Sunday, June 19, 2011

Chapter 5: In which sympathy buttons are pushed

Anne Shirley is a Deserving Orphan.

"It's likely her parents were nice folks," says Marilla.

No bad inherited traits here, no drunkenness or illegitimacy. Because we wouldn't want to think it was okay to turn out well when there's such a blot on one's history.

Yes, Anne has to fight against circumstances, and the upbringing she lays out here isn't the kind that usually turns abandoned children into productive members of society -- Anne gets very little education, and by the time she's eight years old she's left in charge of younger kids -- but she's got a leg up, because the redeemed orphan genre wouldn't have it any other way.

Anne's parents were married professionals (or, to be more precise, one professional and one professional-turned-SAHM):
"Well, my mother was a teacher in the High school, too, but when she married father she gave up teaching, of course. A husband was enough responsibility."
After her respectable parents die of a respectable cause, Anne gets taken in as an unpaid servant by neighbors. First there's Mrs. Thomas, burdened with a drunken husband, and Mrs. Hammond, who had "twins three times."
"Were those women—Mrs. Thomas and Mrs. Hammond—good to you?" asked Marilla, looking at Anne out of the corner of her eye.

"Oh, they MEANT to be—I know they meant to be just as good and kind as possible. And when people mean to be good to you, you don't mind very much when they're not quite—always."
The reader doesn't have to stretch her powers of inference too far to figure out what that means, and Montgomery points out that neither does Marilla:
"for Marilla was shrewd enough to read between the lines of Anne's history and divine the truth"
Hmmm. One gets the sense that Marilla is finding her conscience harder to ignore.

However, Mrs. Spencer's house looms ahead of us at the close of the chapter.

(Post pic: Lake Waban, on the Wellesley campus. But Anne might imagine that it's the Lake of Shining Waters, no?)

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