Anne of Green Gables, a Heroine Who Shows that Happily Ever After is a Little Dull and That’s Okay

Woot! Anne of Green Gables!!!! I love this series, have loved it almost my entire life since my Mom first read it aloud to me when I was 6. And in many ways it defined my identity as a woman and my life goals, spoke to something no other text does. Mostly, it spoke to the beauty and happiness of every day woman’s work.

What I find really interesting is the people for whom Anne of Green Gables DOESN’T work. My Mom absolutely adored the books when she was a little girl, and I absolutely adored the books when I was a little girl. Meanwhile, my sister never really loved them. And many of my current friends never really loved them. I found this totally mysterious, because to me the appeal of the AoGG books, and really all the LM Montgomery fiction, was universal. It was about the small details of a comfortable little life, a very female life. Making your house pleasant, worrying about people in your community, staying in touch with old friends, telling family stories, watching children grow up and making sure they are fed and educated and clothed, caring for the sick, burying the dead.

Manga Classics Anne of Green Gables by L.M Montgomery, Crystal Chan,  Paperback | Barnes & Noble®
Apparently they are massively popular in Japan? Not sure what that means.

This is a choice the books, and Anne the character, consciously made. Anne was talented and well-educated. When she was a young woman, she had a chance to seriously pursue a career as a writer and educator. She rose to the position of principal of a high school and could have gone on beyond that, and she had short stories published and encouragement and connections with other writers. But then the boy she loved proposed and she decided that the life she wanted was one embedded within a family and a community, following the soft rhythms of day to day existance.

What makes Anne unique in the realm of heroines, I think, is that this was clearly a CHOICE. If you look at Pollyanna, for instance, all she ever thought of or wanted was to make a home. She never pursued higher education, never seemed interested in anything beyond relationships, was just a sweet young wife in waiting. Or if you look at Jo from Little Women, she fought hard against marriage and only succumbed when she saw a way to marry her ambition to her marriage. But Anne, she had two paths in front of her. On the one side, a life in the greater world. On the other side, a life focused on home and community. And she chose the second, and did not regret it.

File:P 307--Pollyanna grows up.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
I am of course talking about Pollyanna as she is in the second novel, “Pollyanna Grows Up”. Torn between her childhood friend, his adoptive father, and a rich boy she cured of his crippledness.

For me, these books work. Not because I am an unambitious woman who dreams of romance, but because I am someone who cannot feel fully happy and complete without that home and community involvement. Like Anne, I taught Sunday School, I was on church committees, I joined a quilting group so I could hear all the gossip, I dream of new curtain colors and enjoy rearranging my family heirlooms around my house and telling people the stories of where they came from. There is a place for highly intelligent curious interested people who really like community involvement, really like the rhythm of day to day life. And that is who Montgomery wrote for, and that is the Anne she created.

In the first book, Anne is introduced as an orphan with an extremely rough background, a lot of semi-abusive foster homes and dehumanizing institutions. She finds, for the first time, some sense of community and security when she arrives at the Green Gables house to be fostered by a spinster and bachelor brother and sister. In the first book, we are introduced to Anne’s wild imagination and almost brilliant intelligence. But we are also introduced to her bone deep loneliness and need to feel loved. In the second book, she has become a young woman, a teacher in the local school, and she is finally able to give back to the community she loves. She and her friends found an “improvement society”, she is more active in church, in other social activities around the area. In the third book, she goes to college and for the first time experiences life in the greater world and considers how that would be.

The third book, I think, is by far the most interesting for how it explores the choices women make and how they make them. Ultimately, AoGG is set in a time and place where marriage defines the life a woman has more than anything. Even the absence of marriage defines it. Anne arrives in college, leaving her hometown for a long time for the first time, and is immediately desperately lonely. She clings to the few people she knows already, and quickly finds roommates with whom she can set up a household. This is not a young woman enjoying the freedom of a big city, this is a young woman torn up with the loneliness of a big city and trying somehow to build an island within it that feels like “home”. The title, “Anne of the Island”, even nods to that. In the first book, she found her place within one house. In the second, it was within her town. And now, in the third one, she is finding her place and identity from the whole of Prince Edward Island and, more than that, BUILDING an island of home within her larger city.

