Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Anne of Green Gables
My favorite book when I was a child was Anne of Green Gables. I discovered it when I was eight years old, and I read it over and over for years, lolling in the swing during warm summer days; curled up in a chair next to the stove during those cold winter nights, munching on a peanut butter & jelly sandwich. And in the bed at night, until Daddy made us turn off the lights.
The last time I saw the book, one of my younger sisters was reading it. Dog-eared and battered by then, most pages had been scribbled upon by our youngest siblings. And the peanut butter & jelly smudges were still there.
Wish I still had that original copy.
The book was about Anne Shirley, the orphan girl who comes to live with Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, middle-aged siblings who live at Green Gables, a farm in Avonlea on Prince Edward Island. The Cuthberts had decided to adopt a boy to help on the farm, but due to a mix-up at the orphanage, they send eleven-year-old Anne Shirley instead.
Anne is bright and quick, with a vivid imagination. But she is dissatisfied with her name, her pale skin, freckles, and bright red hair. She takes much joy in life, though, and adapts to living on Prince Edward Island in no time at all.
She soon meets Diana Barry, who becomes her best friend, and Jane Andrews and Ruby Gillis. When classmate Gilbert Blythe teases her about her carrot-red hair, she turns on him with a vengeance, and although he apologizes many times, she refuses to forgive him. Both very competitive, they continually spar back and forth in class, one trying to outdo the other. And then one day, Anne suddenly realizes she no longer hates Gilbert. But she will not admit it. (That drove me crazy; I desperately wanted Anne to go ahead and be friends with him!)
The book also follows Anne’s adventures in Avonlea, her games with Diana, Jane and Ruby, her rivalries with the Pye sisters, and her mistakes, such as dyeing her hair green and baking a cake using salt instead of sugar.
One of my favorite parts is when Anne pleads with Marilla to buy her a dress with puffed sleeves. Marilla refuses, saying her homemade dresses will do just fine. But soft-hearted Matthew sneaks off to town one day and buys the prettiest puff-sleeved dress in the store. (That brought tears to my eyes when I was eight, and it brought tears to my eyes when I saw it in the movie, many years later!)
Anne, Gilbert, and a few other classmates eventually go to the Queen's Academy where Anne obtains a teaching license in one year. She also wins the Avery Prize in English, which allows her to pursue a B.A. at Redmond College. The book ends with Matthew's death, after which Anne shows her devotion to Marilla and Green Gables by giving up the Avery Prize. Since Marilla's eyesight is failing, Anne decides to look for a teaching position at a school nearby to help her. Gilbert has secured a teaching position at the Avonlea School but gives it up so Anne can take the position, enabling her to teach at Avonlea and stay at Green Gables. Because of Gilbert’s generosity, Anne fully forgives him and they become best friends. (Finally!)
Anne of Green Gables was written by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery, who drew upon her own childhood experiences in rural Prince Edward Island for this wonderful book. It has sold more than 50 million copies and translated into many languages.
Montgomery was born November 30, 1874, and died April 24, 1942. At the time of her death, it was reported that Montgomery died of congestive heart failure; however, her granddaughter has just revealed that she suffered from depression and took her own life with a drug overdose.
There has been much speculation about this latest discovery, some people saying Montgomery’s image has been tarnished because she committed suicide. I disagree. In my opinion, Anne of Green Gables is one of the greatest children’s books ever written; it continues to enthrall young people to this day. And the fact that she wrote 20 novels (including Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea and other sequels), over 500 short stories, an autobiography, and a book of poetry while suffering from deep bouts of depression, just shows what a dedicated writer she was.
Anne of Green Gables was written in 1908, and events are planned all over Canada this year to celebrate the centennial. I’m sure Lucy Maud Montgomery would be thrilled and honored to know her outstanding book is still being read one hundred years later.
I predict that young people all over the world, and older ones as well, will be reading it two hundred years from now. Regardless of how Montgomery died.
All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley