Anne of Green Gables
The Rejection of Maternalism in L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables
“‘I wouldn’t be in that orphan’s shoes for anything” – The Rejection of Maternalism in L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables
Maternalism is a huge theme in L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables; however, not in the usual way. Typically, women are believed to inherit a number of maternal qualities, or rather, a wealth of knowledge on how to raise children. In Anne of Green Gables, the rejection of this belief is quite evident. Marilla’s uneasiness towards Anne is seen immediately after their first meeting, showing that she lacks the “mother’s intuition,” while Mathew connects with Anne immediately. Though Marilla attempts to punish Anne properly, again, it is Mathew who achieves what Marilla fails in doing. Additionally, Marilla must constantly remind herself to give Anne advice in order for her to grow up properly and yet, Mathew is a complete natural in aiding Anne to live her best life. In terms of maternalism, Marilla should be the one excelling at all of the motherly duties; however, Mathew is constantly one-upping her without even trying. L.M. Montgomery’s novel, Anne of Green Gables, rejects the notion of maternalism through Marilla’s incompetence as a mother and Mathew’s achievement in everything that Marilla seems to struggle with, rendering maternalism absurd and proving that being a good parent has nothing to do with gender.
All women are supposed to bear the maternal instincts which would allow for them to understand and connect with a child immediately; however this novel proves that belief wrong. Marilla immediately states that Anne “will have to be sent back to the asylum” (80). Marilla is simply bewildered by the fact that Mathew, who would rather Anne stay in Green Gables with them, has already developed a sense of fondness for the girl. Marilla lacks a connection with Anne that Mathew has right from the beginning. Marilla wants a boy to do the work on their property – not a family member. She does not feel as though there is any reason to keep Anne in her home as there is no way, in Marilla’s mind, that Anne could ever contribute anything to the household – a very unmaternal perception. Women are thought to encompass a desire for raising a child; however, Anne of Green Gables proves this wrong by perceiving Marilla as the skeptical one and Mathew as the maternal figure.
In order to be a maternal figure, one must actually enjoy the company of children. Mathew displays this right away, while Marilla takes quite a while to get used to Anne and accept her. Mathew meets Anne for the first time and although he acknowledges that there is definitely something strange about her, he admits to “[enjoying] the society” of Anne (67). Mathew understands immediately that Anne is a good girl with a good heart. He proceeds to say that he usually does not like the company of little girls; however, he feels as though Anne is different from the other girls in the best way. His intuitive knowledge aids him in developing an immediate connection with Anne – one that is thought of to be formed between child and mother. The fact that Mathew gets along with Anne so quickly after meeting her would not be so significant if it were not for the contrasting relationship between this orphan girl and Marilla. Clearly, this depicts the idea that maternalism is inaccurate in determining one’s ability to raise a child.
As a woman, Marilla should have the maternal instinct which allows for her to properly relate to a child and punish them accordingly; however, that is not the case with Marilla. After Anne loses her temper to Mrs. Lynde during their first meeting, Marilla is the one who takes it upon herself to punish Anne. Marilla decides to send Anne to her room, only allowing her out should she decide to apologize to Mrs. Lynde. Marilla does not try to sympathize with the obviously hurt, Anne. Instead, she focuses solely on ensuring that Anne redeems herself by asking Mrs. Lynde for forgiveness. Anne proceeds to stay in her room and refuses to apologize. As a woman, Marilla should have the maternal instinct which allows for her to properly punish a child effectively; however, that is not the case with Marilla. Fortunately for Anne, Mathew seems to embody the maternalism that Marilla lacks.
Mathew accomplishes what Marilla is unable to do: convince Anne to apologize to Mrs. Lynde. He connects with Anne by telling her that “[it is] terrible lonesome down-stairs without [her],” creating a sympathetic bond between the two of them which Marilla lacks (119). Mathew is able to connect with Anne on a level that Marilla is un-capable of at this point. Mathew speaks to Anne in this way without a second thought simply because he is a natural at what is inaccurately deemed maternalism. Through this, Mathew is demolishing the notion that all women are born with maternal characteristics. Anne does not even put up a fight when Mathew asks her to apologize; she agrees almost immediately. The ease in which Mathew is able to accomplish this task seems deliberate when paired with Marilla’s failed attempt – as if to emphasize the senseless notion that women are natural-born mothers. This further proves that maternalism is a hoax and that being a good parent has nothing to do with gender.
Additionally, Marilla constantly has to consider her words carefully when speaking to Anne. She is continuously reminding herself that she must instill values in Anne in order to raise her properly. There are countless instances when Marilla stifles her laughter and contemplates a response towards Anne, showing her incompetence within the world of parenting. After Anne takes Marilla’s hand in her own, Marilla admits that “[its] very unaccustomedness and sweetness disturbed her. She hastened to restore her sensations to their normal calm by inculcating a moral” (123). Many would consider Marilla’s ability to be consciously inflicting morals onto Anne as an admirable feature in a motherly character; however, it merely illustrates her ineptness. Marilla’s advice for Anne never comes naturally, meaning that she always has to remind herself that she is responsible for raising Anne. In terms of maternalism, teaching a child right from wrong should be second nature to a woman and yet, Marilla is always having to recall this fact so as not to raise her improperly. Perhaps the fact that Marilla seems to be anything but natural at parenting is not entirely significant on its own; however, Marilla’s inability combined with Mathew’s ability is what renders this so important.
