Friday, December 30, 2011

Chapter 38: Life Moves On

Anne quickly realizes that she can't leave Marilla alone -- which is a problem, since she was planning to head off to Redmond College.
"He says that if I give up all reading and sewing entirely and any kind of work that strains the eyes, and if I'm careful not to cry, and if I wear the glasses he's given me he thinks my eyes may not get any worse and my headaches will be cured. But if I don't he says I'll certainly be stone-blind in six months."
So she decides to stay home, and get a teaching job on the island.
"I'm just as ambitious as ever. Only, I've changed the object of my ambitions."
And go to school. Overachiever.
"'But I'm going to study Latin and Greek just the same, Mrs. Lynde," said Anne laughing. "I'm going to take my Arts course right here at Green Gables, and study everything that I would at college.'"
She's planning on teaching in a school near Avonlea, and getting home on the weekends -- but Gilbert Blythe has other plans, as Rachel Lynde is happy to inform everyone.
"But as soon as Gilbert heard that you had applied for it he went to them—they had a business meeting at the school last night, you know—and told them that he withdrew his application, and suggested that they accept yours."
Which is something Anne was hardly expecting. And that's what it takes for her to remove her head from somewhere unmentionable and do something about their relationship.
"It was Gilbert, and the whistle died on his lips as he recognized Anne. He lifted his cap courteously, but he would have passed on in silence, if Anne had not stopped and held out her hand."

"I forgave you that day by the pond landing, although I didn't know it. What a stubborn little goose I was. I've been—I may as well make a complete confession—I've been sorry ever since."

"We were born to be good friends, Anne."
All together, now: sigh.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Chapter 37: Handkerchiefs at the Ready

Okay, this chapter? Sob central.

Matthew dies, people. Matthew dies.
"It was long before Anne could love the sight or odor of white narcissus again"
And deservedly so.

The thing is, I like Kevin Sullivan's version of this much better. Montgomery has Matthew collapsing after receiving word that all his savings have been wiped out. That just seems too -- I don't know, prosaic, maybe? As opposed to the movie version, where Matthew just goes on as he always has, quietly working the farm and taking care of Anne, right up to the end.

Cue the sobs:
"For the first time shy, quiet Matthew Cuthbert was a person of central importance; the white majesty of death had fallen on him and set him apart as one crowned."

"There were flowers about him—sweet old-fashioned flowers which his mother had planted in the homestead garden in her bridal days and for which Matthew had always had a secret, wordless love."

"Anne hoped that the tears would come in solitude."
And now that she's all alone except for Anne, the last bit of Marilla's reserve cracks, and she admits how much she really cares.
"'We've got each other, Anne. I don't know what I'd do if you weren't here—if you'd never come. Oh, Anne, I know I've been kind of strict and harsh with you maybe—but you mustn't think I didn't love you as well as Matthew did, for all that. I want to tell you now when I can. It's never been easy for me to say things out of my heart, but at times like this it's easier. I love you as dear as if you were my own flesh and blood and you've been my joy and comfort ever since you came to Green Gables.'"
But then slowly, eventually, they can begin to think of other things. And some of them are quite funny:
"'Josie is a Pye,' said Marilla sharply, 'so she can't help being disagreeable. I suppose people of that kind serve some useful purpose in society, but I must say I don't know what it is any more than I know the use of thistles. Is Josie going to teach?'"
And some are surprising, adding a whole new dimension to the not-romance between Anne and Gilbert.
"John Blythe was a nice boy. We used to be real good friends, he and I. People called him my beau."
But, oh, Matthew. Sigh.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Chapter 36: Stage-Setting

Something pretty monumental happens to Anne in this chapter: She wins the Avery Scholarship, which will cover her tuition for a bachelor's degree at Redmond College. (Queens just offers a teaching certificate, which Anne finished up in one year.)

So things are good. And the school year's over, which means Anne's back at Green Gables, where she belongs.

Cue the impending doom soundtrack.

Look, if you've read the book, you know what's coming. So let's just look at a couple of the lines Montgomery uses to set us up for the next chapter.
"'Reckon you're glad we kept her, Marilla?' whispered Matthew, speaking for the first time since he had entered the hall, when Anne had finished her essay."

"'Marilla," she said hesitatingly when he had gone out, "is Matthew quite well?'"

"'If I had been the boy you sent for,' said Anne wistfully, 'I'd be able to help you so much now and spare you in a hundred ways. I could find it in my heart to wish I had been, just for that.'"

"It's only that I'm getting old, Anne, and keep forgetting it."

"It was the last night before sorrow touched her life; and no life is ever quite the same again when once that cold, sanctifying touch has been laid upon it."