Anne of Green Gables | Anne of green, Anne of green gables, Green gables

Halfway through the book, Anne meets the man who fits all her romantic ideals, and now suddenly her future life choices have become reality. Does she want to marry this “perfect” man, who is rich and handsome and sensitive, who can give her all the worldly comforts she wants? In the end, she rejects him. It is an awareness that “home” is not made of wealth and comfort, but rather of human connection, needing someone with whom she will always feel comfortable and happy. Which gives her a new future suddenly. If the “perfect” man cannot satisfy her, then she is left to consider higher education, more career possibilities, a life of travel and adventure. But again, it is not quite what she wants. She loves her home, she loves making a home, travel and adventure and career success cannot give her that.

Enter Gilbert. The Gilbert character is as original as the Anne character. He is surprisingly opaque, we are often told that Gilbert made her laugh, or Gilbert dreamed with her, or Gilbert challenged her in school, but we the reader are not really shown that. We see Gilbert through the lens of Anne, even more so as the books continue. But again, it gets back to choice. Women look at the men in their lives in terms of what they will mean for them, not in terms of who they are themselves. And for Anne, Gilbert isn’t quite like any of the heroes in the books she has read and their romance isn’t quite like the romances she devours. He is the handsomest boy in school who all the girls love, but he is also a bit of a prankster and a jokester. He teases her, he challenges her in tests, he is a part of every day life and not some mysterious fantasy. After high school, they become friends for real, and talk all the time. Just talk. They have jokes and they laugh and they enjoy doing things together, but there is no moment when they dance together or he kisses her or any of that nonsense. When Anne finally realizes her love for him it is an awakening not just to Gilbert, but what love can be in her life. It doesn’t mean she must lose herself and what she enjoys, it doesn’t mean she has to stop her career, it just means she will always be happy and at home. Gilbert is handsome and fun, but he isn’t some romantic mysterious stranger, he is the nice boy down the road. How often does that nice boy end up the hero?

And that is what happens. Anne marries Gilbert, and her life becomes dull, because happiness is dull. There’s is not a marriage of crazy highs and lows, of drama and misunderstandings. Gilbert is there, steady, in the background. Anne’s interests remain the home, the community, her friends, and eventually her own family. Most heroine’s of this era either disappear into bland happiness post marriage with no more books about them, or enjoy wild swings of tragedy and highs and lows of life after marriage. Not so with Anne. Her life is as interesting post-marriage as it was before. She loves local gossip, she loves involving herself in other people’s lives, and she loves fussing about her beautiful house. That’s what makes her marriage so beautiful and different. It doesn’t actually change ANYTHING. She chose a husband, and a life, that allows her to keep all the things she loved about life before marriage and just make them slightly better.

Jonathan Crombie, Gilbert Blythe, and the "Perfect Man Archetype" | Quill  and Quire
This Gilbert casting is PERFECT!!!! Nice, handsome, but in a non-threatening “normal” kind of way.

So that’s this series. If you read it and think “wait, she marries GILBERT? And never becomes a famous author or anything???” then these books are not for you. If you think “why are we hearing so much about the color of the room and which quilt is on the bed?” then these books are not for you. And if you think (and how DARE you think this!!!!) that church meetings and quilting groups and stories about small town drama at weddings and funerals don’t matter, or are boring, then these books are DEFINITELY not for you.

There are plenty of books about protagonists who have strange gifts as children and go on to fabulous worldly success. And there are plenty of books about young women who dream of romance and then fall in love. But if you want a book about an intelligent unusual child who grows up into a woman who finds happiness where ever she is, even in a life of “no real importance”, than this series is for you.

I should mention a few things about the books related to “real life”. Montgomery herself grew up in a small farming town, raised by loving but stern grandparents. She had many jobs as a young woman, made many friends, and was very popular. She was courted by the local minister and married him at an older age than usual (closer to 30 than 20) and was very happy at the marriage. And then after marriage, her husband became deeply deeply depressed. She was forced into a role as his caregiver, following him around as his career sank lower and lower, never again to feel like she had a home and stability. I believe that the early Anne books were written in nostalgia, Montgomery remembering her childhood before the disaster marriage. But the later books where her fantasy, what she had hoped her marriage would be, a stable kind of partnership that would let her be happy and part of a community, instead of writing for a living (no matter how much fame the writing brought her).