Mathew never questions what he should say to Anne; he just simply knows. Anne pledges to Marilla that she will stop being so “romantic” as it gets her into a lot of trouble and is “not appreciated now” (261). Marilla is content with this; however, Mathew takes it upon himself to ensure that Anne stays true to who she is. Once Marilla exits the room, Mathew explains to Anne that she should not “‘give up all [of her] romance… a little of it is a good thing – not too much, of course – but keep a little of it” (262). Mathew does not contemplate giving Anne this advice, nor does he do it because that is merely what a parent does; he tells Anne this simply because he feels that it is necessary. Mathew’s ability to speak to Anne and advise her in such a natural way while Marilla struggles time and time again only supports the fact that this novel is anti-maternal.
Though Marilla is Anne’s mother figure, she is not the parent who displays the maternal qualities. Marilla quite clearly does not have any knowledge on how to bring up a child and yet, according to maternalism, she should. This fact, along with Mathew’s natural parenting ability, proves the idea of maternalism wrong. Marilla does not feel an immediate connection with Anne, nor does she know how to punish or advise Anne without excess contemplation. Mathew, on the other hand, is able to do all of this flawlessly. Maternalism in L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables is a major theme and yet it rejects all of the ideals that go along with maternalism through the incompetent Marilla and the skilled Mathew.
Montgomery, L.M. Anne of Green Gables. Edited by Cecily Devereux, Broadview editions, Broadview Press Ltd., 2004.
Womanhood in Anne of Green Gables
There is ample dispute over L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables: whether it is a feminist novel, whether is it supposed to be a feminist novel and what it is actually suggesting about women. Montgomery disassociated herself from the feminist movement; nonetheless she believed that women ought to have the right to vote (Cecily, 27). We can see evidence of her views in the women of Avonlea. Anne of Green Gables was written primarily as a ‘girl’s novel,’ in which women are expected to behave a certain way and embody certain characteristics. In this novel, gender difference is affirmed, but inequality is not (Montgomery and Cecily, 26). The women in Avonlea are primarily traditional, remaining in the home and raising families, but they are strong and have quite a bit of power in their restricted domestic spheres, suggesting elements of the modern women as well. Anne is likewise a strong woman, able to take a life of disadvantage and turn it around. Anne’s life is largely influenced by women- it is Marilla who decides that she can stay and who takes responsibility for her upbringing, while Matthew watches silently from the sides, only stepping in when Marilla isn’t around. The knowledge, direction, advice and examples that Marilla and other women provide are the most prominent factors in Anne’s development into a socially accepted woman.Anne’s wild imagination is something that makes her special and unique as a child, but there is no place for it in society, so Marilla feels that it is her duty to repress it. If Anne had the same personality and imagination as an adult, she would have been considered a frivolous scatterbrain (Weiss-Town, 15). As a child, though, Anne can get away with saying and doing things that she would not otherwise because she has “never been taught what was right (Montgomery, 66).” The adult women in Anne of Green Gables do not have any imagination; when Anne asks Miss Barrie to try to imagine, she says, “I’m afraid my imagination is a little rusty- it’s so long since I used it (Montgomery, 158).” In order for Anne to grow up and have her place in society, she too must put her imagination away. Thus Marilla and the rest of the community are trying to fit her into the mold of a young lady by repressing her imagination. Anne’s imagination is a source of both good and evil in her life, but because of the negative elements, Anne learns that sometimes it is better not to imagine at all. As one chapter suggests, it is a “good imagination gone wrong” (Montgomery, 0). One night Marilla tells Anne to walk through the “Haunted Woods,” to get something from Mrs. Barrie. Anne is terrified on the walk, thinking of all of the ghosts that could be living there… Upon her return, she tells Marilla that she’ll be content with “common place names after this” (Berg, 126). “Bitterly did she repent the license she had given to her imagination (Montgomery, 165).” Anne has learned about the dangers of the imagination and the consequences it can have, frightening herself with her own made-up names and stories. Anne’s wish to have beautiful auburn hair is similarly squelched when she mistakenly dyes her hair green, teaching her a lesson about vanity. As her caregiver, Marilla makes sure to insert a moral or lesson anywhere she can, helping Anne to realize how she can learn from her mistakes. Anne does learn from her mistakes, and does not repeat them again. With time she makes fewer and fewer, until she has been completely socialized and conforms to society’s expectations without even having to think about behaving properly as she does as a child. This is when Anne is successfully integrated into the community. Miss Stacy is another very influential model in Anne’s life. As her teacher, she helps Anne to develop academically, yet as a woman, she helps her to develop socially as well. Anne proves how much she has learned when Miss Stacy asks her to stop reading a certain novel, and she obeys. The book “was one Ruby Gillis had lent me,” she explains to Marilla. “It was so fascinating and creepy; it just curdled