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Chapter 35: Guess Who Takes Center Stage

This is a short chapter, and it's very much about one person who's suddenly on Anne's mind quite a lot.
"She could not help thinking, too, that it would be very pleasant to have such a friend as Gilbert to jest and chatter with and exchange ideas about books and studies and ambitions. Gilbert had ambitions, she knew, and Ruby Gillis did not seem the sort of person with whom such could be profitably discussed."
Montgomery makes a point of emphasizing that this isn't a romance; Anne's got her own ideas about that, and Gilbert still doesn't make the cut. But she's not looking for romance right now.
"There was no silly sentiment in Anne's ideas concerning Gilbert. Boys were to her, when she thought about them at all, merely possible good comrades. If she and Gilbert had been friends she would not have cared how many other friends he had nor with whom he walked. She had a genius for friendship; girl friends she had in plenty; but she had a vague consciousness that masculine friendship might also be a good thing to round out one's conceptions of companionship and furnish broader standpoints of judgment and comparison."
And as a result, she's gotten just a bit more down-to-earth about her academic pursuits.
"Anne no longer wished to win for the sake of defeating Gilbert; rather, for the proud consciousness of a well-won victory over a worthy foeman. It would be worth while to win, but she no longer thought life would be insupportable if she did not."

Monday, December 26, 2011

Chapter 34: Leaving Home

Anne heads off to college in this chapter, a big moment for both her and Marilla and Matthew.

Marilla even verges on indulgence:
"Anne's outfit was ample and pretty, for Matthew saw to that, and Marilla for once made no objections whatever to anything he purchased or suggested. More—one evening she went up to the east gable with her arms full of a delicate pale green material."
And is it just me, or are tears starting to be a regular thing for her?
"As Marilla watched the bright, animated face and graceful motions her thoughts went back to the evening Anne had arrived at Green Gables, and memory recalled a vivid picture of the odd, frightened child in her preposterous yellowish-brown wincey dress, the heartbreak looking out of her tearful eyes. Something in the memory brought tears to Marilla's own eyes."
And then Anne leaves, and Marilla and Matthew each deal with it in their own way.
"Matthew, with a suspicious moisture in his eyes, got up and went out-of-doors. Under the stars of the blue summer night he walked agitatedly across the yard to the gate under the poplars."

"Marilla plunged fiercely into unnecessary work and kept at it all day long with the bitterest kind of heartache—the ache that burns and gnaws and cannot wash itself away in ready tears"
Gilbert proves useful after all, even if he and Anne don't have much of a speaking relationship.
"Yet she was undeniably glad that they were in the same class; the old rivalry could still be carried on, and Anne would hardly have known what to do if it had been lacking."
As does Josie Pye, who's never been one of Anne's favorite people.
"As a part of Avonlea life even a Pye was welcome."
But that doesn't last long.
"Anne was wondering if, after all, solitude and tears were not more satisfactory than Josie Pye's companionship"

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Chapter 33: The Big Concert

Now that Anne's done with school, having passed the exam even to her satisfaction, it's time for a little play. She's one of the local girls invited to participate in a benefit concert.
"Matthew was in the seventh heaven of gratified pride over the honor conferred on his Anne and Marilla was not far behind, although she would have died rather than admit it, and said she didn't think it was very proper for a lot of young folks to be gadding over to the hotel without any responsible person with them."
She ends up riding over to White Sands with Jane Andrews and Jane's older brother, which is not something Anne sees as one of the positive aspects of the evening.
"Billy Andrews insisted that Anne should ride on the front seat with him, so she unwillingly climbed up. She would have much preferred to sit back with the girls, where she could have laughed and chattered to her heart's content. There was not much of either laughter or chatter in Billy. He was a big, fat, stolid youth of twenty, with a round, expressionless face, and a painful lack of conversational gifts. But he admired Anne immensely, and was puffed up with pride over the prospect of driving to White Sands with that slim, upright figure beside him."
Anne has her moment, though, giving a performance that impresses everyone who was there to mock the simple country girls -- all thanks to another misunderstanding with her favorite male:
"But suddenly, as her dilated, frightened eyes gazed out over the audience, she saw Gilbert Blythe away at the back of the room, bending forward with a smile on his face—a smile which seemed to Anne at once triumphant and taunting. In reality it was nothing of the kind. Gilbert was merely smiling with appreciation of the whole affair in general and of the effect produced by Anne's slender white form and spiritual face against a background of palms in particular."
So how much longer are we going to have to wait for their reconciliation? Well, we've got five more chapters to get through.

