Herman Munster. Now I’m impressed.

Henry James (1943-1916), earlier mentioned, was an American-born British author, often considered one of the greatest novelists of all time. He is best known for his novels and stories depicting interactions between Americans, English people, and Continental Europeans, such The Portrait of a Lady, and The Ambassadors. Henry James’ style closely examines the psychology of his characters in an ambiguous or contradictory way. There is no beer named Henry James that I know of. Henry James attended Harvard Law School in 1862, but soon discovered he had no interest in law, and pursued a literary career instead, so he isn’t actually a graduate.

John Adams (1735-1826) was an American statesman and Founding Father of the United States who served as the Vice-President of the US, and as the second President of the US from 1797 to 1801. Adams tended to be a rather obscure president for many years, with many Americans knowing nothing about him, until the publication of his biography John Adams by popular American historian David McCullough in May 2001. It was very favourably received, and brought about a resurgence in Adams’ reputation. Rory seems to be referring to this book by saying Adams “is very in right now”, and has almost certainly read it. There is actually a beer named John Adams. John Adams entered Harvard in 1751, graduating in 1755 with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

William Edward Burghardt “W.E.B.” Du Bois (1868-1963) was an American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, and writer. He was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909, and was the leader of the Niagara Movement who worked for equal rights for blacks. A prolific author, Du Bois’ 1903 essay collection The Souls of Black Folk was a seminal work in African-American literature, and his 1935 Black Reconstruction in America was his greatest work. The Civil Rights Act, embodying many of the reforms for which Du Bois had campaigned, was enacted the year after his death. W.E.B. Du Bois attended Harvard from 1888 to 1890, where he received his second bachelor’s degree, graduating cum laude.

Yo-Yo Ma (born 1955) is a French-born American cellist. A child prodigy, he has performed as a soloist with orchestras around the world, recorded more than 90 albums, and received 18 Grammy Awards. He has received several prestigious awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. Yo-Yo Ma received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard in 1976, and in 1991 Harvard awarded him an honorary doctorate.

Frederick “Fred” Gwynne (1926-1993) was an American actor, singer, artist, and author, best-known for his roles in 1960s sitcoms such as The Munsters, where he played Herman Munster, who resembled Frankenstein’s monster. He also sang professionally, painted, and was a successful children’s author. Fred Gwynne graduated from Harvard in 1951, and was highly involved in Harvard life, including as a member of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals.

 

Goodnight Spoon

WOMAN: So, what are the titles [of the books you’ve published]?
LORELAI: Well, there’s um, Goodnight Spoon and um, The Horse that Wanted to Bark.

The title Goodnight Spoon is a play on the classic children’s picture book Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd. First published in 1947, it is a rhyming poem which features a bunny whose bedroom rital includes saying goodnight to everything around him. It remains a bestseller to this day.

There are many parodies of Goodnight Moon in existence; a few years ago Rolling Stone produced one called Goodnight Spoon, a supposed children’s book written by Keith Richards. I don’t know if Gilmore Girls gave them the idea or not.

The Horse That Wanted to Bark is a parody of the many, many children’s book titles that are [Animal] Who Wanted [Something]. A few examples are The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy by Jane Thayer, The Cat Who Wanted to Go Home by Jill Tomlinson, and The Mouse Who Wanted to Marry by Doris Orgel.

The Cheshire Cat

LADAWN: Welcome to the Cheshire Cat.
LORELAI: … Okay, she’s named the place after an Alice in Wonderland character. This is my worst nightmare.

As Lorelai says, the Cheshire Cat is a character in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, previously discussed and frequently referenced. The cat likes to engage in amusing philosophical conversations, and is known for its distinctive grin; even when it disappears, as it does a few times, the grin will be the last thing to vanish.

The character is a personification of the English saying, “to grin like a Cheshire cat”, meaning that the person has a very wide smile. The saying dates to the 18th century, but its origins are obscure. Cheshire was known for its dairy industry, with milk and cream making cats happy, so that’s one possible explanation.

Presumably LaDawn chose the name of her B&B after her large cat, Sammy. In real life there are numerous B&Bs in the Portsmouth area to cater to the tourist trade. Scenes at the Cheshire Cat were filmed in the same set used for the Black White Read Bookstore.

Red Light

[Early the next morning, Lorelai and Rory are in Lorelai’s jeep driving through Stars Hollow.]
LORELAI: We’re almost there and nowhere near it. All that matters is we’re going.
RORY: We’re practically gone already.
LORELAI: Look out world.
[They stop at the red light and stare at it, waiting for it to change.]

There have been so many mentions of great American journeys in Gilmore Girls, from On the Road to Huckleberry Finn to Thelma and Louise, that it seems in tune with the show’s theme for Lorelai and Rory to hit the road at some point. Their conversation is even vaguely reminiscent of a famous exchange from On the Road:

““Sal, we gotta go and never stop going ’till we get there.’
‘Where we going, man?’
‘I don’t know but we gotta go.”

That urge towards the journey and not the destination is the same one that is driving Lorelai away from her home.

As luck would have it, before they even leave town, they get stuck at the new traffic light, which is timed to come on even if there is no other traffic on the road, and will stay on until the oldest and feeblest person in Stars Hollow can safely get across the road. It’s symbolic of the way that it will always be difficult for them to leave Stars Hollow, even temporarily. There is something in the town which holds them captive to some extent.

This is the literal “red light on the wedding night” alluded to in the episode’s title, although strictly speaking it isn’t the wedding night, but several days before the wedding. Symbolically though, it means that Lorelai has put a stop to her wedding going ahead.