L. M. Montgomery – Delphi Classics
A young smart popular pretty woman, whose life went to heck after marriage in the most boring draggy exhausting way possible. Her husband was a depressive, one of her sons grew up to be a rapist, and she herself ended up killing herself with an overdose. But the Anne books are a chance to say “hey, what if I had married a nice calm stable man instead? Could I have had a very boring normal happy life and never even realized how lucky I was?”

The other VERY VERY important thing is that the Anne series culminates in Rilla of Ingleside, about Anne’s youngest daughter. One thing about this book is that we get to see Anne through Rilla’s eyes, as a wise nice kind mother, but a person who is kind of “old” and “boring” and in the background of her life. That is a good thing. Anne in this book should not be the center of life for her daughter, she should be stepping back and taking her place as a matron in the community rather than insisting on still being young and vibrant as in the earlier books. In the same way, Gilbert is now an older respected hardworking and tired doctor, not a charming teasing boyish new graduate.

But the more important thing about the book is that it is a written account, almost day by day, of the homefront during WWI. All these other books showed the women getting together for church bazaars and quilting bees and gossip sessions and everything else. And now we have a book that shows the culmination of all that “women’s work”. The women of Canada kept the flag flying and the world going during WWI. They volunteered for farmwork, they fend their families on almost no food, they knitted socks and rolled bandages and did all sorts of things. While the more traditional heroines in this book are off joining the Red Cross and doing amazing work, and all the boys go off in their turn to join the war, we have Rilla and her “boring” mother Anne simply staying home and working. This matters, this is vital, this is not dull or forgotten and overlooked, this is bedrock that keeps life going.

A Woman Too Soon”: Rilla of Ingleside and World War I - The Toast

So I loved these books. And now, during quarantine, I am making masks and hosting virtual events for my friends and spending a lot of time with my parents and staying in touch with old friends and doing all the things that Anne would be doing. I’m not going to go out and volunteer, I’m not going to make a big splash, I will never be famous or appreciated and I honestly don’t want that. I just want to feel loved and at home and like I am giving something back to my little world.

26 thoughts on “Anne of Green Gables, a Heroine Who Shows that Happily Ever After is a Little Dull and That’s Okay

  1. I too loved these books. (as well as some of the T.V. renderings.) But in retrospect while Anne did choose her life, no one asks the questions: why does she have to choose? Why does no one ask men to choose? She chose a sweet domestic life, but she also chose a life of non-loneliness. Why did/do women have to choose between a partnered life and an independent life. I still love the books but loving them as a child also let me to false dichotomys which it took years to shed.

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    • The question for me isn’t “why do you have to choose?” because you do have to choose, you just do. That’s how the world is, you are constantly balancing different needs in your life. But what I reject is “why do you have to choose between only two options”. It’s okay to say “I am turning down the slightly more prestigious job because it means longer hours and I want to be with my family”. Or, “I am choosing to be a stay at home Mom but I also want to work part time for the school district”. There’s a whole world of grey between partnered and independent.

      Anyway, as I see the Anne books, she chose in a shade of grey kind of way. She liked teaching, she liked writing, but what she really liked was contributing as part of a community. As the doctor’s wife, she had a position and a job (just as Montgomery in real life did as a minister’s wife) that was similar to her role as a teacher. And she kept writing after marriage, the later books make a point of mentioning the occasional story or poem she had published. If she had married Roy, it would have been complete Domestic Bliss. No writing, no contributing to a community, nothing.

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  2. Ugh I wrote a whole response a few hours ago and then my computer crashed. Let’s try again with some fixes to my computer. I’ll try to keep this organized as possible (though warning, I have a bad tendency to go meandering when I really like something).

    1. Have you read ‘Gift of Wings’? It’s an LMM biography and it discusses all aspects of her life – writing, relationships with her husband, family, sons, community, finances, business. It’s a great read and it’s here! https://lmmonline.org/lucy-maud-montgomery-the-gift-of-wings/

    2. It’s interesting that you said the books are for people who are concerned with the colors of rooms and quilts (not untrue, I once spent a year at undergrad making sure my face towel, bath towel, bedsheet, blankets, and scarf-decor all matched each other) but is it possible that the books made us interested in these things, since most people read them at such a formative stage? I read them at age 11 and it definitely let me see the love brought to each item of homemaking and how important it is.