the blood in my veins. But Miss Stacy said it was a very silly unwholesome book, and she asked me not to read any more of it or any like it” (Berg, 126). Anne does not question Miss Stacy’s judgment; she looks up to her, wanting to become like her someday. The Gothic novel was considered improper for girls to read, as it could seriously modify their comprehension of reality. It would be particularly hazardous for girls with brilliant imaginations, like Anne. It was chiefly girls who read Anne of Green Gables, so the novel functioned as a sort of instruction book for them, so they could learn from Anne’s slip-ups too (Carol, 10). Anne’s educational progress is quite astounding, going from an uneducated orphan girl to placing at the top of her class. As her teacher, Miss Stacy helps to prepare Anne for a career in teaching, providing a way for her to support herself and make her own way in the world if necessary. Miss Stacy, perhaps even more importantly, believes in Anne, accepting her and encouraging her to do her best, providing opportunities like the after school lessons to gain even more knowledge and increase her possibility of higher education (Montgomery 242). Women could either choose career or family, but not both; it was considered immoral for a family to have two incomes. When Anne is talking about her classmate’s ambitions, she says “Ruby says she will only teach two years after she gets though, and then she intends to be married. Jane says she will devote her whole life to teaching, and never, never marry because you are paid a salary for teaching; but a husband won’t pay you anything and growls if you ask for a share in the egg and butter money (Montgomery 244). Ruby, like Anne, is postponing marriage, but Jane is more the New Woman, opting not to marry at all and support herself. Although these girls are all aiming for careers, the teaching career was generally one that was acceptable for women at the time, so they are not making any progress in that sense; both Anne’s parents were teachers.Mrs. Allen likewise affirms Anne, encouraging her “to do some good in the world (Montgomery, 211).” When Anne is ‘in the depths of despair,’ humiliated in her room after the liniment incident, it is Mrs. Allen who comes up to comfort her, telling her that it wasn’t her fault. “I’m trying to be as much like Mrs. Allen as I possibly can, for I think she’s perfect (Montgomery, 207)” Anne tells her friends. At the Ladies Aid society meeting, when Mrs. Lynde says something negative about Anne, Mrs. Allen is quick to defend her, saying she is the “brightest and sweetest child she ever met (Montgomery, 214.)” Mrs. Allen is much better at expressing her love than Marilla is; she serves as a mother-figure, fulfilling Anne’s emotional needs. Because of Mrs. Allen’s acceptance, Anne has more self-confidence, and wishes to be good, partly to please her. “I hope I shall be a little like Mrs. Allen when I grow up (Montgomery, 211)” Anne says to Marilla. Mrs. Allen, as the minister’s wife, would also be a good example to Anne in matters of religion. She has been an enormous influence on Anne, just by her kind acceptance of her. By this, Anne learns to accept others as well.Rachel Lynde represents another powerful influence in Anne’s life. Because she prides herself so much on speaking her mind (Montgomery, 64), people are careful of what they say to her or around her. Through Mrs. Lynde, Anne learns the importance of “holding her tongue.” When Mrs. Lynde first meets Anne, she chides her about her looks and Anne flies at her in retaliation, criticizing her to her face. In order to regain acceptance from Marilla and the other women of the community, she must succumb to Marilla’s punishment and apologize to Rachel Lynde, humiliating and humbling herself (Montgomery 72-74). Once Anne gives in to the women of higher authority she begins to find her place in society. Before this incident with Rachel Lynde, Marilla tells Anne to hold her tongue and she goes right on talking (Montgomery, 57). In contrast, when Josie Pye later calls Anne a scarecrow, Anne does not react. Having a place in society means having rules and consequences for breaking them. After Anne has experienced the consequences of not holding her tongue, when Marilla tells her to do so on the way home from Rachel Lynde’s house, she complies (Montgomery, 76). This is a key point in Anne’s development. Rachel and Marilla are both very strong women- female heads of their homes. Rachel believes women should have the right to vote. A group of women all go out to meet the prime minister, and take Thomas along to take care of the horses. Although they do not have the opportunity to vote, they still care very much about politics and what is going on in Canada. In this sense, the women of Avonlea are very much models of the New Woman.‘Brains over beauty’ is a running theme throughout Anne of Green Gables. Marilla describes Diana as “good and smart, which is better than being pretty (Montgomery, 58).” Anne is very preoccupied with beauty and looks. She loathes her red hair and freckles, lashing out at anyone who points them out (i.e. Gilbert and Rachel Lynde). Marilla had had a similar experience as a child, overhearing her aunts saying “what a pity she is such a dark, homely little thing (Montgomery 68.)” It has taken Marilla 50 years to get over this. She is imparting her wisdom to Anne, so that she will learn there are more important things in life than beauty, and not spend 50 years wishing she was beautiful. “I’d rather be pretty than clever” Anne admits to Diana (Montgomery, 152). After Anne receives a compliment on her nose and taking it to heart, she asks Marilla what her thoughts are. Marilla thinks she has a pretty nose, but she does not want Anne to be a vain girl, so she does not tell her so; she