Anne of the Island: Reality versus Idealism

I finished Anne of the Island, jumped off the couch, stomped my way into the kitchen and exclaimed in a weird voice: “I’LL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN!”  And I do believe I won’t.  I always say that after I’m particularly affected by something in a book.

I love the themes that played out in this book.  Anne’s desire to go to school and finish her education, homesickness and last but not least, the battle between idealism and a true sense of reality.

Anne’s reality was very beautiful because… why? Oh, because it was Gilbert.  But she didn’t think so at first, because her ideals got in the way.  It happens to everyone, I’m pretty sure.  We create ideals for a work position, a marriage partner, a lifestyle etc.  However, when our ideals aren’t fulfilled, we’re left dissatisfied and empty, because there’s no joy left to embrace the beauty in the reality that we have.  Anne’s ideal man: tall, handsome, poetical, melancholy…. It sounds nice, doesn’t it? Gilbert is tall, hardly melancholy, humorous, and appreciative of literature and poetry but not drowning in the romance of it.  He’s almost the complete opposite of Anne’s ideal.  He’s just a chum.

Sometimes that’s how I look at things.  I refuse to see the aspects I might benefit from in a friendship, in a job or in an education.  So here comes the catch.  Though there may be something I need, I don’t see it because of what I want, and what I think I need.  There is a God in the heavens, who knows me so well, knows me so much better than I know myself, that He also knows exactly what I need, in a job, in a friend, in school, in marriage, in every aspect and situation of life.  This is what Anne found out.  Royal Gardner was everything she ever wanted.

So, Anne rejects poor Gilbert, who hides his disappointment and strives to “get over her” (not happening) as best he can.  “Roy” shows up, and Anne falls head over heels for him.  But why, when Roy proposes, does Anne say no, when she had every intention of saying yes?  She realized at that critical moment that Roy wasn’t what she needed.  The horrible emptiness she felt after Gilbert “ceased to be a friend” nagged at her mind, but she was still confused.  The only thing she felt right about was refusing Roy, and she felt at peace about it.  She realized what she needed and wanted all along when that thing was about to be snatched out of her life forever.  I’d say this was impeccable timing, wouldn’t you?

But don’t go and throw idealism out the window.  Just because Anne realized she didn’t need her ideal doesn’t mean she should go and marry Charlie Sloane, for instance.  Don’t shoot low, just because you can’t obtain the perfection of your ideals.  Strive for the best, but don’t just settle on something.  Even in striving for the best, ideals might get in the way.  Ideals are things that are good and dangerous at the same time.  Don’t ignore them, but don’t build your life on them. It’s confusing, isn’t it? Someday I’ll devote a whole blog post on the subject.

Anne’s friend, Philippa Gordon, goes through much the same thing.  She had her ideals… a rich man, a good name, handsome.  She ended up marrying a man who loved every bit of her, who could see underneath her mask of frivolity into her inner soul and love it.  He was poor, a minister and she described him as ugly.  But she could see into his soul, and that made him beautiful to her.  All of the sudden, her ideals came crashing down as well.

A melancholy part enters about the middle of the book.  Anne’s childhood friend, Ruby Gillis, dies of consumption.  Terrified, she faces death with the idea that the next world will be totally different.  She feels scared, unprepared, and “different,” as though she wouldn’t fit in.  She spent the whole of her life doing absolutely nothing of importance, nothing that could be commended of her at her death.  After Ruby confides to Anne her fears regarding her fast approaching death, I came upon this interesting and all too true passage:

“Anne walked home very slowly in the moonlight. The evening had changed something for her. Life held a different meaning, a deeper purpose. On the surface it would go on just the same; but the deeps had been stirred. It must not be with her as with poor butterfly Ruby. When she came to the end of one life it must not be to face the next with the shrinking terror of something wholly different—something for which accustomed thought and ideal and aspiration had unfitted her. The little things of life, sweet and excellent in their place, must not be the things lived for; the highest must be sought and followed; the life of heaven must be begun here on earth.”

Do I say too much in these posts? I can never decide when to stop.

Just one more thing.

When Anne leaves for college, she crosses the same body of water in the same boat that carried her to Prince Edward Island when she was eleven or twelve.  She had first crossed it, expecting a change in her life for the better.  The old life, with its run-down families and asylums would be gone forever, and this would begin the next epoch of her life.  For seven or eight years, she had not stirred from the Island.  She had been contented with her life; her character had been honed; friends had been made.  Things had stayed the same.  But after she leaves for her first year of college, things start to change.  Not in routine, or lifestyle, but in experience, and wisdom, and feeling.  Avonlea felt different to her when she visited, almost as though she were a stranger.  And it’s true that places we live that we learn to love are just resting stops.  We move on, eventually, and though they still remain dear, we change, and we move on.  It’s a bit sad, but it’s a bit of life as well.