    3. I’ve already talked about this (oh dear!) but a huge failing of Anne (the series) is that it went on to be about Anne for entirely too long. It released before LMM had a steady following and was a massive hit, so anything less than perfection for the heroine was unexpected, leading to Anne not being seen as flawed after Book 2. She makes a mistake or two in Book 3, but it’s all gone and nobody judges her, especially not the reader. She leads on Roy (essentially, for those times)? Well, but it’s okay, because we all rooted for Gilbert anyway. She makes over Katherine, Leslie, and almost every unhappy person she comes across. She’s utterly horrified about Owen and Leslie, despite her ” ‘ologies and ‘isms”? The reader is supposed to get it (though I confess, while I see the point, I was confused that it was Anne who had such a violent reaction. Discomfort I understand, but that reaction was very surprising). She leaves Mary Vance to the charge of other children who are essentially also starving, despite knowing what’s happening? Eh, they’re kids. Anne is never allowed to be less than perfect, even as background character (Book 8 and 9 and the other Anne stories (though of course I understand it in Book 8, she’s Rilla’s mom and Rilla will think her perfect)), because she starts off as being able to do anything she puts her mind to. We rarely, if ever, see her fail and because of the books’ popularity it became impossible for LMM to show her failing at anything. She has shadows in the first two books, but after that it’s almost all sunshine and even when the shadows come, they’re really never touched on. She essentially becomes a Y/N for the reader in later books. Emily climbs the Alpine Path (the romantic resolution often seems hastily tacked on to me, though it’s beautifully written in other parts of the books) and Pat loses her way (both metaphorically and literally). Even Valancy has actual flaws to overcome. Jane is well. She’s Jane of Lantern Hill. Eh, honestly. There’s so many others, but these ones come to me off the top of my head.

    4. Oh no, I said I wouldn’t meander and yet. You’ll be reading a wall of text 😦 I’m sorry!

    5. As for Gilbert, my 11-year old self really liked him. I’d been a sucker for enemies-friends-lovers stories (Mr. Knightley, hello!) and an amazing line from Anne of Avonlea really brought out the best of what Gilbert means to Anne: “Anne had no sooner uttered the phrase, “home o’dreams,” than it captivated her fancy and she immediately began the erection of one of her own. It was, of course, tenanted by an ideal master, dark, proud, and melancholy; but oddly enough, Gilbert Blythe persisted in hanging about too, helping her arrange pictures, lay out gardens, and accomplish sundry other tasks which a proud and melancholy hero evidently considered beneath his dignity. Anne tried to banish Gilbert’s image from her castle in Spain but, somehow, he went on being there, so Anne, being in a hurry, gave up the attempt and pursued her aerial architecture with such success that her “home o’dreams” was built and furnished before Diana spoke again. ” Anne needs Gilbert to stay calm, just as much as Gilbert needs Anne to come out of the prosaic. They both have the others’ qualities, they just bring them out better in each other. Roy, additionally, does not laugh and as a punster, I can tell you that that’s unacceptable.

    6. Okay, last part I promise: No matter what, the first book just has some unexplainable sparkle to it that’s not there in the others. I save it for some very special, special moments. LMM’s special feature is how vividly she paints a community and that’s a talent we never see flag.

    (Sorry again!)

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    • YAAAAAY! Finally a long response! I am SO EXCITED! I made myself finish all my night time chores so I could really FOCUS.

      1. I haven’t but it’s reviews and discussion from that book that informed my sense of her life as kind of tragic and leading to an escape in fiction, along with a need to write to survive. The kind of life that might make you think “wouldn’t it be nice if I had a responsible husband and could just spend my days thinking about curtains?”

      2. YES! Oh, this makes complete sense! I do think that not every person will respond no matter what, but for sure Anne’s sense of space and place and the importance of making a home had a big effect on me as well at a young age. And the really funny thing is that my mother also read them at a young age so I was getting this attitude from Anne, and also from my Anne-raised mother. And not in a brainwashing gender roles sort of way, but just the dignity and importance of keeping a good home in a very practical way. Almost no one in the books has servants, and they are mostly making the food they grow, housework is life and death and hardwork and deserves respect.