does not want Anne to be so preoccupied with beauty (Montgomery, 151). The fact that intelligence is privileged over beauty shows how the culture of the New Woman is intermingled with the traditional one in Avonlea. In the past, beauty was important because it guaranteed a husband to care for and support women; now that they could support themselves, the relative importance of beauty was changing. Although Matthew and Marilla are so somber and were brought up in a strict, “joyless” home, they do not have a limited view of women and allow Anne more freedom to become the “New Woman.” Marilla places a high value on woman’s education; she felt it was important that “a girl be fitted to earn her own living whether she has to or not (Montgomery, 242).” It is her who first broaches the subject about being a teacher to Anne after Miss Stacy came to talk to her. She tells Anne that “we resolved to do the best we could for you and give you a good education (Montgomery, 242.)” This is a contrast to Diana’s mother, who believes that education is wasted on women. Mrs. Lynde likewise disapproves of education. The split amongst the community of women in terms of education shows the contrast between the old and new values- signifying this is a transitional stage. Because Marilla approves of her being educated, Anne happily goes along with it. She mentions dreaming about Queens for months, but does not mention anything about it until Marilla does. As the novel goes on, Anne’s imagination becomes more and more suppressed in order for her to have a place in society and be accepted by the women of the community. This is something Anne has to earn; it is not given to her. At the hotel concert, Anne is applauded for subscribing to society and reciting someone else’s words, instead of her own. It has been Marilla’s task to modify Anne’s voice, and an extremely difficult task it is. Before Anne goes off to Queens College, Marilla gives her a dress, not one of the plain ones she usually makes, but a beautiful green one. “Anne put it on one evening for Matthew and Marilla’s benefit, and recited “The Maiden’s Vow” for them in the kitchen” (Montgomery, 304). Anne here is fashionable, reciting someone else’s words for the benefit of Matthew and Marilla, consideration for others, and is doing so in the kitchen- a very domestic place. She has basically become “the angel in the household.” Marilla remembers what Anne used to be like and it brings tears to her eyes (Montgomery, 304). Anne assures her “I’m not changed- not really. I’m only just pruned down and branched out… (Montgomery 304).” The words “pruned and branched out” have a very artificial sound. It is as if Anne is repressing her real self, no longer letting herself go wild; but restraining herself. Perhaps Marilla realizes this and is a little bit saddened by it. She wishes for the old, younger Anne who had not yet subscribed to society, although it was Marilla, Rachel Lynde and the other women of the community who pressured Anne to conform to their own ideals and view of womanhood in a predominantly female community (Weiss-Town, 13). In Avonlea, women’s values were cherished more than men’s values, making them the larger influences on Anne’s development (Berg, 127). Anne was been taught how to be a good wife and mother ever since she was little, working in homes, looking after children at the age of 11. This too influenced her development as a woman; Anne has no false fantasies about what raising a child would be like. She is able to save Minnie May’s life because of this knowledge from past experience. Anne does not make any ultimate choices about her life in this book, but in subsequent books Anne’s dreams eventually lead to marriage and motherhood, not literary fame. Anne postpones this “fate” for a while, experiencing what it is like to be a New Woman. Anne is a New Woman in many ways: getting a higher education, wearing divided skirts, biking around chaperoned, and so on, but she still retains the traditional values of family and home. She is not completely traditional, yet not quite a New Woman. Although Anne wins a prize, it is the English prize, a traditional feminine subject. Gilbert takes all the other prizes. The main influential women in Anne’s life have, with the exception of Miss Stacy and Marilla (although she still brings up Anne), are married and had children; Rachel Lynde, for example, “brought up ten children and buried two (Montgomery, 66).” It is no wonder that Anne follows suit. After Anne marries, her life is rather dull compared to the exciting surprises of her childhood. One interesting view of Anne that lines up very much with the thinking of Mary Wollstonecraft is that because Anne becomes an ideal woman at the end of the book: she never stops being a child (Weiss-Town, 12). She is no longer encouraged to think for herself and be imaginative; but is encouraged to memorize and recite other people’s prayers and poetry. Marilla begins to enforce this right from the beginning, making Anne learn the Lord’s Prayer instead of inventing her own (Montgomery, 55). The one contestation with this idea is that Anne actually did obtain a decent education, especially for a girl, and she did have the opportunity to a higher education. The presence of this choice is what is truly important.The lives of women in Anne of Green Gables revolve around the home and domestic ambitions. The chapter titles themselves illustrate the prominence of stereotypical female domestication and religion (Carol, 11). “Anne says her prayers”, “Anne’s bringing-up is begun”, “Anne’s impressions of Sunday school”, ”A Tempest in the school teapot”, “Diana is invited to tea with tragic results”, “Anne is invited out to tea”, etc. (Cecily, 15). Just by considering the chapter titles, we can see that tea parties and concerts