Saturday, February 9, 2019

Anne of Green Gables Read-Along: Chapters 1-3

This is still a little experimental, so let me know what you think, but I think depending on the length of the thread, I'll combine chapters. I mean, otherwise since I'm going doing these once posts once a week, this'll take almost a year to finish and it'll be way behind where I am on Twitter. Plus some threads aren't very long if the chapter isn't very long, or if there isn't much to talk about.

(Link to Twitter thread) Chapter One: Mrs Rachel Lynde is Surprised

A quick note - I'm not going to be pointing out every instance of ableist language in this. It was written in 1905. It's there. I think at a certain point, unless you are specifically talking about that aspect, it becomes a bit redundant. Just a heads-up.

Montgomery's voice is truly great. She has this real subtle sense of sarcasm that slips into her narration that I find hilarious. I legit laughed more than once reading the first chapter. And that leads well into our introduction of Mrs. Rachel Lynde.

Mrs. Rachel Lynde is described as a "notable housewife" who always has her housework done, and done well, ran the Sewing Circle, helped run the Sunday school, and was heavily involved in charity work.

Mrs. Rachel Lynde is also described as quite a busybody.

She's said to sit at her kitchen window knitting, and basically spying on the neighbours. This character is interesting because at first glance she seems almost like the idealized housewife, which was something Montgomery thought was an important role. However, she's clearly seen as, you know, kind of nosy.

So she's looking out her window when she sees Matthew Cuthbert head by with his horse and buggy in his best suit of clothes, a clear sign he's leaving Avonlea and there might be Hot Gossip for Mrs. Rachel.

She almost immediately decides to go visit at his home, Green Gables, which is next door but also almost as far back into the woods as you can get without actually being IN the woods, with a long path to get there. It's isolated.

Matthew Cuthbert is a man of few words, who keeps to himself and doesn't like talking to people. His father, who built Green Gables, was much like him.

The first impression we get of Green Gables is that it's beautiful, but it's kept almost too tidy. Mrs. Rachel is a little snooty about how often Marilla Cuthbert "sweeps her lawn" and says the Green Gables kitchen could be cheerful, but it was too clean to feel that way.

The first impression we get of Marilla Cuthbert is that she's strict and impeccably tidy. Mrs. Rachel/the narrative describes her as tall, thin, having lived a life of narrow experience and rigid conscience but with a possible hint of a sense of humour around the corner of her mouth.

Which honestly is such a great description.

Mrs. Rachel asks why Matthew has gotten all fancied up and left, and Marilla tells her they've decided to adopt an orphaned boy.

By the way, Matthew and Marilla are siblings. Not sure if you'd know that if you weren't familiar with AOGG.

That's something I find really interesting now, too. Montgomery believed marriage was very important for a woman, clearly, but this work, written when she was, what, 30, has one of the most important characters be Marilla, who never married.

So Marilla and Matthew are looking to adopt a boy to help out around Green Gables since he's getting older and can't do all the work as easily anymore, and apparently it's quite difficult to get hired help. Marilla is particularly disdainful of French boys.

She also mentions that Matthew suggested getting a "Home boy" and I had to look this up because I wasn't very familiar with it.

Apparently around this time, Britain was having a really bad time, and children especially were suffering. They sent a huge number of children to Canada and other Commonwealth countries to try and give them better lives. Apparently it's estimated that 10% of Canadians are descendants of these children. You can read more about that here.

(Slur tw) Marilla used the phrase "no London street arabs" and I honestly didn't know what that meant, and had to look it up. The definition was something like, "raggedly dressed homeless child wandering the streets".

Kinda racist obvs.

Anyways, there was obviously a lot of abuse potential with this whole "adopt an orphan to work for us" thing, but Marilla and Matthew do seem to have good intentions. Marilla states they plan to give him a good home and schooling.

I think probably one of the more subtle indicators of how they felt about the child in their future was that Marilla had the table set at least 2 hours before Matthew was due home. Maybe that was just how you set dinner, and it is stated it's an "everyday" layout.

But I feel like it makes it seem like Marilla really wanted to make the child feel like he was at home as soon as he got there, and that she really wanted him to be comfortable with them.

I mean, imagine going to a new home and everything being super fancy???

Mrs. Rachel starts fearmongering about orphans and dropping horror stories, and Marilla is all, "There's risks in people's having children of their own if it comes to that - they don't always turn out well."

One, that is a darn fine shutdown.

Two, this is something Montgomery would find true for herself. She was rather disappointed in her sons' life choices and had rocky relationships with them both.

