Thursday, October 18, 2012

Revisiting Anne, Part 2: Anne of Avonlea

I bet that if you took a poll, you'd get a lot of different answers as to what exactly "Anne of Green Gables" is. Some would remember it as a single book's title, some as more encompassing character, some as a movie. I bet, however, that it's only the die-hard Anne fans like myself who are aware that Anne's story continues in print beyond the Anne of Green Gables classic.

Anne of Avonlea is L.M. Montgomery's follow-up to Anne of Green Gables, and I love how, as Anne's story expands, so does her world. In the series opener, Anne came into her own at Green Gables. Now, she's finding her place in a bigger world, in her town of Avonlea. (Spoiler alert: book three's title is Anne of the Island!) I love how our view of Anne's world expands alongside her own. We became comfortable at Green Gables, and now we're thrust into a bigger place, learning the ropes alongside Anne.

At the story's opening, our heroine is much more a young lady than the girl we met at Green Gables. Anne has completed her schooling at the Avonlea schoolhouse and has now become its schoolmarm (and only at age 16!). She's working with her own school chums on a project to improve their town—the Avonlea Village Improvement Society. And Marilla has adopted two young twins, the rambunctious Davey and the obedient Dora. Throughout it all, we hear Anne's internal monologue, as always, and see how she's maturing through experience but without ever fully submitting to "grown-upness."

In all honesty, I liked this one more when I was younger than I did this time around. Anne of Avonlea the miniseries is actually a bit of a compilation of storylines from the next three titles in the series, and I can understand why—the story just seemed a little lacking. It wasn't any different in style than the first in the series—chapters still capture small stories or experiences that give us a peek into Anne's life and ultimately define Anne and her way of thinking. This one just sort of felt like those awkward breaks from college when you return home to a setting that hasn't changed, though you have...or that terrible year after college graduation when you're just waiting for what's next. In this, it seems like Anne (though she would never be this cynical) is just biding her time in Avonlea until she can move on with her education and life experiences. You just know she wants to see and do so much, and her current environment is just shrinking in scope. 

I had some other thoughts while reading this:
  • Montgomery really doesn't like the French! I was surprised by all her rude comments about them! Must be a reflection of French-Canadian relationships at this time.
  • I also didn't really like how disdainful she was of Dora, the obedient child! Montgomery (and as a result, Marilla and Anne) actually thought less of her because she wasn't as spunky and disobedient as Davey. Poor Dora! She can't do anything right, even when she's perfect!
  • It was still hard to comprehend that Anne was only 16 during most of this. She was mostly considered "grown" by her society, while today at 16, we've generally got a lot of "growing up" to do.
  • Also funny how teaching seemed to be the only option for the educated directly after primary school. It wasn't just for women—Gilbert did it too! It seemed to be the stepping stone before continuing education. And if you weren't doing that, you apparently just started a trade or stayed home and waited to get married (poor Diana).

It was at least so lovely to end the story with a bit of a peek into Anne's shifting feelings towards Gilbert, as she begins to actually think about him, and consider him as a person and more than just a figure in her adolescent schooldays. Oh, Gil!


Jenny said...

I read this one when I was little and I remember liking it too, but there is nothing like the original book!

Kari said...

Nope, and I don't like being that person that says the movie is better, but....the movie is better!