To be honest, I had forgotten my promised post on Anne of Green Gables, until last week. On Saturday, I found out Jonathan Crombie (Gilbert Blythe) had passed away of a brain hemorrhage. While I never wanted to marry him, I loved everything he stood for in the Anne books--truth, love, faithfulness--one of those Jimmy Bean type heroes that never do anything stunning, but prove by their uprightness in family and community that providing for their hearth fire is the most worthy calling they could think of. I loved his grin, and his 'soary' and his teasing. I even
So today, in memory of his splendid job as Gilbert Blythe, I want to explain why I love, endorse, and appreciate, the Anne of Green Gables series.
When Anne arrives at Green Gables, it's easy to peg her as an over-talkative scarily-imaginative eleven-year-old and leave it at that. Either you like her or you hate her, the end. But it's a lot richer than that. Anne is the story of how the life of one person ripples and ripples and ripples to touch everyone. Think of yourself as the center of a web, and trace all the people you've managed to impact in the last year. Most of us would be in the several hundreds. People brushing against one another change lives for better or for worse. Anne's coming to Avonlea changed a lot of lives, simply by her personality intersecting with theirs. She brought love to Marilla, and Marilla brought her self-control. She brought new life to Matthew, and Matthew brought her the words of blessing she had never heard before. Anne didn't just need them. They needed her. The girls at school needed her, just like she needed some normal childhood companionship. She needed Diana's goodness, and Diana needed her spunk. They fed off each other's strengths and weaknesses.
That's real life. Our sins take people down, and our virtues build them up. That's the heartbeat of Anne of Green Gables. Marilla's shriveled heart, Anne's over-sensitiveness, and Mrs. Lynde's gossip all play their part. So does Anne's zeal (which this sleepy, cliquish community needed) Marilla's dependability, and Mrs. Lynde's handy wisdom with child-rearing. It's a master portrait of how everyone works together to build a varied and beautiful community.
As Marilla says simply in the movie, "He knew we needed her."
Master Study of Female Maturing
Those who give up on Anne in book 1 miss the whole point of the series. Anne of Green Gables is not an end in itself, nor is Anne of Avonlea or Anne of the Island (three of the trickiest books theology-wise). Keep reading. Keep reading all eight books, and then you'll get the beauty of how Anne grows into a wise mother, a loving neighbor, and a mature woman. The little girl who puts liniment in the cake and doesn't care about praying grows up--just
For instance, in book 3, Anne hates 'normal' men and wants a dashing, romantic hero. She doesn't even want to get married--thinks Diana settled too soon for boring old Fred. But Anne doesn't always think that way. She grows up to love babies and love Gilbert, a very regular doctor who sometimes forgets their anniversary and doesn't spout poetry. And she finds fulfillment in these things.
In a word, Anne struggles with a lot of things real girls struggle with. She's not a pattern, like Elsie Dinsmore was written to be--she's a portrait. It is so vital that in discerning reading we learn to separate the difference between patterns and portraits. Sometimes we condemn the latter and endorse the former, without realizing that we need both to have healthy minds and reading habits.
In other words, I love Anne because I know she doesn't always think the way she does at sixteen. Neither do I. Nor at thirty will I think the way I do at twenty. But I love watching her grow into a gracious and well-rounded woman.
Master Study of Realistic Romance
This is where Gilbert comes in. Unfortunately a lot of girls have immaturely made Gilbert into a hot item. That's not what he is, and that's not what he's meant to be. Gilbert is a good picture of what a regular, everyday husband should be: a man who cherishes his wife without making her a goddess, and works with his hands without owning a huge estate, and knows how to love in a deeply romantic way without diminishing his regular male patterned way of thinking. He and Anne are knitted together to become one. He makes fun of company behind their backs and (heavy spoiler) holds her tight when she loses her first baby (end of spoiler) and heals patients around Glen St. Mary and watches his sons go off to war. He is steady and stalwart, using his strengths to compliment Anne's weaknesses. Gilbert and Anne have always been on the list of couples I love for their everyday grace.
This series is jam-packed with things to learn about life and love and the way people interact with one another. Not always the way they should interact--simply the way they do interact. Sure, it's a jumbled up mix of heathens (Mr. Harrison and Davy come to mind) and mistaken theology (particularly in the death of Ruby Gillis) but it also teaches good things: that babies should be treasured, and friends are sweet gifts, and life needs a balance of self-control and imagination. It's a series of exploration: one young woman exploring life from age eleven all the way into her forties. It is sweet and truly written, with masterful description and syntax on Montgomery's part.
I love Anne so much. She is a young woman beautifully flawed and full of resilient grace. She's not merely a talkative little girl in a quirky community of saints and sinners. She's a master portrait of living and loving, and one I hope to read about again and again.