And we close with a philosophical moment:
"'We ARE rich,' said Anne staunchly. 'Why, we have sixteen years to our credit, and we're happy as queens, and we've all got imaginations, more or less. Look at that sea, girls—all silver and shadow and vision of things not seen. We couldn't enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds. You wouldn't change into any of those women if you could. Would you want to be that white-lace girl and wear a sour look all your life, as if you'd been born turning up your nose at the world? Or the pink lady, kind and nice as she is, so stout and short that you'd really no figure at all? Or even Mrs. Evans, with that sad, sad look in her eyes? She must have been dreadfully unhappy sometime to have such a look. You KNOW you wouldn't, Jane Andrews!'"

Friday, December 23, 2011

Chapter 32: The Big Exam

So Avonlea's students go off to take their version of the SATs. Just like the SATs, the Queens test will clearly determine their worth as humans and all their future possibilities, so nerves are appropriately on edge.
"Jane asked him what on earth he was doing and he said he was repeating the multiplication table over and over to steady his nerves and for pity's sake not to interrupt him, because if he stopped for a moment he got frightened and forgot everything he ever knew, but the multiplication table kept all his facts firmly in their proper place!"
The "he" in the previous sentence is Moody Spurgeon McPherson, and I'm left wondering what this kid did to make himself so unpopular.
"Sometimes I have wished I was born a boy, but when I see Moody Spurgeon I'm always glad I'm a girl and not his sister."
Is it just the fact that he's not on the same level as Anne? I feel kind of bad for him, but who knows? He might be the sort who's just too generally irritating to want to spend time with.

Gilbert Blythe is not that sort, but that doesn't mean that he and Anne have improved the state of their relations any.
"They had met and passed each other on the street a dozen times without any sign of recognition and every time Anne had held her head a little higher and wished a little more earnestly that she had made friends with Gilbert when he asked her, and vowed a little more determinedly to surpass him in the examination."
As we all remember, she does not, of course, surpass him. They tie for first. But I think Kevin Sullivan had it right, shifting things around in the movie so Gilbert's the one who gives her the news.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chapter 31: In Which We Cite Longfellow

In the chapter title, at least. Per the ever-amazing Annotated Anne, "where the brook and river meet" is a line from his poem "Maidenhood."

The Queens exam is still hanging over Anne, but she's trying not to let it get to her.

First we have a foray into the question of appropriate professions for women:
"Why can't women be ministers, Marilla? I asked Mrs. Lynde that and she was shocked and said it would be a scandalous thing. She said there might be female ministers in the States and she believed there was, but thank goodness we hadn't got to that stage in Canada yet and she hoped we never would. But I don't see why. I think women would make splendid ministers."
Which gives me an opportunity to go all history-nerd on you and make sure you know who Antoinette Brown was. And check out the family this woman married into - one of her sisters-in-law was Elizabeth Blackwell, the first professional female doctor in the U.S. (and another sister-in-law, Emily Blackwell, also became a doctor), and another was Lucy Stone, famous for not changing her last name when she married. This is why I want to write about the Blackwell family!

Speaking of people who went their own way, we get a quick look at why Miss Stacy was such a great teacher:
"Much of all this was due to Miss Stacy's tactful, careful, broadminded guidance. She led her class to think and explore and discover for themselves and encouraged straying from the old beaten paths to a degree that quite shocked Mrs. Lynde and the school trustees, who viewed all innovations on established methods rather dubiously."
The other thing we get in this chapter, which covers the better part of a year in not a whole lot of words, is a glimpse of Marilla finally giving in to her human side.
"And that night, when Anne had gone to prayer meeting with Diana, Marilla sat alone in the wintry twilight and indulged in the weakness of a cry."
It's not much. She still thinks of it as a weakness, an indulgence, and I can't imagine her actually crying in front of Anne at this point -- but can you imagine the Marilla of Chapter 1 even considering the possibility that she might allow a tear to escape?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Chapter 30: College Prep

If you don't already adore Marilla, this chapter should win you over. How can you not want to give her a hug (one that would be totally unwanted by her) when you see how vulnerable she is?
"Marilla looked at her with a tenderness that would never have been suffered to reveal itself in any clearer light than that soft mingling of fireshine and shadow. The lesson of a love that should display itself easily in spoken word and open look was one Marilla could never learn. But she had learned to love this slim, gray-eyed girl with an affection all the deeper and stronger from its very undemonstrativeness. Her love made her afraid of being unduly indulgent, indeed."
And as Marilla's busy not telling Anne that she loves her, Anne's making progress toward leaving home for the first time. She's part of the Queens class, the students who are doing extra work to prepare for the entrance exam for Queens College.

