Saturday, June 18, 2011

Chapter 4: In which Matthew takes (some) action

Okay, the title character's got plenty of screen time in this chapter, but let's be honest: this is Marilla and Matthew time.

It's the morning after Anne's arrival, and there's still no real intention of keeping her. Not on Marilla's part, at least, thought Matthew, without ever trying to actually assert authority in the household, is pushing for permanence.

In case you haven't picked up on it so far, Marilla. is. a. spinster:
"Marilla really did not know how to talk to the child, and her uncomfortable ignorance made her crisp and curt when she did not mean to be."
And she's used to having things done her way. So when Anne comes chattering down to breakfast, the famous "hold your tongue"1 makes an appearance.
"Thereupon Anne held her tongue so obediently and thoroughly that her continued silence made Marilla rather nervous, as if in the presence of something not exactly natural. Matthew also held his tongue,—but this was natural,—so that the meal was a very silent one."
In other words, silent meals are the normal course of things at Green Gables. Is this a house in need of a child or what?

Marilla's still very much in the "or what" camp.
"Yet Matthew wished to keep her, of all unaccountable things! Marilla felt that he wanted it just as much this morning as he had the night before, and that he would go on wanting it. That was Matthew's way—take a whim into his head and cling to it with the most amazing silent persistency—a persistency ten times more potent and effectual in its very silence than if he had talked it out."
And from a little further on in the chapter, Marilla's internal monologue:
"I wish he was like other men and would talk things out. A body could answer back then and argue him into reason. But what's to be done with a man who just LOOKS?"
Don't you wonder what they were like growing up together? Just how often did Matthew's silent treatment do the trick?

Anne's trying hard not to set down roots ("If I can't stay here there is no use in my loving Green Gables."), but it's difficult, especially when there's a farm to explore and flowers to be named.

Matthew hitches up the horse and buggy, at Marilla's request, so she can make the trip over to see Mrs. Spencer and sort everything out, but he doesn't let her go without making one last statement in his favor:
"Little Jerry Buote from the Creek was here this morning, and I told him I guessed I'd hire him for the summer."
The boy-who-turned-out-to-be-Anne was intended as a sort of unpaid laborer. So Matthew, we see, is not just shy, taciturn, and persistent. He also qualifies, from time to time, for the "man of action" label.

1 Although "hold your tongue" and its variants ("held her tongue," etc.) seem to be the signature phrase of Anne of Green Gables -- if nothing else, it's certainly Marilla's top pull quote -- they only appear eight times in the text. Yes, I counted.

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