Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Chapter 2: In which two kindred spirits are introduced

Chapter Two starts off by introducing us to a new character: Matthew Cuthbert, who spent Chapter One offscreen, is now the POV character.

Montgomery handles Matthew well -- he's amusing, but you're never really laughing at him, even when his asocial nature is on display:
"Matthew enjoyed the drive after his own fashion, except during the moments when he met women and had to nod to them."
Not just here, but throughout the book, Matthew is never an object of ridicule. He's far from perfect, and his personality quirks are presented as the minor faults they are, but Montgomery never openly mocks him.

And then after Matthew completes his peaceful drive to Bright River, the heroine herself finally makes an appearance, sitting outside the station, patiently waiting to be collected. Montgomery introduces her through two theoretical observers, one ordinary and one highly perceptive. From the first, we are led to understand that Anne is something special.1

For the moment, Anne has no idea she was supposed to have been a boy, and even if Matthew had been inclined to make some sort of explanation, girl's got a mouth.

Also, an imagination:
"I used to lie awake at nights and imagine things like that, because I didn't have time in the day."
And a vocabulary:
"But if you have big ideas you have to use big words to express them, haven't you?"
And she uses them both on the drive back to Green Gables.
"Matthew, much to his own surprise, was enjoying himself. 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. But he had never expected to enjoy the society of a little girl. Women were bad enough in all conscience, but little girls were worse. He detested the way they had of sidling past him timidly, with sidewise glances, as if they expected him to gobble them up at a mouthful if they ventured to say a word."
By the time we reach the end of the chapter, the reader's in agreement with Matthew: let someone else do the disappointing.
"He felt glad that it would be Marilla and not he who would have to tell this waif of the world that the home she longed for was not to be hers after all."
Allusions in this chapter:2
  • "The little birds sang..." from James Russell Lowell's "The Vision of Sir Launfal"
  • "so little scope for imagination in an asylum" from Laurence Sterne's Sentimental Journey
  • "bearding a lion in its den" from Sir Walter Scott's Marmion
  • "alabaster brow" from William Shakespeare's Othello

1 Which is a pretty standard trope for heroic orphan tales. Orphans en masse, as Sallie calls them in Dear Enemy, are objects of pity and reforming efforts. To be worthy of main character status, the orphan generally requires respectably married parents (as opposed to *gasp* illegitimacy) and special interior attributes that make him or her stand out from the community of orphans as a whole.

2 By no means complete. I thought I'd done a decent job picking up literary references until I saw what The Annotated Anne of Green Gables took note of.

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