seem to be an important part of Anne’s life. Tea parties and concerts are generally considered to be feminine, and the abundance of them in the novel outlines the importance of femininity. Marilla tells Anne she can have Diana over for tea while she is at the Aid society meeting, Anne is overjoyed. She exclaims; “It will seem so nice and grown-uppish” (Montgomery, 163). “Oh, Marilla, it’s a wonderful sensation just to think of it!” (Montgomery, 164). Anne’s enthusiasm over a tea party and being “grown-uppish” indicate she is gradually conforming to society’s standards; whether she inherently likes tea parties or likes them because that is what all the girls at her age like does not matter. Anne is encouraged to engage in activities that are feminine. When she goes to Rachel Lynde’s house to make her apology, Rachel tells her “you can pick a bouquet of them white June lilies over in the corner if you like (Montgomery, 74).” Rachel automatically assumes that Anne, as a girl, would wish to engage in ‘feminine’ activities. While Marilla is gone Anne’s main responsibility is to get supper for Matthew and Jerry, the role traditionally performed by a woman (Montgomery, 163). Anne is a woman-in-training, eager and proud to take on the responsibilities of the older women- people she respects. Anne, as a woman is very feminine, always up on the latest fashion and stylesOverall, although Anne does not make any ultimate decisions about her life in this novel, it still portrays the stereotypical feminine lifestyle that girls in the late 19th, early 20th century were expected to have. Anne starts out as a little, “ugly”, misbehaved, imaginative orphan girl; but is transformed by Marilla and the community of women in Avonlea into a model woman. Her imagination is restrained, she is “pruned and branched out,” and she is able to save Marilla from having to sell Green Gables, her childhood home. Anne of Green Gables is setting up separate worlds for men and women, portraying the woman’s world as much more interesting (Berg, 127). The world of women is not presented as completely confined as it had been in the past- women had more options by Anne’s time. The 1896 Halifax Herald said “only remarkable and highly motivated women such as [Montgomery] had any business venturing beyond motherhood” (Cecily, 32). This shows the dominant view of the time. Montgomery agreed, saying women should not have any career other than wife and mother, unless they could accomplish their work without interrupting these responsibilities (Cecily, 26). Although Anne avoided making any definite decisions by the end of this novel, her decisions eventually led to motherhood and the domestic life. The maternal women in Anne of Green Gables aided Anne in her development by being examples, correcting her and guiding her in the right direction. It could be argued though, that this ‘growth’ is actually decay in the sense that Anne lost her individuality by conforming to the standards set by society. Thus the conclusion we can draw is one of ambiguity: Anne was not a traditional woman, nor fully a “New Woman;” she is an ambiguous character whose transformation over the course of the novel parallels the gradual societal change in women’s expected role in society.Works Cited:Berg, Temma F. “Anne of Green Gables: A Girl’s Reading.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 13.3 (1988): 124-128. Project MUSE. 17 Aug. 2010
Gender Construction and Nature in L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables
There is much debate amongst literary critics over L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. The arguments stem from the whether or not it should be defined as a feminist novel and what the narrative really implies about women. L.M. Montgomery disassociated herself from the feminist movement, yet she believed that women should have the right to vote (Montgomery and Cecily, 27). Her seemingly contrasting views and opinions have led to a diverse cacophony of works from both ends of the spectrum. Although there may be subtle hints of pervasive femininity in Anne, older girls are generally the ones who recognize it. Montgomery wrote Anne of Green Gables as a “girl’s novel,” depicting women as behaving in a prescribed way and embodying certain characteristics. By doing this, Montgomery affirms gender difference but not inequality (Montgomery and Cecily, 26). Anne of Green Gables reveals the early 20th Century assumptions about the role of females in society and, in doing so, presents the limited number of choices available to them. Anne’s imagination is what makes her special and unique, even though her romantic thoughts and pictures are distinctly feminine (Berg, 127). However, she must learn to repress her imagination as she gets older. If the character of Anne were an adult, readers would have considered her a frivolous scatterbrain (Weiss-Town, 15). By writing her as a child, Montgomery could get away with Anne saying and doing things that would not be appropriate for a proper woman. During Montgomery’s time, children were respected, sometimes even envied, because when they grew up they had to behave a certain way. Anne’s imagination is a source of both good and evil in her life. Montgomery describes it as a “good imagination gone wrong” (Berg, 126). For example, one night Marilla forces Anne to walk through the forest that Anne has named the “Haunted Woods” to get something from Mrs. Barrie. Anne is terrified on her short journey because of all the ghosts she believes live in the forest. When she returns home to Marilla, she tells her that she’ll be content with “common place names after this” (Berg, 126). In this episode, Anne learns about the dangers of her imagination and the consequences it can have, scaring herself half to death with her own made-up names and