Yaaaaaaaaaaaaay, another Anne book to discuss! And we have so many left to go! This is just delightful for me, I hope we don’t run out of things to discuss.
Anne is the new teacher at the local one room schoolhouse, choosing to stay home and work and support Marilla instead of pursue her own ambitions. She and her young friends start an Avonlea Improvement Society to try to help the village. She devotes herself to her students, winning over Bad Boy Anthony Pye by giving in and whipping him one time, and immediately bewitching the poetic soul Paul Irving. She also encourages Marilla to adopt distant relations, orphan 6 year old twins Davy and Dora. And she helps bring together a late in life romance between Paul’s father and his old girlfriend Lavender Lewis. After 2 years of events and accomplishments, the widowed Rachel Lynde offers to move in with Marilla. This allows her to finally leave home and follow her dreams to college, along with her now close friend Gilbert.
The theme of the book is in the title, Anne is going from a childhood life restricted to her home, into a life in which she becomes part of the larger community of Avonlea. Which brings up all kinds of interesting things that will carry through the rest of the Anne books! As is only correct, this is Anne maturing into something close to her final self, so of course what she does in this book she will do again in all later books.
Anne is closer to children and older people, not those of her own generation. Why, do we think?
This book shows the slow distancing of Anne from Diana, as Diana increasingly enjoys spending time with the pleasant but dull Fred Wright. At the same time, Anne embraces the naughty Davy, the brilliant Paul, and the fanciful older Lavender Lewis. Also the grumpy new neighbor Mr. Harrison. Is this because that bond with your agemates is something from childhood more than adulthood? When becoming part of the larger community means you gravitate towards those who are similar to you despite age?
Or is it part of Anne’s character? That’s why in later books she bonds with another series of young people and older folks? Is it because of Matthew and Marilla? She was raised by an older couple and thus learned to enjoy and appreciate the different way older people see the world. And, on the other hand, as a lonely strange child she is always looking for other children who need someone to understand them?
Could Anne have been happy forever teaching?
Right from the start of the book, Anne is facing the future with optimism and confidence. At the end of the previous book, she gave up a scholarship and a dream of college, and dealt with grief. And now just a few months later she is dreaming about great success in her teaching career, and planning the improvement society. I think it is a lovely sign of her character that she just digs down and finds the way to be happy, something we saw all the way back when she decided to imagine her room into being pretty her first night at Green Gables. And then she is happy in this book, she accomplishes things with her society and gains the love of her students and finds challenges in her work and satisfaction in life.
But, in the end, she still wants to go to college. I think this is a transition book not just in the series but in Anne’s life as well. No matter how hard she tries, she can’t limit herself to just Avonlea. She craves more, more challenge, more growth, more accomplishment. Not a lot more, if she was that ambitious she wouldn’t be able to find any kind of happiness in Avonlea, but a little more. So I don’t think she could have been forever happy living with Marilla and teaching at the Avonlea school and helping to raise Davy and Dora. But I think she could have been forever happy getting her college degree, and then teaching at a slightly higher level in a home she builds for herself outside of her childhood home. In the end her life took her to marriage and motherhood, but I do think she had a real passion for teaching and satisfaction in it, more than she ever got from her attempts at writing as a career.
What would have happened if Gilbert had revealed his feelings sooner and more forcefully?
Anne and Gilbert are kind of an odd pair in this book because they act as equals, but really aren’t. That is, Gilbert is teaching to save money for college, he knows he will go to college and then medical school. But Anne is looking at life devoted to caring for Marilla, with no end in sight. At the same time, they ARE equals because they are equal in intelligence and, sort of, Spice. That’s what drew them together through out the last book, at first Gilbert was intrigued because Anne wasn’t like the other girls, and then they become cheerful rivals, each driven on by the other, knowing they were the only two on the same level. Now they are friends, both of them with greater vision and quickness than their other friends and age mates. If Gilbert had found the right moment, when Anne felt college was fully fully out of her grasp, if he had promised to care for Marilla as well, I think Anne might have been weak enough to give in. And I think once she let herself try to love him, she would have discovered she loved him along. What do you think? Would Anne always have rejected him until she had a clear sign of love, because that was her standard for herself? Or was there a situation when he could have pressed his advantage?
Do Davy and Dora work as characters, or do they feel more like “cousin Oliver”s?
For those of you who don’t know this shorthand, “cousin Oliver” was a character introduced late in the run of the sitcom The Brady Bunch. He was a transparent attempt to bring in a new cute character as the original children were getting too old. Now Anne is grown up, are Davy and Dora reasonable characters to introduce? Or is it a bit much to believe that Marilla would find herself raising two separate sets of orphans?
I’m gonna say “doesn’t quite work”. It’s fun seeing Anne deal with Davy and Dora, and it’s nice later on when Davy takes over the farm. But, really? The same woman who accidentally adopted an orphan girl is now the only relative available to take in two distantly related children?
My biggest problem is that the situation is handled with so little depth. Marilla and Anne’s relationship was drawn carefully, the slow reveal of the love between them. And here are these two children dumped into the household feeling a little more like temporary fosters than long term loves. The whole thing feels like a poorly thought out plot point to add in some cute kid stories.
Is the ending of the book too tidy, allowing Anne to go to college after all?
I’m gonna say, no! We’ve seen Marilla and Mrs. Lynde’s friendship through out the books, and two old woman keeping house together is a logical idea. Most of all, Marilla’s sensitivity to Anne’s needs would mean that she is going to keep looking for a way to free Anne until she finds it.
As for the money, if Gilbert could make enough to start college after 2 years of teaching, why not Anne?
Does this book feel like a waste of time to you, or do you see the value in the gap year between growing up and college?
When I first read it, it DEFINITELY felt like a waste of time. We know Anne is going away to college, we know she is going to fall in love with Gilbert, what is this strange in between book where nothing happens?
But now I find myself really enjoying it! It’s well-written, it’s entertaining, and it does actually bridge the gap between childhood and young womanhood. Anne goes off to college, and to the flowering of her romance, in a fully formed way. The series would be weaker as a whole without this book, it’s not just a waste of time.
Which little boy do you like best, poetic Paul Irving, tough Anthony Pye, or naughty Davy?
I like Anthony best! He had PERSONALITY!!!! And I appreciate his stand offishness and resistance to being won over. Davy was fun too of course, but a little too young and unchallenging for me. And Paul, frankly, is a bore.