I hope I’m not boring you…

Anne of Avonlea: Girlhood versus Womanhood

Dear Readers :)

These Anne posts are by far my very favorite.  I love thinking through what I’m going to say, and watch the thoughts and ideas take shape in my mind.  My soul thrills when I read these books, no exaggeration.

I quote: “I love Anne of Avonlea because of just the beauty and wonder of a girl going form girlhood to womanhood…” Hayley said this in reply to my question of what her favorite Anne book was.  This flow is caught very much through the book, and the simple, girlish dreams quietly submerge into womanly ideas.

“Friendship is very beautiful,” smiled Mrs. Allan, “but some day…” Then she paused abruptly. In the delicate, whitebrowed face beside her, with its candid eyes and mobile features, there was still far more of the child than of the woman.  Anne’s heart so far harbored only dreams of friendship and ambition, and Mrs. Allan did not wish to brush the bloom from her sweet unconsciousness. So she left her sentence for future years to continue.

The sense of Anne’s girlhood is very strong throughout these pages.  Though she’s mature, a little wiser, and a little more sensible, she’s still… well, a girl.  But look at the end.

“.…it was as if a veil that had hung before her inner consciousness had been lifted, giving to her view a revelation of unsuspected feelings and realities. …. Then the veil dropped again; but the Anne who walked up the dark lane was not quite the same Anne who had driven gaily down it the evening before. The page of girlhood had been turned, as by an unseen finger, and the page of womanhood was before her with all its charm and mystery, its pain and gladness.

I sometimes feel as though I’m turning the page from girlhood to womanhood… and then I turn the page back to re-read something, or do something I missed… it’s that hovering stage.  I’m not really a girl anymore, but I’m not quite a woman.

Another thing that struck me was the change in Diana and Anne’s friendship.  Their relationship didn’t fall out, but there was a slight sifting of ground.  It’s when Diana becomes engaged.  Anne says to herself once or twice that she can’t tell Diana “this or that” because “she’ll be sure to tell Fred.  I know, because she tells him everything.”  Far from grudging Diana for this, Anne seems content to keep some of her thoughts to herself.  However, she says: “Oh, I think these engagements are dreadfully unsettling things when they happen to your intimate friends.”  Amen, sistahh!  This again is another change from “Anne the girl” to “Anne the woman.”  As little girls, we love anything that has to do with an engagement, or a wedding.  At that young age, it’s hard to sense the change that comes in a close friendship.  I can understand Anne perfectly in this, because I have three or four very close friends now who are either married or getting prepared for their weddings.  You still continue to love that person to death, but aspects of your friendship change.  You feel a bit lonelier than before, a bit more by yourself.  It’s not a bad thing, but sometimes it can be a hard thing, and part of this is what helps Anne turn the page to womanhood.

Gilbert makes me laugh. And smile.  And cry.  Well, maybe not the last one.  But I love reading about the parts where he talks to Anne.  He’s always on the verge of saying something sentimental, and then “wisely” holds his tongue. And then sometimes he slips, and Anne punishes him in some way, but he plays off her punishment so she only feels the sting of it.  It’s so lovely, and so funny, and I wonder if a man is really like that at all.  Gilbert said something at the end that is an absolute reflection of his relationship with Anne—past, present and future.  It had to do with the Miss Lavender romance. (I love Miss Lavender.  If ever I am an old maid, I will be just like her.)

Anne says: “Isn’t it beautiful to think how everything has turned out…how they have come together again after all the years of separation and misunderstanding?”

“Yes, it’s beautiful,” said Gilbert, looking steadily down into Anne’s uplifted face, [I love the height difference here…] “but wouldn’t it have been more beautiful still, Anne, if there had been no separation or misunderstanding…if they had come hand in hand all the way through life, with no memories behind them but those which belonged to each other?”

I am pretending through this series that I don’t know what happens with regards to Anne and Gilbert, but I suppose I’ll break off of that for just one moment.  Like Miss Lavender and Stephen Irving, Anne and Gilbert had a quarrel.  But unlike Miss Lavender, Anne finally decided to break down her pride and “forgive and forget.”  Unlike Stephen Irving, Gilbert stuck around and when Anne was quite ready to forgive, he was

ready to receive forgiveness.  (This is disregarding that space of about a year or so where Gilbert and Anne ignored each other’s existence mutually.)

Because of meal of humble pie both Anne and Gilbert partook of early on, they opened the road to a life where they would walk “hand in hand all the way through life, with no memories behind them but those which belonged to each other.”