      3. YES YES YES YES! Let’s dig into this book by book! I think Anne’s fictional development cannot be separated from the publication history. The first book was intended to be a standalone and contains a whole world in just one book. Anne as this damaged love starved strange creature, all the way to the moment when she and Marilla come together in full love and sacrifice. That’s the deepest love of the whole series, I think maybe that is what everyone responds to. Marilla and Anne and Matthew have the deepest love of all. But once it was a hit, the natural thing was to turn it into a 3 volume novel of the usual type of that era. Girlish story, young woman story that flirts with romance, and then finally the culmination where a girl grows into a woman and settles into her place in the world. Avonlea and Island go together as a perfect pair, one leading right into the other. The Gilbert romance slowly deepens, Anne grows up more and more and figures out what she wants in life, and it culminates with her accepting Gilbert’s proposal and choosing her final destination in life. And yes, she does lead on Roy a bit, and the book takes her to task for it. But it is treated (in a way that I think was a bit radical for the era) as simply part of growing up and figuring out what she wanted. As a reader, I was far more angry with her for turning down Gilbert than leading on Roy. But again, the book shows that she was just young and confused and growing up and it is okay for a young woman to not know her own mind and go between two men. Until she figures out all of a sudden exactly what she wants. That’s it, that’s the culmination of the character growth. It’s a Bildungsroman, and she’s grown up now, so the central tension is gone. It would be like if we read a book about Harry Potter as a married father of 2. Just, why? I also think that might reflect a truth of Anne’s character? The tension in the earlier books came from her inability to separate her dreams from reality, it was painful for her. But then she grew up and settled down and that internal tension went away. I found Anne in the later books a reasonable adult version of Anne in the younger books. She still had the same interests and fancies, just was better at controlling them. She’s not creating any conflict on her own any more and Montgomery can’t bear to throw any external problems at her. Like, can you imagine a Rainbow Valley in which Anne is crippled after the birth of Shirley and spends the rest of the book trapped in her bed living in dreams? It would be a way more interesting book, but so SAD. The problem is that publication pressure made Montgomery try to make this kind of boring settled woman into the heroine of her books. Leslie should be the heroine of House of Dreams, Rainbow Valley should be about some random children not Anne’s kids, and Rilla is the only one that makes sense where she is fully not the heroine.

      4. SO HAPPY! Very depressing not having any really long comments on this post all day.

      5. Yes! Exactly! Gilbert is the teasing steady happy partner to her. Anne dreams of romance and perfection, but Gilbert is the one who brings her down to where the world really is. I love that start to finish, Green Gables to Rilla, we see Gilbert looking for that wild spark in Anne everyone else seeks to snuff out and enjoys it. And that Anne start to finish enjoys his sort of steady stubborn reliability. I also think this is a great message for the readers. Romance isn’t the wild house of dreams, it’s the person you just enjoy spending time with.

      6. Yep, that first book is something magic. It’s not about a girl growing into a woman or falling in love or anything like that, it’s about a lonely orphan finding a place to be home, an identity and community.

      On Thu, Jan 28, 2021 at 9:22 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I think Anne does have a housekeeper, Susan, the mother of Anne’s ‘little brown boy.’ And you’re right! The books would be much, much better if Anne weren’t related to HoD or RV. However, when I mean Anne doesn’t have failings, I mean there’s no issue even in the smallest things, no throwaway comments about how she’s gaining weight (like Diana does, which makes up a lot of her very minor dialog), or losing any of her looks (Philippa, who LMM seemed to feel had to “lose” to Anne, after being smarter, prettier, more popular, and wealthier than her, by marrying someone poorer and losing her looks “after the babies came”) or anything that’s the matter with her (maybe a dress gone wrong?), only with external sources (Aunt Mary Maria!) which isn’t…realistic at all? Even Harry with 2 kids would worry about a receding hairline. Only Leslie seems to escape unscathed by essentially leaving after Book 5 and then reappearing only through her son – who marries Rilla Blythe. Everyone treats Anne differently, seeing her as ‘different’ and less-gossipy (less gossipy is pretty accurate to how LMM used to be treated as a minister’s wife, to her annoyance and frustration) and with great taste and distinction. A certificate to a character’s likeability is if they like Anne and are maybe a bit in awe of her (Philippa, Rosemary, several minor characters). If they don’t or see her as human, there’s something wrong (several villains and of course, the Pyes).