stories. Anne again proves that she has learned to suppress her imagination when her teacher asks her to stop reading a book and she obeys. The book “was one Ruby Gillis had leant me,” she explains to Marilla, “and Marilla, it was so fascinating and creepy, it just curdled the blood in my veins. But Miss Stacy said it was a very silly unwholesome book, and she asked me not to read any more of it or any like it” (Berg, 126). In the early 20th Century, Gothic novels was not considered appropriate for girls to read, because people believed that it could greatly alter their grasp of reality. These kinds of books would be considered especially dangerous for girls with vivid imaginations, like Anne. It was mainly girls who read (and still read) Anne of Green Gables, so the novel served as a sort of cautionary tale where they could learn from Anne’s mistakes alongside her (Carol, 10). Although Montgomery portrays Anne as a rambunctious child with a bad temper and a wild imagination, she also embodies many of the stereotypical feminine characteristics of a late 19th Century girl (Weiss-Town, 14). Anne’s sorrows are not caused by her chafing against womanhood, rather, they are the sorrows of womankind; the loss of a loved one, loneliness and not belonging, separation from loved-ones, etc. (Carol, 10). Although there have been critics who say that Anne belongs in a “boy book”, male protagonists of this time were usually seeking autonomy, separation and freedom from restraint. Anne, however, desperately wants to belong: “You see,” she tells Matthew on their ride to Green Gables from the train station, “I’ve never had a real home since I can remember.” When Anne sees Green Gables for the first time she finally feels a sense of belonging (Berg, 125). Anne is also desperate to find kindred spirits when she comes to Prince Edward Island, and says that she always wanted to have a bosom friend. One of Anne’s main concerns is beauty. She abhors her red hair and freckles, lashing out at anyone who points them out. “I’d rather be pretty than clever,” Anne admits to Diana (Montgomery and Cecily, 152). After Anne receives a compliment on her nose, she asks Marilla what she thinks of it. Marilla thinks she has quite a lovely nose, but she does not want Anne to be a vain girl, so she does not tell her so. Throughout the novel, Marilla makes it clear that she does not want Anne to be so preoccupied with beauty (Montgomery and Cecily, 151). Although Matthew and Marilla are somber and were brought up in a strict, “joyless” home, they eventually soften towards Anne, allowing her the freedom to become a “New Woman.” Marilla places a high value on woman’s education, saying that it is important that “a girl be fitted to earn her own living whether she has to or not” (Montgomery and Cecily, 31). This presents a contrast to Diana’s mother, who believes that education is wasted on women. While Marilla pushes Anne to succeed academically, Matthew is much better than his sister at expressing his love. He dotes on Anne, buying her fashionable clothes, specifically, a dress with “puffed sleeves.” Montgomery switches the stereotypical gender roles here, with Marilla as the more masculine head of the household, having the final say on matters and not being as good at expressing her feelings, while Matthew is quiet, submissive, and emotional. Anne brings both Marilla and Matthew out of their comfort zones, though. Later in the novel, Matthew stands up to Marilla more often, mostly for Anne’s sake, and Marilla becomes more lenient as well. Anne’s imagination and outspoken personality serves to amuse others, even when she is tormenting herself. When Anne becomes upset about the prospect of Dianna Barrie getting married one day, Marilla tries to hold her laughter in, but can’t,and she collapses in a chair, laughing at Anne’s childlike anxiety. Matthew cannot recall when he has ever heard Marilla laughing like that before (Montgomery and Cecily, 162). In another instance, Anne takes Marilla’s hand and “something warm and pleasant well[s] up in Marilla’s heart at the touch of that thin little hand in her own- a throb of the maternity she [has] missed, perhaps. Its’ very unaccustomed tenderness and sweetness [scares] her” (Montgomery and Cecily, 126). In this way, Anne is almost setting the people in her life back into their stereotypical gender roles. Similarly, the adults around her are trying to squeeze Anne into the mold of a young lady by repressing her imagination. When she first comes to Green Gables and is desperate to stay, Anne says “I’ll try and be anything you want if only you’ll keep me” (Montgomery and Cecily, 97). As the novel goes on, Anne suppresses her imagination more and more in order for her to have a place in society. This social standing is something Anne has to earn, rather than inherit. At the hotel concert, the community applauds Anne for subscribing to society and reciting someone else’s poem, instead of her own. It has been Marilla’s task to modify Anne’s speaking tone, which she does successfully. Before Anne goes off to Queen’s College, Marilla gives her a dress, not one of the plain ones she usually makes, but a beautiful green one. “Anne put it on one evening for Matthew and Marilla’s benefit, and recited “The Maiden’s Vow” for them in the kitchen” (Montgomery and Cecily, 304). Anne becomes fashionable, reciting someone else’s words for the benefit of Matthew and Marilla, and is doing so in the kitchen, which is a very domestic place. She has basically become “the angel in the household.” Marilla remembers what Anne used to be like and it brings tears to her eyes. Marilla says “I just couldn’t help thinking of the little girl you used to be, Anne. And I was wishing you could have stayed a little girl, even with all your queer ways. You’re grown up now