Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Chapter 16: A sad day at Green Gables

On one level, this chapter is about the rupture that occurs in the bosom friendship when Diana manages to get herself drunk.

At the same time, we get more insight into Marilla, and see how she subtly rebels against community norms.

Anne invites Diana over for tea while Marilla is out, giving them both a chance to play sophisticated grownup. Anne ("There are so many responsibilities on a person's mind when they're keeping house, isn't there?") plans the meal in exquisite detail, Diana ("looking exactly as it is proper to look when asked out to tea") very politely inquires after Marilla and Matthew -- and then they remember that they're little girls who don't have to act like that all the time.

Oh, and we get to hear about some of Anne's cooking disasters! "The last time I made a cake I forgot to put the flour in.... Flour is so essential to cakes, you know."

And then Diana starts to feel off, and decides to go home -- where her mother discovers that she's not sick, she's drunk. Because the three cups of raspberry cordial she had turned out to be currant wine.

Which was a total accident. Not a precursor to the Avonlea equivalent of beer pong. But Mrs. Barry totally doesn't care. Remember how Montgomery gave us a signal that Mrs. Barry was not entirely to be trusted when she was first introduced? There was a reason.
"Mrs. Barry was a woman of strong prejudices and dislikes, and her anger was of the cold, sullen sort which is always hardest to overcome. To do her justice, she really believed Anne had made Diana drunk out of sheer malice prepense, and she was honestly anxious to preserve her little daughter from the contamination of further intimacy with such a child."

"She was suspicious of Anne's big words and dramatic gestures and imagined that the child was making fun of her."
Result: Diana is banned from all contact with Anne. Both girls are devastated. Melodramatically so.Link
But back to the currant wine for a minute: It turns out that Avonlea residents are of the teetotalling strain of Calvinism, so Marilla's actually been rebelling against her neighbors by making it. (Although she doesn't go so far as to rebel against an official authority figure.)
"Well, this story will be a nice handle for those folks who are so down on me for making currant wine, although I haven't made any for three years ever since I found out that the minister didn't approve."
At least Marilla (in Lydia Pinkham mode) is able to laugh (discreetly) at the situation. Anne doesn't seem to believe she'll ever laugh again.

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