        I think that’s exactly what’s so lovely about the first book – the character is so clearly drawn, she’s alive. It’s the story of one person, not any other person. I think I read this somewhere else on this blog (perhaps about DDLJ), but it’s a story about a person. It doesn’t attempt to stand in for every experience of every girl in that place and time. So you feel very strongly for her because you also see yourself as a person with internal and external happiness and struggles, not just internal happiness and some external struggles.

        This actually makes me think of Little Women – the women all grow up (though I am sad we don’t get to see Amy in Book 4, she was definitely my favorite, but of course I understand why), but even as they grow up, they keep their flaws, because it’s almost impossible to grow out of all your flaws and strong emotions. Jo and Laurie cry after they find out about Dan and the Marches are too proud for someone of their family to marry Dan.

        AoGG is a Bildungsroman, but then I think the best way to sort it would be 1, 2, 3, 8 and have all the other books be separate or a collection of short stories. It’s very odd to read about Anne lecturing others on fashion (Katherine) and love rules (Owen and Leslie again), when we’ve never seen anything of the sort from her before. I think grown up Anne is a pretty reasonable extrapolation from our expectations of Book 1!Anne, there’s few surprises. By Book 2, we kind of understood that Anne wasn’t going to be a professional author and would definitely marry Gilbert and she’d always be a little purple-prosy. But they’re almost like a child imagining what their grown up version will be like – we never factor in those weird accidents, the sniffling colds, accidentally paying a bill late, etc. There are some areas in the Blythes Are Quoted (her poems and the stories about the Blythe family) where I saw some amazing Older!Anne and that made me realize what was missing from Book4-7!Anne – the lack of any internal conflict at all.

        I feel like it sounds like I’m putting AoGG down, but I’m not! I genuinely love the series, but there’s niggling areas that make me think “wait-what?” But Montgomery definitely lets me see pine trees, not pig sties.

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        • Okay, I see what you mean. And yeah, that is strange. There’s no more big social miss-steps, no dreamily forgetting and burning the cake, no dressing too young for her age, none of that. Again, excepting Rilla. There’s a throw away comment in Rilla about how she now sees her mother as a “chum” which she never did before. And I think in the story when Rilla stands up and screams at the movie theater, there’s a comment about Anne laughing hysterically which feels like the old Anne. The closest we come is that one jealousy story in Ingleside which is okay, but sort of feels like it comes out of nowhere since everything up until then has been so perfect.

          Yes! The first book is where Anne comes through the strongest. I think that is something Montgomery struggles with all of her heroines as the age. Maybe because she comes to them as children when feelings and personalities are so strong and clear, she has a hard time toning them down as they grow up without losing their essential spirit? When I look at the few heroines she came to as adults (Valancy most definitely), it’s a whole different thing, she expresses their personality through inner thoughts and unsaid things and hidden longings, not just what they blurt out the way children do.

          I think Alcott, unlike Montgomery, was just more interested in adulthood!!! She liked remembering her childhood and stuff, but she found the world of the adult exciting and strange and different just as much as a child. Maybe because she had more adventures in adulthood than Montgomery trapped in a bad marriage? Or maybe because her childhood was less idyllic than Montgomery’s and she was glad to escape it and take control of her life?

          Yes, for sure, AoGG is a three volume novel, with a slightly related epilogue showing Anne’s daughter. All the other books are nice enough, but feel like they were forced on Montgomery, not a natural part of Anne’s story. On the other hand, Eva below mentioned she stopped after Avonlea, and I think my sister did too, and that is very bad. Island closes the story, the Anne in Avonlea may have a pre-destined ending, but it is the journey that gets her there which matters.

          On Fri, Jan 29, 2021 at 12:12 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • You’re right about how LMM struggles to reconcile childhood and adulthood, perhaps because her own transitions into love, work, and school weren’t exactly smooth and she can’t put her heroines through that. Valancy is such a good heroine, she’s unusual and funny and it’s easy to see why people would like her – but also dismiss her. She’s a well-rounded character.That’s such a good point!

            LMA was definitely less physically tied down, partly due to a lack of partner and children and having a job that could be done from anywhere and also partly due to their mental makeup. LMM realized pretty early on that routines and family stabilized her and she kept craving approval from people who never seemed to give it to her, whereas LMA was given good approval growing up and her own family was so bizarre that if she were to crave approval, it would be from Emerson, not family, leaving her free to leave the familial-community cycle LMM was always stuck in in her personal life. LMA could afford to go on a trip to Europe with only her sister and then alone, not worry about a husband and what society would think. The control issue in adulthood is a really good point! LMM never really had that opportunity, since she wanted a family and kids and a community and a career and that balancing act is really, really hard to pull off, especially if you want perfection, which was necessary for LMM, unlike LMA who wrote as a way to primarily earn money.