and you’re going away; and you look so tall and stylish and so-so-different altogether in that dress- as if you didn’t belong in Avonlea at all- and I just get lonesome thinking it all over” (Montgomery and Cecily, 304). Anne replies “I’m not changed- not really. I’m only just pruned down and branched out…” (Montgomery and Cecily, 304). The words “pruned and branched out” sound very artificial. They imply that Anne has learned to repress her real self and stop going wild. Perhaps Marilla realizes this and is a little bit saddened by it. She wishes for the old, younger Anne who had not yet learned how to bow down to the rules of society, although it is Marilla, Rachel Lynde and the other women of the community who put immensely strong pressure on Anne to conform to their own ideals and view of womanhood in a dominantly female community (Weiss-Town, 13). In Avonlea, women’s values are cherished more than men’s values (Berg, 127.) Anne has been taught how to be a good wife and mother ever since she was little, working in homes, looking after children at the age of 11. In fact, she is able to save Minnie May’s life because of this knowledge. Anne does not make any ultimate choices about her life in this book, but in subsequent books Anne’s journey eventually takes her to marriage and motherhood, but not literary fame as she had once hoped. Anne postpones her domestic “fate” for a while, experiencing life as a “New Woman.” Anne is a New Woman in many ways; getting a higher education, wearing divided skirts, biking around unchaperoned, etc, but she is still mired in tradition. Although Anne wins a prize for her schoolwork, it is the English prize, a subject traditionally associated with women. Gilbert takes all the other prizes, like those in math and science. After Anne marries, her life becomes rather dull in comparison to the exciting surprises of her childhood. Although Anne actually does receive a good education, especially for a girl, Mary Wollstonecraft believes that because Anne becomes an “ideal” woman at the end of the book, it means that she actually never stops being a child (Weiss-Town, 12). The lives of women in Anne of Green Gables revolve around breakfast, lunch and dinner, intricate relations between neighbours, mother and sons, mothers and daughters, growing up, raising children, etc. (Carol, 11). All of these elements are very domestic. The chapter titles themselves show the prominence of stereotypical female domestication and religion (Carol, 11). “Anne Says her Prayers”, “Anne’s Bringing-up is Begun”, “Anne’s Impressions of Sunday School”, ”A Tempest in the School Teapot”, “Diana is invited to tea with tragic results”, “Anne is Invited out to Tea”, “Miss. Stacy and her Pupils set up a Concert”, “Matthew Insists on Puffed-sleeves”, “The Hotel Concert”, etc. (Montgomery and Cecily, 15). Just by looking at the chapter titles, it becomes clear that tea parties and concerts, traditionally feminine pastimes, are a big part of Anne’s life. Marilla tells Anne she can have Diana over for tea while she is at the Aid Society meeting, Anne is overjoyed. She exclaims; “It will seem so nice and grown-uppish” (Montgomery and Cecily, 163). “Oh, Marilla, it’s a wonderful sensation just to think of it!” (Montgomery and Cecily, 164). She asks to use toe rosebud spray tea set, but Marilla refuses. Anne’s excitement over a tea party and being “grown-uppish” show that she is slowly conforming to society; it does not matter whether she inherently likes tea parties or likes them because all other girls her age do. While Marilla at the meeting, Anne’s main responsibility is to get supper for Matthew and Jerry (Montgomery and Cecily, 163). Overall, although Anne does not make any ultimate decisions about her life in this novel, Montgomery still portrays the stereotypical feminine lifestyle that girls in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries were expected to have. Anne starts out as a little, “ugly”, misbehaved, imaginative orphan girl; but Marilla, Matthew, and the other women of Avonlea transform her into a traditional, model woman. She learns to restrain her imagination, she is “pruned and branched out,” and is able to save Marilla from having to sell Green Gables, her childhood home. Anne of Green Gables sets up separate worlds for men and women, portraying the woman’s world as much more interesting (Berg, 127). The 1896 Halifax Herald said “only remarkable and highly motivated women such as [Montgomery] had any business venturing beyond motherhood” (Montgomery and Cecily, 32). This shows the dominant view of the time. Montgomery agreed with the paper, saying women should not have any career other than wife and mother, unless they could accomplish their work without interrupting these responsibilities (Montgomery and Cecily, 26). Although Anne is too young to make any definite decisions by the end of this novel, she lays the foundation for her eventual domestic life. Works Cited:Berg, Temma F. “Anne of Green Gables: A Girl’s Reading.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 13.3 (1988): 124-128. Project MUSE. 17 Aug. 2010
Who Are You, Anne with an “E?”: Naming in Anne of Green Gables
A name is an intrinsic characteristic of an object: that is, a name represents the object and explains it most implicitly. This is the reason why people tell their names first when they introduce themselves, get little bit upset when their names are called in a wrong way, and decide a baby’s name carefully. Furthermore, the study of naming, which believes that name decides one’s entire life, is activated in Eastern countries. Here is a girl who puts emphasis on name as much as scholars of this study: the little orphan girl, Anne Shirley, who turns naming into one of the central issues in the novel that bears her name, Anne of Green Gables.
