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…