            AoI definitely closes out the cycle, stopping after Avonlea is a little…off. Stopping after the first book is possible though. It ends well, since it was designed as a one-off.

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          • Part of why I think some people might stop after Avonlea is because you feel like you know where it is going. AoGG is this lovely self-contained story and you get excited to see what happens next, so you move on to Avonlea. By the end of Avonlea it is clear that Anne and Gilbert are going to get married and she is going to be a housewife and not a famous author and it feels like “what’s left to find out? Why keep reading?” But that’s why I find Island so interesting!!!! Because even if the reader knows, and Anne knows, and even Gilbert knows, down deep, that this is what will always happen, the journey for how they find that place is important. She doesn’t marry Gilbert because she graduated high school and it’s the thing to do, she married him because she knows for sure 100% that he is what she wants in every way.

            On Fri, Jan 29, 2021 at 11:34 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • I loved the Anne books so much as a kid, I read them over and over. (She was part of my pantheon of redheaded heroines.) But I lent them to a neighbor who never gave them back, so I haven’t read them as an adult. This post just brought back a bunch of details I thought were gone from my brain. In the college story, when she’s leading on Roy and fixing people, is there a pair of dog statues named Gog and Magog?

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      • Yes it is! And you should definitely read them again as an adult. With an awareness that the first three and the last one are the best, and the rest are just nice enough filler that Montgomery wrote for the money.

        On Thu, Jan 28, 2021 at 11:35 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • To me, it makes sense that Anne would choose family and familiarity over adventure and excitement. Why? Because before coming to the Gilberts’, she was in an extremely unstable environment and needed stability to ground herself. She just needed to recognize it and come to terms with it, which she did of course.

      I love the Anne books, of course, but Montgomery wrote other books which are good reClads. If you want to read a more mature story, I recommend “The Blue Castle,” in which the heroine leaps from a life of drudgery to marrying a virtual stranger because of a mistake. It’s a romantic fantasy of a sort, but it’s a more realistic one. The book was published in 1926, and you can see there are changes, and there are some things that stay the same in small towns.

      Two other LMM series I love are “Pat of Silver Birch,”and “Emily Climbs.” In fact I recommend just about anything she wrote. I can imagine her plots and characters being transferred to Bollywood films.

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      • Ha! I just put up a Blue Castle post! It was the DCIB Book Club pick for this week. Please comment over there, I’d love to talk about it with you.

        Excellent point about Anne already experiencing insecurity. She could have chosen a life of career and travel and ambition, but that would mean she lost her hardwon sense of family and home.

        On Sun, Jan 31, 2021 at 9:59 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. What do you think, Anne and Gilbert as the prototypes for Sanam and Fawad in Zindagi Gulzar Hai? Sanam also has to come to a place of accepting that domesticity could make her happy.

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    • Hmm. Maybe. Except Anne comes from a starting point of valuing love. She knows that a home and friends and family are the most important thing, just struggles with how to balance that with her desire for fame and fortune and applause. While I think Sanam is so used to love (from her mother and sisters) that she doesn’t value or recognize it when Fawad offers it to her.

      On Thu, Jan 28, 2021 at 11:38 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Oh yes, Sanam’s journey is different from Anne’s, and her home life is more Jane Austen than L.M. Montgomery. I just meant how she and Fawad start out in school together. Both excel, he’s in the more secure social position and teases her mercilessly, she genuinely dislikes him for a time. But her standoffishness draws him, and eventually he learns she’s human by hurting her. They go through a friend period but there’s always an interesting friction. After many mishaps and missed chances, romance blooms.

        Now we just need to come up with the Pakistani soap opera version of Anne’s life. Gilbert’s mother is mean and cunning and disapproves of her son marrying an orphan…

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        • Yes! That sort of falling-in-love-because-they-challenge-each-other. I just wrote a post about the whole concept, wait for it later today 🙂

          On Fri, Jan 29, 2021 at 11:57 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. From your description, I don’t think I ever made it to book 3 – which sounds like the volume that might speak to me at my current point in life.

