Anne Shirley

I never read Anne of Green Gables as a child. A friend in junior high school tried to interest me in the series and failed. Then in the 1980s PBS introduced the TV series with Megan Follows as Anne and I was hooked on the irrepressible red-headed orphan.

I moved to Japan shortly afterward and it was the first movie I saw in the theater there under the (literally translated) title: Red-haired Anne. The Japanese are smitten with Anne making Prince Edward Island a prime Japanese tourist attraction. The small town culture (with it’s gossips and busy-bodies) recalls the flavor of small town Japan. The setting is at once nostalgic of pre-war Japan and an idealized version of western life (evoking the same feelings as Main Street in Tokyo Disneyland). Anne of Green Gables required reading in the Japanese curriculum since 1952. So we were able to find a copy at the English language book shop in the basement of Parco Department store in Oita. After a month in Japan we were hungry for anything in English.

I usually read Anne of Green Gables when I’m sick. Anne cheers me up with her ability to find the good and beauty in everything. She goes through life with “some secret delight”.

I don’t identify with Anne. I’m not like her. Except that we both spent much of our youth living in our imaginations and eschewing the “real” world. And we both set our hopes high and consequently are dashed “to the depths of despair” when things don’t turn out as we imagine them. We make our own melodrama.

Anne is too exuberant, too talkative, and too energetic to be my alter ego. In some passages, she does reveal herself as an I-type, needing to be alone with her thoughts to sort them out and never lonely. I’m rather more like her guardian, Matthew. “Like most quiet folks he liked talkative people when they were willing to do the talking themselves and did not expect him to keep up his end of it.” Nor did I ever have her knack for bringing trouble on herself. She acts before she thinks whereas I tend to think myself out of acting.

What I am attracted to is Anne’s curiosity and sense of wonder about the world. “Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive–it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we knew all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for imagination, then.”

I visit with Anne whenever I feel the need to see the world with new eyes again. Or puncture the illusions of the pompously certain.

Update: Sunday February 4, 2007

I was certainly in an Anne mood in January and ended up reading the whole series. I’d only ever read Anne of Green Gables before and part of the one lent to me when I was a teenager (maybe Anne’s House of Dreams).

Anne of Green Gables

So many quotes; so little time.

Anne of Avonlea

The twins Dora and Davy come to Green Gables and Anne teaches school. Gosh! I have a gazillion quotes marked from this book…maybe someday I’ll get them all typed out.

Mr. Harrison was certainly different from other people…and that is the essential characteristic of a crank, as everyone knows. p. 2

Anne smothered a little sigh. She loved Diana dearly and they had always been good comrades. But she had long ago learned that when she wandered into the realm of fancy she must go alone. The way to it was by an enchanted path where not even her dearest might follow her. p. 14

Diana is a sensing type; Anne an intuitive.

“I don’t like places or people either that haven’t any faults. I think a truly perfect person would be very uninteresting.” (Anne Shirley) p 24

“No, indeed,” said Anne indignantly. She was an excellent target for teasing because she always took things so seriously. p. 30

In this, Anne and I are exactly alike.

“Have you ever noticed,” asked Anne reflectively, “that when people say it is their duty to tell you a certain thing you may prepare for something disagreeable? Why is it that they never seem to think it a duty to tell you the pleasant things they hear about you?” p 52

The mention of college gave a new direction to Gilbert’s thoughts, and they talked for a time of their plans and wishes…gravely, earnestly, hopefully, as youth loves to talk, while the future is yet an untrodden path full of wonderful possibilities. p. 53

I saw people’s souls just like this, too, decades before I read this passage.