Beautiful, wonderful book, full of wisdom… and mischief…

I love Davy Keith.  He is by far my favorite character (apart from Anne and Gilbert) of the series.  I love his mischief, his questions.  He is the epitome of a little boy, he asks all the questions everybody thinks.  “Anne, where is heaven? I want to know.”  And his devotion to food and mud.  He’s a perfect mischief maker, and he makes himself adorable.  Dora, his twin, is prim and proper and does everything the right way but she’s less lovable.  It’s quite funny. :)

By the way, Hayley has written her Anne post at head in the clouds. You should go check it out, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and it was very, very insightful. :)

Anne of Green Gables: Imagination versus Sense

Hello :)

I was quietly reading a book when I realized I hadn’t written my thoughts about the first Anne of Green Gables books. Well! I’m determined to fulfill this adventure I’ve taken myself on, and I’ll try to do so thoroughly.

I really think that L.M. Montgomery reveled and thrived on the sentimentalities of Tennyson and other poets and authors from that time period.  And perhaps I’m imagining all this up, but I think she ran into a difficulty: that style of writing was a bit antiquated.  It wasn’t how the authors of her day wrote… if she wrote a book that contained all the sentiments she thought up in her head—a story that had love, betrayal, loss, heartbreak etc—portrayed in the romantic and dramatic way she imagined, she may have been laughed into fame.

But I also think L.M. Montgomery was a very sensible person.  I think she was bright, imaginative, witty, dreamy, bursting to the brim with ideas but she had tons of sense.  Otherwise, how could she have created such a sensible, practical person as Marilla?

She still loved her romantic ideas.  It would have been the most heart-wrenching, tragic scene to let them go.  So here’s what she did.  She created a figure who was like herself in every way (omitting most of the sense at first) full of dreamy ideas, and floating on the wings of the romance of everything beautiful.  She created a character with a dreadful imagination… someone who could say the most beautiful sentimental phrases, and yet get away with it.  How? Because of Marilla.  She is the character that makes this book possible, and even beloved.  Anne is seen as somewhat nonsensical because of the sensible Marilla.  And yet, because of Marilla, we cannot totally laugh at Anne.  Because we see the sense in Anne, too; though Marilla constantly laughs at Anne’s drama (i.e. “Please go away, Marilla! I’m in the Depths of Despair”), and scolds her sentimentality, an appeal is made to her heart by Anne’s warm, vibrant imagination, and Marilla’s “rusty smile” comes into use again.

I was almost astounded by the contrast I found in Anne and Marilla.  I found Anne perfectly delightful, but if L.M. Montgomery had been absolutely serious about her, if she had brought the point across that this is indeed how human nature should be, I would have laughed my way through the book and declared it positively silly.

Here we have two extremes… Anne, and Marilla.  We see the sense and nonsense in each one.  They balance each other out.  Through Anne, Marilla’s stony heart feels something.  Through Marilla, Anne’s wild imagination and nonsense has some sense pounded into it.  By the end of the book, both Marilla and Anne have turned out wonderfully.

How did this influence me?  I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet.  But I’ve realized the importance of these two things: imagination, and sense.  The ability to dream, and the ability to dream realistically.  That word “realistically” seems to cancel out “dream.”  But I am an optimist and a realist, and I believe that dreams are a part of reality.  Our dreams, our thought world is what shapes who we are, and how we act.  How we act affects the world, what affects the world affects history, affects reality.

Gilbert Blythe is a ready topic for me.  His relationship (or non relationship) with Anne is one of the most delightful things to read about.  It says quite clearly that “Anne ignored his existence, and Gilbert was not used to being ignored.”  Maybe it was this spirited red-headed girl who finally showed him that there were other things in the world for her besides boys.  Her cold-hearted disdain for him after he called her “carrots” is something to laugh at, and sigh over. To tell you the truth, I would not be able to resist him for that long.  I’ve always loved Gilbert.   He plays pranks on all the girls, teases them, imagines they all love him in spite of it, yet he shows diligence and determination in studying and working hard.  It’s something wonderful!

My favorite line in all these pages of Anne of Green Gables is this:

[It’s right after Anne finally forgives him, and apologizes for past wrongs, and agrees to be friends with him.]

“We are going to be the best of friends,” said Gilbert, jubilantly. “We were born to be good friends, Anne. You’ve thwarted destiny long enough. I know we can help each other in many ways. You are going to keep up your studies, aren’t you?  So’m I. Come, I’m going to walk home with you.”

EEEEEP! I love this!  I practically died when I read it, I was bursting and brimming with joy and laughter.

I was also struck by how many times Anne exclaimed: “O! What a glorious morning! Doesn’t it just make you glad to be alive on mornings like this?”  Too, too often to we get up and rampage our mornings.  How lovely it would be to stop and soak in the beauty of God’s mercy in another day!

I honestly cannot wait till Hayley writes her thoughts! she hasn’t yet, but I will keep you posted! — Head in the Clouds