    While growing up, I always did consider myself a special child. So I kind of expected that I’d go on to change the wider world. That doesn’t seem likely anymore now that I’m finally settled and self-supported. I don’t have the drive anymore to go for a more challenging job. My problem is that it feels like a failure, like I’m just not trying hard enough. And I’m definitely not the perfect home-maker type. I dislike cleaning, my sewing’s all crooked, and I think I’d go crazy if all I was doing all day was picking out drapes. I’m not even that social a person and feel more comfortable on the outskirts of a group, where I don’t have to join in every activity every time.

    On the other hand, I’m proud of my ability to feed my family, and I love being a parent. We’re applying to foster a child right now, and I think the aforementioned is the reason why I volunteered to stay home half days with the kids. It’s not a black and white decision obviously, because we have washing machines nowadays and don’t cook our meals from scratch out of the kitchen garden. So that does leave room for working a little on the side, just no big world-changing career.

    And then I look at the fantasies I had as a kid and realize they contained more picket fences than awards, so I am actually already living my Happily Ever After. It’s just so hard to let go of the expectations.

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    • So exciting that you are applying to foster! What fun, getting to meet a new little person and learn all about them.

      And yes, this is exactly what I was getting at with the Anne books. She was someone who was “special” as a child, who got an advanced degree, who had all kinds of opportunities and promise. And then instead she found happiness with her home and her children and her husband, and that’s okay. It doesn’t make her less special, it’s the choice she made.

      When I was growing up, it felt like the stories I heard were either the Feminine Mystique type about miserable housewives, or the perfect homemaker type about women who would never consider anything else. But that didn’t fit with the women I knew. My mother has an advanced degree and worked part time off and on my whole childhood, but she was happiest when she was with her kids. And the families we gravitated towards were similar, educated interested in the world kind of women who preferred to stay home with their kids to working full time. Heck, even my grandmothers were the same. Both of them with college degrees and careers before marriage, which was very unusual back in the 1940s, and both of them sincerely happy to be homemakers. Well, homemakers with other things on the side, like you said. I guess that’s why I like Anne. She loves her home and she loves her kids, but she also needs to write long letters to her many friends around the world, to occasionally have little poems and short stories published, to be involved in church committees and outreach things. She has balance in her life is I guess what it is, she is in and out of the home at the same time and that makes her happy.

      On Fri, Jan 29, 2021 at 1:21 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  5. No super long comment or critical analysis from me since it’s been so long since I first read the books, but I appreciate this analysis and it makes me want to dig up my copy of AoGG (hopefully, I didn’t give it away last summer). One thing that I really like though is your statement that Anne and Gilbert have a dull, happy life together because happiness is dull, which really resonates with me because whenever I read romance there’s a tendency for the author to send their characters off deliriously happy into the sunset or if it’s a series then the author always makes it a point to tell us just how happy they are with no problems whatsoever in any following books. That always rubbed me the wrong way and I think your insight speaks to that feeling because to me it’s okay to not necessarily portray characters as being SO deliriously happy, but for some reason authors seem to feel like we need that as an audience.

    Now I’ve also gotta go pick up my copy of Betsy-Tacy because Anne’s journey feels similar to Betsy’s in that I think she struggles between Joe and pursuing a writing career, but it’s been so long since I read it that I may be completely misremembering…

    Whoops and here I said this wouldn’t be a long comment!

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    • Well, now I am all excited to write another post about Betsy-Tacy!!!! And some big picture concept for it too.

      And yes, Anne in the later books has a nice stable life and kids, but she isn’t super rich, and she isn’t being romanced by Gilbert every minute of the day, it’s just a normal life.

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  6. Damn. Nice write up. Now I want to read all the books again, except I don’t want to learn more about LM Montgomery, that was too sad. I’m sharing this with my childhood best friend who loved AOGG with me, and with whom I shared a massive crush on Gilbert.

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    • LMM’s childhood and young adulthood was mostly very happy. Her father remarried a woman she didn’t get along with which is why she was mostly raised by her grandparents, but besides that, it sounds pretty great. I find that really interesting, because in her books it tends to be the childhood and young womanhood that is difficult and traumatic, and post-marriage is smooth sailing, while in her life it was the opposite.

      On Sun, Jan 31, 2021 at 3:57 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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