Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Heroine Revisited

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the publishing of L.M. Montgomery's classic, Anne of Green Gables. Spotting a paperback copy on a library shelf labeled "Read and Enjoy--No Check-Out Necessary," I was seized with a whim to re-read this childhood favorite.

My introduction to Anne came in fifth grade when I received the book as a Christmas gift. I devoured it, then went on to read the rest of the series, plus everything else by L.M. Montgomery that I could get my hands on.

Like countless young girls of the century, I was instantly infatuated. To my ten-year-old eyes, Anne embodied the qualities I most admired: romanticism (the variety that scorns boy-craziness but idealizes the natural world), imagination, nostalgic reluctance to grow up, spunk, intelligence, optimism, ability to win friends. Her much-bemoaned faults, such as culinary disasters and hair of an undesirable color, only endeared her to me. Here was hope that I, too, could one day grow from an awkward, insecure adolescent into a capable, willowy beauty, beloved and admired by all.

Twenty years later, my perception of Anne of Green Gables--both the book and the character--is completely different. Now I see that it's the marvelously funny and tender account of how a love-hungry, homeless girl and her adoptive adults (a middle-aged sister and brother) come to love each other as family and smooth out each others' rough edges. I was quite surprised to find myself sympathizing as much with the adults as with Anne herself. I chuckled at Anne's antics, perhaps recalling my own experiences as a short-term foster parent or aunt.

Coming from the early 1900's, the book is remarkable in its portrayal of an academically successful and ambitious girl (at sixteen, she wins the highest academic honors in teacher's school and plans to study for a B.A.). The author is female, as are the majority of key characters in the book. Radio show guests in a recent centennial conversation about Anne's literary influence suggested that Anne of Green Gables deserves a place among the Tom Sawyers, Huck Finns, and other mostly male protagonists of classic juvenile literature.

We'd all be better off for it.


  1. yeah, except that it's a GIRLY book! ;o)

  2. I respectfully disagree, and respond with two questions:
    1. Have you read it?
    2. Would you classify Tom Sawyer, Holes, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Catcher in the Rye, Ender's Game, The Hobbit, etc. as BOY-Y books (i.e. suitable reading for boys only because the protagonists are boys and therefore the content is entirely irrelevant to females)? --ME