“I like to fancy souls as being made of light. And some are all shot through with rosy stains and quivers…and some have a soft glitter like moonlight on the sea…and some are pale and transparent like mist at dawn.” (Anne Shirley) p. 112

“If we have friends we should look only for the best in them and give them the best that is in us.” (Anne Shirley) p. 132

“It seems to me, Anne, that you are never going to outgrow your fashion of setting your heart so on things and then crashing down into despair because you don’t get them.” (Marilla Cuthbert) p. 148

She held over him the unconscious influence that every girl, whose ideals are high and pure, wields over her friends; an influence which would endure as long as she was faithful to those ideals and which she would as certainly lose f she were ever false to them. p. 169

…though alone she never found it lonely; her imagination peopled her path with merry companions, and with these she carried on gay, pretended conversation that was wittier and more fascinating than conversations are apt to be in real life, where people sometimes fail most lamentably to talk up the requirements. p. 200

“I don’t like to be surprised. You lose all the fun of expecting things when you’re surprised.” (Paul Irving) p. 256

I’m very much like Paul in this respect. Anticipation is 90% of the fun of anything…unless our expectations are disappointed.

Anne of the Island

Anne’s four years at Redmond College. I empathize with Anne’s predicament teetering on the cusp of adulthood because I can remember exactly what it was like at her age to have one’s ideas blind one to the richness of the real.

It is never pleasant to have our old shrines desecrated, even when we have outgrown them. pp. 2-3

“But feeling is so different from knowing. My common sense tells me all you can say, but there are times when common sense has no power over me. Common nonsense takes possession of my soul.” (Anne Shirley) p. 13

This is an intuitive talking to a sensing type–not a feeler talking to a thinker.

“…those who can soar to the highest heights can also plunge to the deepest depths, and that natures which enjoy most keenly are those which also suffer most sharply.” p. 46

As a companion, Anne honestly acknowledged nobody could be so satisfactory as Gilbert; she was very glad, so she told herself, that he had evidently dropped all nonsensical ideas–though she spent considerable time secretly wondering why. p. 64

She felt very old and mature and wise–which showed how young she was. She told herself that she longed greatly to go back to those dear merry days when life was seen through a rosy mist of hope and illusion, and possessed an indefinable something that had passed away forever. p. 185

Anne of Windy Poplars

Letters to Gilbert from Windy Poplars where Anne boards while principal of Summerside High School. My favorite part of this story is the transformation of Katherine Brooks. There is also the sad story of the little Teddy Armstrong.

“You…you seem to live in a little enchanted circle of beauty and romance. ‘I wonder what delightful discovery I’ll make today’…that seems to be your attitude to life, Anne.” (Katherine Brooks) p. 140

“you always seemed to have some secret delight” (Katherine Brooke) p. 160

“The new Junior teacher is a jolly little personage…but somehow, there’s nothing more to her than that. She has sparkling shallow blue eyes with no thought behind them. I like her…I’ll always like her…nothing more more less…there’s nothing to discover in her. There was so much to discover in Katherine, when you once got past her guard.” (Anne Shirley) p. 197

Anne’s House of Dreams

Copyright 1922. Published 1917? Anne and Gilbert’s first years of marriage and their first home. Captain Jim. After Anne of Green Gables, this is my favorite book of the series.

Again there was a silence, while Captain Jim kept a passing tryst with visitants Anne and Gilbert could not see–the folks who had sat with him around that fireplace in the vanished years, with mirth and bridal joy shining in eyes long since closed forever under churchyard sod or heaving leagues of sea. p. 35

“It’s the worst kind of cruelty–the thoughtless kind. You can’t cope with it.” (Captain Jim) pp. 58-59

Captain Jim spoke with the pathos of the aged, who see their old friends slipping from them one by one–friends whose place can never be quite filled by those of a younger generation, even of the race that knows Joseph. p. 61

“No. I don’t think I’ve ever been lonely in my life,” answered Anne. “Even when I’m alone I have real good company–dreams and imaginations and pretendings. I like to be alone now and then, just to think over things and taste them. But I love friendship. p. 67

A very I-type quote.

