Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Why I Love Anne of Green Gables

*Mild plot spoilers for the Anne series are included in this article. Heavy spoilers are marked.* 

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 sympathized with Anne laughed dreadfully at all the terrible writing advice he gave to her in the second movie.

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. 

Master Study in Personality Types 
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
like you've grown up--or your little sister--or your daughter.

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. 

12 comments:

  1. "While I never wanted to marry him, I loved everything he stood for in the Anne books"
    That says it all for me! I really loved "Gilbert" in the books and the movies.

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  2. I really love the character development evident in the film -- such a difference between the little girl who first came to Avonlea and the mature young woman at the end. It's been a while since I've read the first two books, but maybe I should go back sometime and read the whole series to study how Montgomery structures the character development you mentioned here.

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    1. I loved some of the latter books even more than the first ones. Anne's letters in Anne of Windy Poplars are hilarious, and Anne's House of Dreams is bittersweet and wonderful. I think that one will always be my favorite. :)

      ~Schuyler

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  3. Wow. I haven't been Anne's biggest fan for a long time, but I loved your post. I didn't really notice all those things about her before. :P Gave me something to think about. Thank you for the review; I'm glad I asked. <3

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    1. I'm so glad you suggested it. Thank-you so much for your patient waiting! It was a topic I enjoyed writing about very much.

      And we'll have you an Anne fangirl before you know it. :P <3

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  4. I need to read Anne of Green Gables again! That would be very fun. :) And we need to see the movies again so we can laugh over all of Anne's escapades. ;)
    Lovely post, dear! <3

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    1. I'm glad we started watching them again. I just love the Kevin Sullivan adaptations. <3 :)

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  5. This post has made me want to read the Anne of Green Gables books, Schuyler! I have watched the films, but only read bits from "Anne of Green Gables". The later books sound really special as well. . .
    Thanks for a lovely review-post :)

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    1. Yes, yes! You should read them--they are all so, so good--lots of small-town, old-timey fun. :)

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  6. Such a fun post! I don't think I've read them since I was 12 years old and we were camping with our cousins in Prince Edward Island. Fun memories. ;)
    You make me really want to read the books again, and all the way through--I don't think I've been past book 5. I love the movies (well, not the third ;), and it's been fun as the years have gone on of watching them--gradually noticing more and delighting in the character development. We'll have to watch them together someday. :D <3

    Love,
    Kyla

    P.S. Soary, but 'sorry' really is spelled with an 'o', not a 'a' as in 'sarri'. :P <3

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    1. It's so cool you got to go to PEI. :) I still remember my mom going with my aunt--in fact, I have an Anne of Green Gables t-shirt somewhere that she brought back for me.

      Ew, not the third. I haven't seen it--I couldn't bear to. But we are watching the others right now. :) We *shall* have to see them together.

      Love,
      Schuyler

      PS. It is soary. :P And Lizzy said it on Wednesday, and it was so cute. Makes me think Gilbert Blythe every time. ;D

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