More on Anne

Tomorrow I am leaving to go visit Emily in Pennsylvania; in addition to the pleasure of seeing Emily herself, I have something else to look forward to: she has promised to leave a stack of books on my nightstand for me to look through and perhaps borrow.  I’m very curious to see what she chooses.  I’ll be back on Monday.

For now I want to write a bit about my Anne of Green Gables rereading.  As much as I admire Kate’s plan to read the book slowly, I can’t follow suit; if I hadn’t had a busy couple of days and if I weren’t reading a few other books I would have finished the novel already.  I don’t think I’m capable of showing any discipline when it comes to that book; I can’t resist reading just one more chapter.

I’ve been trying to figure out what the source of Anne’s appeal is for me.  I’m not at all like her.  I don’t talk much, I have little imagination (at least of the sort Anne has), I’m not artistic, and I am not, as the narrator describes Anne, “feminine to the core.”  But of course I don’t have to be like a character to feel drawn toward her.  I suspect I’m much more like Diana Barry, who is different from Anne in a lot of ways too.  Diana doesn’t have Anne’s imagination or talent for coming up with ideas (or for getting into trouble), but she is willing to go along with whatever Anne proposes and is ardently devoted to her.  I could see myself happily being Anne’s sidekick.  As I read along I find myself wondering if Anne would consider me a kindred spirit if I met her in real life, and I can’t help but hope she would.  Perhaps that’s part of her appeal too — the reader can’t help but want to be a part of her inner circle, one of the chosen, one of those people who really gets her.

I’ve also been thinking about religion in the novel, something I’m pretty sure I didn’t pay much attention to as a kid, although perhaps I absorbed some important lessons without being aware of it.  I’m struck by Anne’s irreverence and her determination to stick to her own view of God and of people, no matter how much Marilla rebukes her.  This comes up, of course, in Anne’s doubtfulness about the value of prayer when Marilla first asks her to say her prayers at night (“Mrs. Thomas told me that God made my hair red on purpose, and I’ve never cared about him since”), and in her response to the minister’s prayers in church (“He was talking to God and he didn’t seem to be very much interested in it, either.  I think he thought God was too far off to make it worth while”).

It’s not that Anne doesn’t believe in God, exactly, but that God seems kind of beside the point in her life.  As Marilla describes her, she is a “freckled witch of a girl who knew and cared nothing about God’s love, since she had never had it translated to her through the medium of human love.”  She also seems to value her own perceptions of the world most of all, and she will admit to the existence and importance of God only to the extent that this makes sense to her. I don’t get the sense that Anne would ever subordinate her own instincts about life in order to conform to traditional piety in the name of religious faith.  She trusts herself too much to do this.  I find this attitude appealing; it’s a confidence I myself have developed only very slowly and mostly as an adult, but I wonder if I didn’t learn a little bit of it from Anne.

I also am struck by one particular way Anne talks about imagination; in the Aunt Josephine episode, the one where Anne and Diana incur her wrath by jumping into her bed in the middle of the night, she says this:

Have you any imagination, Miss Barry?  If you have, just put yourself in our place.  We didn’t know there was anybody in that bed and you nearly scared us to death.  It was simply awful the way we felt.  And then we couldn’t sleep in the spare room after being promised.  I suppose you are used to sleeping in spare rooms.  But just imagine what you would feel like if you were a little orphan girl who never had such an honor.

Anne is asking Josephine Barry to empathize with her and to do so through an act of imagination.  Here is one aspect of Anne’s imagination I care a lot about and hope to share — to be able to understand people, to put myself in their place, by thinking creatively and thereby, maybe, to refrain from judging them or from getting angry at them.  There is an ethical aspect to imagination, and I admire Anne for drawing on it here.

14 Comments

Filed under Books, Fiction

14 responses to “More on Anne

  1. I reread Anne at the beginning of the year, and I thought that I’d probably be bored with it, but I was pleasantly surprised. I’m pretty sure Anne WOULD think you’re a kindred spirit because you’re determined and intelligent and creative. Yep, you and Anne could be “bosom friends” for life!

  2. Myrthe

    I am rereading Anne as well at the moment and I just read the part where Marilla wants Anne to pray and to learn the Our Father one or two days ago. I liked how Anne was irreverent in a way and had her own ideas, but you put it into words much better and much better thought-through than I did.

    Thanks very much for a very timely post, Dorothy!

  3. I can’t believe I’m admitting this — but confession is supposed to be good for the soul. I haven’t read this book. I’m not sure how I missed it growing up, but I did. I will have to remedy that soon!

  4. I haven’t re-read ‘Anne’ in years and you’ve got me thinking that maybe a summer project might be to read them all again and look at the development of issues like Anne’s attitude to religion. How does she deal with this when her own children come along, for example?
    I also want to read the ‘Emily’ books, which I’ve only recently discovered to exist. Have you read these?

  5. Have a nice time with Emily! You’ll have to tell us which books she picked out for you to peruse! I don’t think I’m much like Anne either, but I think I’d like her very much all the same. Did you read them all when you were younger?

  6. I can’t imagine reading the “Anne” books slowly either. I haven’t picked them up for years, but I find myself wanting to now. Thanks! And have a great time on your trip!

  7. I admit I never read the book in grade school. In my defense, it was because I objected to being told what to read by an illiterate nun. To this day, the same instinct makes me avoid Oprah’s recommendations despite the fact that she probably throws in a good book once in a while. That means I’m an irreverent rebel like Anne. Guess I’ll have to read it.

  8. I’ve never read Anne but you are making me interested in giving it a go.

    Have fun visiting Emily! She is very good at picking out books.

  9. Cam

    So, I’m not the only one, it appears, who somehow missed reading this as a child. I don’t remember any of my friends reading it either. Perhaps it went out of vogue for awhile? Reading about it though, I think I may have to read it sometime in the future.

  10. As I read your post I thought I must be the only person not to have read Anne, but I see I’m not. It’s one of those books that I’ve resisted reading, maybe because I thought it sounded rather sweet and emotional. I can see that I’ll have re-think this.

  11. Have a wonderful time with Emily! It sounds fantastic. And I haven’t read this book but I still very much enjoyed your post, Dorothy. I think Anne would have been thrilled to have you as a friend.

  12. Just the other day I was standing in Borders with Zoe looking at a wall of classic books for kids and Anne of Green Gables was there and I told Zoe how lucky she was that she will get to read it for the first time. I loved that book too and have read it many times over.

    Have a wonderful visit with Emily!

  13. verbivore

    I haven’t read this for years and like you, I suspect I wouldn’t be able to put it down if I started. Anne is one of my favorite literary heros – she’s so curious and excited about the things around her.

  14. I’m surprised by how many of you haven’t read these books! I kind of thought nearly everybody had, but I can see I’m wrong. I wonder what they would be like read for the first time as an adult. It’s impossible to tell now, of course.

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