Which gives her competitive side an opportunity to shine.
"There was open rivalry between Gilbert and Anne now. Previously the rivalry had been rather onesided, but there was no longer any doubt that Gilbert was as determined to be first in class as Anne was. He was a foeman worthy of her steel. The other members of the class tacitly acknowledged their superiority, and never dreamed of trying to compete with them."
Except when it doesn't.
"All at once, as it seemed, and to her secret dismay, she found that the old resentment she had cherished against him was gone—gone just when she most needed its sustaining power. It was in vain that she recalled every incident and emotion of that memorable occasion and tried to feel the old satisfying anger. That day by the pond had witnessed its last spasmodic flicker. Anne realized that she had forgiven and forgotten without knowing it. But it was too late."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chapter 29: A Visit

Anne, accompanied by Diana, makes a brief visit to Miss Josephine Barry's house. The narrator makes sure we understand that this is not exactly a moment of altruism.
"Miss Barry was a rather selfish old lady, if the truth must be told, and had never cared much for anybody but herself. She valued people only as they were of service to her or amused her. Anne had amused her, and consequently stood high in the old lady's good graces. But Miss Barry found herself thinking less about Anne's quaint speeches than of her fresh enthusiasms, her transparent emotions, her little winning ways, and the sweetness of her eyes and lips."
This is a growing-up chapter for Anne. It's not plot-heavy, and she's not learning any important lessons here; she's just demonstrating the maturity she's already accumulated. For instance:
"Josie Pye took first prize for knitted lace. I was real glad she did. And I was glad that I felt glad, for it shows I'm improving, don't you think, Marilla, when I can rejoice in Josie's success?"
"It was an elegant room, Marilla, but somehow sleeping in a spare room isn't what I used to think it was. That's the worst of growing up, and I'm beginning to realize it. The things you wanted so much when you were a child don't seem half so wonderful to you when you get them."
Even city life isn't tempting to Anne:
"It's nice to be eating ice cream at brilliant restaurants at eleven o'clock at night once in a while; but as a regular thing I'd rather be in the east gable at eleven, sound asleep, but kind of knowing even in my sleep that the stars were shining outside and that the wind was blowing in the firs across the brook."
Which Marilla is glad to hear. This is the closest she comes to admitting that she misses Anne when Anne's away.
"I'm glad you've got back, I must say. It's been fearful lonesome here without you, and I never put in four longer days."
Coming from Marilla, those are some pretty emotional words.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Chapter 28: The Lady of the Lake

Yes, I'm mixing Arthurian legends here. Deal.

Fun fact, from Montgomery's journal via the Annotated Anne: Montgomery was not the fan of Tennyson's poem that she made Anne out to be: "I detest Tennyson's Arthur! If I'd been Guinevere I'd have been unfaithful to him too."

This, of course, is when the girls decide to act out the poem. And even though Anne doesn't plan to star in the drama (because a red-haired Elaine is too ridiculous to consider), she ends up in the boat anyway.
"It was Anne's idea that they dramatize Elaine. They had studied Tennyson's poem in school the preceding winter, the Superintendent of Education having prescribed it in the English course for the Prince Edward Island schools. They had analyzed and parsed it and torn it to pieces in general until it was a wonder there was any meaning at all left in it for them, but at least the fair lily maid and Lancelot and Guinevere and King Arthur had become very real people to them, and Anne was devoured by secret regret that she had not been born in Camelot. Those days, she said, were so much more romantic than the present."
Slight problem: the water is supposed to remain outside the boat. And it doesn't.

Which gives Gilbert a chance to rescue the now-stranded Anne.
"Without waiting for an answer he pulled close to the pile and extended his hand. There was no help for it; Anne, clinging to Gilbert Blythe's hand, scrambled down into the dory, where she sat, drabbled and furious, in the stern with her arms full of dripping shawl and wet crepe. It was certainly extremely difficult to be dignified under the circumstances!"
And he thinks it gives him an opening:
"'Anne,' he said hurriedly, 'look here. Can't we be good friends? I'm awfully sorry I made fun of your hair that time. I didn't mean to vex you and I only meant it for a joke. Besides, it's so long ago. I think your hair is awfully pretty now—honest I do. Let's be friends.'"
Not so much:
"Her resentment, which to other and older people might be as laughable as its cause, was in no whit allayed and softened by time seemingly."
Which, of course, no one else can understand.
"'Oh, Anne, how splendid of him! Why, it's so romantic!' said Jane, finding breath enough for utterance at last. 'Of course you'll speak to him after this.'"
Jane very narrowly avoids getting smacked over that, while the reader quite probably wants to shake some sense into Anne. Girl, there is not exactly an oversupply of eligible young men with a sense of romance in Avonlea -- or most other places.