“Our library isn’t very extensive,” said Anne, “but every book in it is a friend. We’ve picked our books up through the years, here and there, never buying one until we had first read it and knew that it belonged to the race of Joseph.” p. 80

“Do you know, Captain Jim, I never like walking with a lantern. I have always the strangest feeling that just outside the circle of light, just over its edge in the darkness, I am surrounded by a ring of furtive, sinister things, watching me from the shadows with hostile eyes. I’ve had that feeling from childhood. What is the reason? I never feel like that when I’m really in the darkness–when it is close all around me–I’m not the least frightened.”
“I’ve something of that feeling myself,” admitted Captain Jim. “I reckon when the darkness is close to us it is a friend. But when we sorter push it away from us–divorce ourselves from it, so to speak, with lantern light–it becomes an enemy.” pp. 85-86

I feel exactly the same way. I hate it when AJM pulls out the flashlight to go outside at night.

“I like to ponder on all kinds of problems, though I can’t solve ’em,” said Captain Jim. “My father held that we should never talk of things we couldn’t understand, but if we didn’t, doctor, the subjects for conversation would be might few.” p 87

Anne…always felt the pain of her friends so keenly that she coul not speak easy, fluent words of comforting. Besides, she remembered how well-meant speeches had hurt her in her own sorrow and was afraid. p 157

Anne of Ingleside

Copyright 1939. Mostly about Anne’s children. Anne once consoled herself with the fact that she never made the same mistake twice and that someday she would run out of them. By this book she has and her light dims as she becomes the perfect, understanding (and somewhat boring) mother to five mischievous children.

“…this is just the kind of evening I love to work in the garden. Things are growing tonight. I hope there’ll be gardens in heaven, Susan…gardens we can work in, I mean, and help things to grow.”

“But not bugs surely,” protested Susan.

“No-o-o, I suppose not. But a completed garden wouldn’t really be any fun, Susan. You have to work in a garden yourself or you miss its meaning. I want to weed and dig and transplant and change and plan and prune. And I want the flowers I love in heaven…I’d rather have my own pansies than the asphodel, Susan.” (Anne Shirley) p. 24

Walter wondered why the whole family shouted so at each other, ignorant of the fact that they had not yet had time to get out of the habit since the recent death of a very deaf and sensitive old grandmother. p. 41

“Oh, I shouldn’t be talking like this, Miss Cornelia. When I ‘count my mercies’ I feel it’s very petty of me to mind these things…even if they do rub a little bloom off life…

There were so many little things…”So little that I can’t complain of them,” thought Anne. “And yet…it’s the little things that fret the holes in life…like moths…and ruin it.” p. 66

Anne stopped to look at every garden she passed. Her interest in gardens was perennial. Gilbert was wont to say that Anne had to buy a book if the word “garden” was in the title. p. 92

Rainbow Valley

Rilla of Ingleside

Copyright 1921. The darkest of the books as WWI envelopes the Blythe family. Anne and Gilbert rarely appear except to look sad or brave. The story is told mostly through the experiences of Anne’s youngest daughter Rilla, who isn’t quite as interesting as her mother at the same age. This is my third favorite book of the series.

It does not do to laugh at the pangs of youth. They are very terrible because youth has not yet learned that “this too, will pass away.” p. 35

“You do mean it, Parson. I can always tell when people mean what they say. It’s a gift that was born in me. Makes me a terror to most parsons, that! But I’ve never caught you yet saying anything you didn’t mean. I’m always hoping I will–that’s what reconciles me to going to church.” (Norman Douglas) p. 51

“Mrs. Dr. dear, I have made up my mind to be a heroine…I am not,” proceeded Susan firmly, “going to lament or whine or question the wisdom of the Almighty any more as I have been doing lately. Whining and shirking and blaming Providence do not get us anywhere. We have just got to grapple with whatever we have to do whether it is weeding the onion patch, or running the Government.” (Susan Baker) p. 58

She had one of those souls that are always tied to the stake, burning in the suffering of the world around them. (of Gertrude Oliver) p. 74

“…I haven’t had time and composure to write in my diary for weeks. I like to keep it up regularly, for father says a diary of the years of the war should be a very interesting thing to hand down to one’s children. The trouble is, I like to write a few personal things in this blessed old book that might not be exactly what I’d want my children to read. I feel that I shall be a far greater stickler for propriety in regard to them than I am for myself!” (Rilla Blythe) p. 177

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