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