Mirella and Matthew were brother and sister, still living on and running the Cuthbert family farm. She had established herself as a very stoic personality, whereas, he appeared to be a very shy person, who communicated little, even with Mirella! Then along comes this strange little girl, Anne Shirley, who seemingly chatters incessantly, uses words that are way too big for a child of her age to use (I could relate to that!), and has no social filter about what she says to whom. Matthew traveled the 8 miles to Bright River to pick up an orphan boy to help him on the farm, but the only child there was this scrawny little girl. I felt these communicative characteristics were perhaps a result of her never before being allowed free reign, so to speak, over her actions/behaviors. She had lived with people who simply used her as a virtual slave, expecting her to perform household and child-rearing tasks, with no time to "play" or actually be a child, not even her own person! She was forced into an adult role as a child, so when she arrives at the Cuthberts' doorstep, it is virtually the first time she is allowed to express herself, and express herself she does! :)
Anne has obviously learned to use her imagination as an escape (or coping mechanism) from the drudgery of her daily life, and she hesitates not to share her imaginative wanderings with everyone and anyone!
I just love pretty clothes. And I've never had a pretty dress in my life that I can
remember--but of course it's all the more to look forward to, isn't it? And then I
can imagine that I'm dressed gorgeously. This morning when I left the asylum I
felt so ashamed because I had to wear this horrid old wincey dress. All the
orphans had to wear them, you know. A merchant in Hopeton last winter
donated three hundred yards of wincey to the asylum. Some people said it was
because he couldn't sell it, but I'd rather believe that it was out of the kindness
of his heart, wouldn't you? (p. 14)
For me, this paragraph pretty much sums up Anne's personality and thought process when she first arrived at age 11. Although Matthew seems to be a very kind person and actually enjoys Anne's company on the drive back to Green Gables, even he thinks of her as a "freckled witch" who was "very different" from the "well-bred" little girls he had seen. Some of the verbiage of this book dates it: "orphan asylum," Anne's claim it wouldn't be so hard to keep her temper is people didn't "twit her about her looks," but the story is timeless.
Then Marilla sends Anne to Sunday School:
She did not think she liked Miss Rogerson, and she felt very miserable; every
other little girl in the class had puffed sleeves. Anne felt that life was really
not worth living without puffed sleeves. (p. 81)
Ah, how quickly we become accustomed to prettier dresses and then desire more. :) And how melodramatic and typical for a pre-teen female is that last sentence? :) In the aftermath of Anne's report of her first experience at church:
Marilla felt helplessly that all this should be sternly reproved, but she was
hampered by the undeniable fact that some of the things Anne had said,
especially about the minister's sermons and Mr. Bell's prayers, was what she
herself had really thought deep down in her heart for years, but had never
given expression to. It almost seemed to her that those secret. unuttered,.
critical thoughts had suddenly taken visible and accusing shape and form in the
person of this outspoken morsel of neglected humanity. (p. 83)
Anne's broken ankle reveals several things. Marilla watches as the Barry family and other girls approach with Anne:
At that moment Marilla had a revelation. In the sudden stab of fear that
pierced to her very heart she realized what Anne had come to mean to her.
She would have admitted that she liked Anne--nay, that she was very fond of
Anne. But now she knew as she hurried wildly down the slope that Anne was
dearer to her than anything on earth. (p. 186)
For not only was Anne redeemed by Matthew and Marilla, but she also redeemed them and brought more love to them in their life than she might ever realize.
In speaking of those true friends who visited while her ankle healed, Anne states:
...even Superintendent Bell came to see me, and he's really a very fine man. Not
a kindred spirit, of course; but still I like him and I'm awfully sorry I ever
criticized his prayers. I believe now he really does mean them, only he has got
into the habit of saying them as if he didn't. He could get over that if he'd take
a little trouble. I gave him a good broad hint. I told him how I tried to make my
own little private prayers interesting. (p. 188)
She was a good-hearted soul, always trying to help others, in whatever way she thought possible.
Montomery's use of language is virtually unmatched, in my opinion. I could relate so easily to Anne's outspoken ways, Marilla's realization that her own unspoken thoughts were given voice by this "morsel," and Matthew's oft-repeated, "Well, now, I dunno..." All are priceless! Anne uses her imagination to immediately rename some of the Green Gables' landmarks: "The Avenue" becomes "The White Way of Delight," Barry's pond" becomes "The Lake of Shining Waters." I could particularly relate to the descriptions of nature through Anne's imaginative, appreciative, and fresh eyes.
Marilla becomes very angry with Anne early on for her angry outburst at Rachel Lynde for calling her "skinny and homely" with "hair as red as carrots." As Marilla leaves Anne in her room until she can apologize to Mrs. Lynde, she is
grievously troubled in mind and vexed in soul. She was as angry with herself as
with Anne, because whenever she recalled Mrs. Rachel's dumfounded countenance
her lips twitched with amusement and she felt a most reprehensible desire to
laugh. (p. 69)
Anne holds out on apologizing, "bravely facing the long years of solitary imprisonment before her." (Her imagination is boundless!) Matthew sneaks into the house to Anne's room upstairs while Marilla is out and asks Anne to apologize, stating that his sister's a "dreadful determined woman--dreadful determined," and it is "terrible lonesome downstairs" without Anne. Anne agrees to "do it for him."
Finally, of Anne and Matthew:
Those two were the best of friends and Matthew thanked his stars many a time
and oft that he had nothing to do with bringing her up. That was Marilla's
exclusive duty; if it had been his he would have been worried over frequent
conflicts between inclination and said duty. As it was he was free to 'spoil
Anne,'--Marilla's phrasing--as much as he liked. But it was not such a bad
arrangement after all; a little 'appreciation' sometimes does quite as much good
as all the conscientious 'bringing up' in the world.
In the aftermath of Matthew's death, Marilla speaks to Anne:
I don't know what I'd do if you weren't here--if you'd never come. Oh, Anne, I
know I've been kind of strict and harsh with you maybe--but you mustn't think
I didn't love you as well as Matthew did, for all that. I want to tell you now when
I can. It's never been easy for me to say things out of my heart, but at times like
this it's easier. I love you as dear as if you were my own flesh and blood and
you've been my joy and comfort ever since you came to Green Gables. (p. 296)
I was very impressed that she took advantage of an opportunity to express her true feelings to Anne. How many of us wait too long to do this with people who are so important to us in our lives? Too many, is my guess.
I am so glad for Anne and Gilbert's friendship. He was certainly kind to her and I suspect he will play more of a role in the next book(s) as we progress through her life.
Have you read this series? As a child? If not, join along!! It's rather fun! Although I fully admit...I cried, really cried. :)
Join me later this month to discuss Anne of Avonlea.