This has always been one of my favorite Anne books. In Anne of the Island, she got a ridiculous number of marriage proposals. In Anne of Windy Poplars, there are a ridiculous amount of love affairs and deaths… There are also a few characters who contrast highly with each other.
Elizabeth Grayson = child starved of any emotional or spiritual feeling. She’s unloved, her soul and her thoughts are smothered by stoniness and a rod of iron exercised over her by her grandmother.
Katharine Brooke = young woman whose childhood was also starved of any love or care. Driven by ambition alone, she presses on doing what she’s good at, but not what she loves. She hates her life, hates teaching, yet she does it. Never anyone who encouraged her.
These two are similar, and Anne changes the lives of both. The only difference between the two characters mentioned above is their perspective on Anne. Elizabeth absolutely adores her, but she’s also shut out from the world. Katharine shuts herself out from society, but being in the same sphere as Anne, she’s jealous of her. But wait… I’ve forgotten a character or two.
Teddy Armstrong = the sweetest boy imaginable. A bit spiritually deprived, he has all the love and care a boy could want. He’s perfectly contented, he’s perfectly happy.
James Armstrong = the boy’s father. Grieved over the loss of his wife, he throws everything he has into his son.
When James Armstrong’s son dies, he searches frantically for a picture of him. He goes crazy when he finds that he had never had a picture taken of him. He’s almost wild because he can’t remember what his son looks like. However…
A few weeks earlier, Anne had come with a student to the house, asking for donations for the Dramatic Society. He rudely turned her out, but Teddy came and gave them both his apple turnover, because he thought he heard them ask his father for food. Anne and Lewis had taken a picture of him and his dog, which turned out beautifully. Anne was taking the picture to the boy when she heard of his death, but she gave it to his father, who bursts into tears at the sight of his son. He’s completely moved because of what Anne did. Even though he shut the door in her face, she showed this last bit of kindness to him. It seems bizarre, but it’s really not, but the young man Anne had with her turns out to be the son of Mr. Armstrong’s half sister. Armstrong and Lewis had thought themselves alone in the world. Then, at the height of their loneliness, they found each other. God gave back in portion what He had taken away.
Back to the two girls… Anne could sympathize with both of them. She had been an orphan, she had had a starved childhood. But then she could show them something, she could give them something, because she eventually found love and warmth. The fulness of her soul expanded and grew, and it reached out to the highest and widest, seeking to give everything it could to the world. She soon changed Katharine, who gave up what she hated and moved on to what she loved. Through her, Elizabeth learned how to laugh, how to love. Because of Anne, her father came home, and she would know what a happy childhood was.
This is what I mean by Life versus Death: Elizabeth’s childhood compared to Teddy’s. Elizabeth’s father sent her away because he couldn’t bear to be reminded of his wife. Teddy’s father clung to him, because he was what was left of his wife, and he was his son. Here is the difference between tenderness, and coldness. A stark contrast between neglect, and care. Starving a soul of emotional and spiritual need is as good as putting it to death. And even though Teddy didn’t have much of a spiritual guidance from his father, he knew what it was like to be loved fully, and from that he derived spiritual meanings. In spite of what his father said, he knew there was a heaven, and he knew that God was there, and he knew his mother was there, and he felt assurance that he would go there too. Just before Teddy died, his father admitted to him that he was right. Though Teddy never went to church, his soul was very much alive, that was certain. Elizabeth’s soul was more dead than his, even though she had all the spiritual training she could want. Spirituality without love is ineffectual.
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Anne’s soul was very much alive with love and spirituality. Planted inside of her are meaningful truths and a love for God, and it’s nurtured by the love of her friends.
So, I suppose what I came away thinking was to give to the fullest of my ability. To never forget the soul, to remember to nurture it with God’s word, but also with the gifts that God has given us… beauty in nature, love, giving…. there are so many to name. A soul can be starved, but it’s not a pretty sight. What empty eyes! Can you imagine the feelings? A heart that only feels bitterness, anger, resentment and despair? All these unmixed with faith, hope, love. Can you imagine?
I love the moon. The moon is probably one of my favorite aspects of nature. I try to imagine my soul starved. I could never look at the moon and wonder at it, and feel that weird prick inside of me that makes me breathe deeply and wonder at the beauty of God’s creation. I couldn’t do that, because I would probably never look at the moon. I probably would never wonder anything. I love to laugh. Would I be able to laugh?
Anne of Windy Poplars is a wonderful book. The ridiculous amount of love stories, deaths and “royal” families is entertaining. But with so many, you realize that there’s something to learn from each little thing. :)