L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables went to me at a most opportune time, for I read and finished Anne Shirley’s story of growing up and learning, while I was (still am) gradually transitioning towards womanhood. I am 25 years old, yet I still do believe I am childish at times. My childishness can weigh more than my child-likeness.
“I’ve found out what an alabaster brow is. That is one of the advantages of being thirteen. You know so much more than you did when you were only twelve.”
I do not talk much just as Anne did, but I relate to her about the mistakes she makes, daydreaming while doing chores, her repentant ways, her big imagination and how sometimes she lets it get to her to scare her, her airiness, and her resolve to always wanting to be better than she was.
“I’ve learned a new and valuable lesson today. Ever since I came to Green Gables I’ve been making mistakes, and each mistake has helped to cure me of some great shortcoming.”
She is a character whose growth I use as inspiration in navigating my own soul and coming of age.
Liking big words before too, I vowed to keep my words simpler and shorter and more meaningful as I get older.
Before proceeding to what I appreciate in the book, here is a brief background on the premise.
Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, now older, needed a young orphan boy to help out with the work in Green Gables, but for some reason, the child that arrived by train in the station was not the boy that Matthew had hoped to pick up and bring back to the house. The child was a red-headed talkative vivacious young orphan girl from the asylum.
Matthew, being quiet, shy, and reserved, and having no experience with women (except his sister Marilla), girls, or children, was astounded with how the girl continuously and untiringly let words fly out of her mouth out of excitement and curiosity.
But he liked it and grew a little fond of the little girl as they went back to Green Gables.
The arrival of Anne Shirley may have not been initially intended at first, but perhaps the divine knew that the aging brother and sister needed Anne, and she needed them.
I can’t recall the first time I heard of Anne of Green Gables, but I believe it’s the 1985 telefilm where Megan Follows stars as our favorite red-headed girl. Because of being familiar and loving how she played Anne and the late Jonathan Crombie for the equally ambitious, persevering, and friendly Gilbert Blythe, I wanted to read the books.
It’s quite difficult to find the complete set in some bookstores in the metro. I was able to buy the first book from a secondhand online bookshop called The Book Duke. (Check them out – they’re very accommodating!)
I brought my pre-loved copy with me here to my trip to the States; Anne, Matthew, Marilla, Diana, Gilbert, and the lovely and charming characters of Green Gables and Prince Edward Island kept me company for July-September – in airports, airplane rides, comfortable afternoons, and while waiting.
Some of my favorite moments in the book were Matthew and Anne first met and they were on their way back to Green Gables.
“Dear old world’, she murmured, ‘you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.
I loved how Anne was so animated and how she terribly loved the many wonderful places she saw along the way; Marilla finally agreeing to let Anne stay; “carrots”; Anne’s and Diana’s company together and with Aunt Josephine; Anne’s views on God and prayers; Anne’s little mistakes and making up for them; finding kindred spirits; Marilla softening up to Anne and her ways – her maternal love finally surfacing; Gilbert’s pursuit in wanting to know Anne better; Matthew buying stuff for Anne; Anne realizing she has forgiven Gilbert already; preparing for the Entrance; Anne’s hopes and ambitions for herself and concern and compassion for the Cuthberts; Anne’s and Gilbert’s rivalry and potential friendship; Anne’s perspective on certain things, like wealth –
“We are rich,” said Anne staunchly. “Why, we have sixteen years to our credit, and we’re happy as queens, and we’ve got all imaginations, more or less. Look at that sea, girls – all silver and shadow and vision of things not seen. We couldn’t enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds. […]
and the last remaining chapters, though they were sad and elicited a few cries from me, held so much hope, selflessness, love, and the value of family and home.
I pray to be inspired by Anne’s dedication in coming of age so gracefully and using her words more wisely as she grows up. She is like a friend and role model to me on navigating my own way into becoming more like a lady than a little girl and to putting myself in service to others with love and care.
“I’m not a bit changed – not really. I’m only just pruned down and branched out. The real me – back here – is just the same. It won’t make a bit of difference where I go or how much I change outwardly; at heart I shall always be your little Anne, who will love you and Matthew and dear Green Gables more and better every day of her life.”
But of course, I will still keep my youthfulness and pure imagination at times. It’s like what Matthew Cuthbert said:
“Don’t give up all your romance, Anne,” he whispered shyly, “A little bit of it is a good thing – not too much, of course – but keep a little of it, Anne, keep a little of it.”
In the first half of the book while Anne was still enjoying her childhood and playing wild to her imaginings, she would have many stories in her mind.
“Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive–it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there?”
she would pretend she was Cordelia. She would pretend to be someone she was not. She would pretend about having frills and laces and a beautiful room, and one cannot blame an orphan child who have gone through a lot for that.
Yet as the book neared its ending, Anne became more and more herself now, less talking big words, less imagining and pretending.
“Well, I don’t want to be any one but myself, even if I go uncomforted by diamonds all my life,” declared Anne. “I’m quite content to be Anne of Green Gables, with my string of pearl beads.”
Truly, the characters we meet in books become our friends, and if we’re lucky, they can be our teachers and witnesses too, like how Anne has taught me that it is possible to become better than we were yesterday, that if we are to imagine we must imagine the good, that we need one another to live and love, and that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it… Yet.