Through out the whole book, Anne puts strong stress on naming. She wants her own name to be different, puts special names on all the beautiful things like road, lake, geranium, cherry tree, pond, forest, and etc, and avoids calling the name of her competitor. Indeed, there are two main reasons that Anne emphasizes naming so much, and how these affects Anne’s behavior and the novel. First, Anne identifies the name with the object, and tries to change viewpoints through naming. She says to Marilla, “I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I’ve never been able to believe it. I don’t believe a rose would be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage” (38). To Anne, if name changes, her perspective on the object changes accordingly, even though the object remains the same. That is, name is more important than any other thing to Anne in defining the object.
This means that she could change her viewpoints through changing name romantically. This is the main reason why she sticks to her name. At the first meeting with Anne and Marilla, she implores to Marilla, “Will you please call me Cordelia? […] but oh, please do call me Cordelia. […] But if you call me Anne please call me Anne with an e” (24, 25; emphasis added). Also, when Mr. Phillips spells her name without an e, she says, “The iron has entered into my soul” (113). To Anne, a mere letter, which has no affect on pronunciation, is so significant, because: “When you hear a name pronounced can’t you always see it in your mind, just as if it was printed out? I can; and A-n-n looks dreadful, but A-n-n-e looks so much distinguished” (25). In other words, it is so important for her name to be distinguished, as Anne wants to be “divinely beautiful” and believes that the perspective on the objects changes according to its name (17). Thus, she is trying to view objects more romantically, through changing name which is identical with the object.
Second, naming shows her affection about others and how her harsher life than others affected Anne. In fact, others also know that name is somewhat important. People want to have a good name, and enterprises decide their name carefully. However, they do not emphasize naming as much as Anne. An ordinary person would just name the road ‘the Avenue’ rather than ‘the White Way of Delight.’ She or he would not give special name to all of the road, lake, geranium, cherry tree, pond, forest, and etc, even though they are so beautiful. What makes this difference is thoughtful attitude resulted from her hard life as an orphan girl.
First of all, keep in mind that naming shows affection and interests toward the object that one likes. Imagine how parents would feel when they decide the name of their dear baby. They would be very thrilled and happy, hoping that they could find the best name for their baby. This is how Anne feels when she gives name to “fascinating” things. When she ponders on the name that exactly fits with the object, she cares about the object so much that the process of naming “crowd[s] other things out” (121). Through the process, she puts her best efforts that she refuses the name that “Anybody can think of” (106). When she finds one through that process, she knows that it “is the right name for it”, as she feels like this: “When I hit on a name that suits exactly it gives me a thrill” (19). That is, her continuous naming is resulted from affection and the thrill she feels.
Then, why does Anne show affection on so many beautiful things so much more than others? Before coming to Avonlea, Anne lived a life that Marilla expressed as “a life of drudgery and poverty and neglect” (41). She does not want others to go through these hardships like her. For example, she does not want to forget even imaginary friends as “They would feel so hurt if I [forgot] and I’d hate to hurt anybody’s feelings, even a little bookcase girl’s or a little echo girl’s” (61). Also, she says, “when I am grown up, I’m always going to talk to little girls as if they were, too, and I’ll never laugh when they use big words. I know from sorrowful experience how that hurts one’s feelings” (146, 147; emphasis added). This thoughtful attitude is resulted from her own history which was harsher than others.
Now, here’s how this attitude is connected with naming. The opposite thing of affection is being disregarded. As naming shows affection, she thinks that it is neglecting the object not to give name that fits with it. Thus she tries to give names to many objects, especially beautiful things. For example, when she sees ‘the Avenue’, she says, “they shouldn’t call that lovely place the Avenue. There is no meaning in a name like that” (18). That is, she tries to show affection about objects, whose values are neglected by others, by giving name. Furthermore, this is also the very reason why she does not want to say name of Gilbert-to show disregard and no affection intentionally. On the contrary, that she calls Gilbert’s name after forgiving him shows that she started to respect and like Gilbert. Thus, naming is a tool for Anne to express her considerate mind formed through harsh past.
Naming plays the role of showing who Anne is implicitly and more clearly. If Anne did not care about naming, it would have been harder to find out how Anne tries to view the world hopefully and romantically. That is, making Anne regard naming importantly is a method to emphasize the theme of the novel. That Anne would find romance in her life and be thoughtful even if life is so harsh carries the message that the reader, too can assert individuality, even through a task as simple as naming.