Interesting prediction, that.

Mrs. Rachel expresses great doubt at the idea that Matthew and Marilla will be capable of raising a child well, and with that, we end chapter one.

(Link to Twitter thread.) Chapter Two - Matthew Cuthbert Is Surprised

So, when last we left, Matthew Cuthbert was heading to Bright River to pick up the orphan he plans on adopting with his sister Marilla. Matthew enjoys the drive, but he vehemently dislikes the fact that he must nod hello at other drivers.

He especially dreads doing this at women, and this is reflective of his general view on them. He often fears they're laughing at him.

TBH that would probably sound a lot creepier if he didn't hate being around ALL people.

He gets to Bright River where the train station is and walks past a girl sitting on a pile of shingles, mostly ignoring her as he's wont to do with people in general.

Except when he asks the stationmaster when the train will be coming in, he's told it already has

Surprise! The girl waiting at the station is the orphan they were sent.

Matthew pretty much doesn't know what to do and desperately wishes Marilla was there. He is Very Uncomfortable and does not wish to be in charge, lol. She's very excited about having a home, and he basically decides to take her back to Green Gables because he can't bear to dash her hopes.

And also because he wants to go home, which you know. I get that.

In this chapter, our girl isn't given a name yet (we'll get there), but she has been described as "a case" and as having a tongue, and the best description, as having "decidedly red hair".

Seriously, Montgomery's got descriptions on lock. They're so strong.

This is one of the parts where our girl starts to talk wonderously about things around her, and it's wonderful prose, but hard to describe in a tweet. She sees things like cherry trees and they are truly magical to her, and she can't help but share that feeling. She's incredibly expressive and also very wordy and talks for most of the drive.

Matthew, who is actually described as an introvert here, decides he doesn't mind listening to her talk, especially because she doesn't expect him to respond overly much. He likes that she's filling the silence so he doesn't have to, lol. There's also a mention here of him not approving much of how "well-bred" Avonlea girls are raised, because they always act afraid of him.

Our girl also decides that the beautiful places they pass need prettier names than the ones they have, and decides to rename them, which honestly is kind of adorable.

As they reach Green Gables, our girl is absolutely in love with the place and so excited to have a new home.

And Matthew is dreading the idea of having to tell her that she can't stay. He compares it to when he has to kill lambs or calves. He's known her for like 2 hours and he's already gone to mush XD

And that's the end of the chapter. Not a ton happening in this one plot-wise, but the descriptions are amazing. You truly get a sense of how beautiful Prince Edward Island is.

I also continue to find it interesting that Marilla and Matthew are siblings. If you were reading it for the first time, I'm not sure if you'd understand that fully at this point. The only real clue is a mention of them being adults when Green Gables was built. (Editing Laina: The station master does say "your sister" to Matthew once.)

OH and one of my favourite things in this chapter - our girl is very depressed that she's so thin. She says she would much rather be "nice and plump", with elbow dimples.

(Link to Twitter thread.) Chapter Three: Marilla Cuthbert Is Surprised

So when last we left off, Matthew Cuthbert had just returned to Green Gables with our girl, who as we know was supposed to be a boy. She has already quite charmed him, and he's dreading telling her she can't stay.

Time to introduce her to Marilla.

Marilla is Not Pleased at this development. Now, this is more subtext, but you can tell Marilla likes things a certain way. She plans for things to go a certain way, and she expects them to turn out how she planned.

Our girl has thrown a hitch into this plan.

 Marilla is by no means CRUEL about saying our girl isn't supposed to be there, but this isn't what she planned, and that simply won't do.

Our girl, reasonably, gets quite upset that she can't stay.

When Marilla tries to tell her not be upset, our girl rightfully points out that she very well has the right to be upset when she was expecting to have a home and instead is told that she's not wanted because she's not a boy.

Marilla has a hint of a smile when she says they won't be kicking our girl out that night or anything, which suggests she thinks our girl is being a little dramatic, but honestly it's a fair point! She was told she was getting a new family and a home! And now, after she's gotten attached to the idea of living here, and seen all the pretty places, she's being told she can't stay? Of course that's upsetting!!! This is perfectly reasonable.

And this is when we finally get to know her name, and we are introduced to one Anne Shirley.

Who starts off by saying she would much rather be called Cordelia, because Anne is such a dreadfully plain name.

Marilla is not here for it.

Earlier when a neighbour's daughter was brought up and her name was stated to be Diana, Matthew expressed a preference for "plain"/"simple" names, and Marilla also finds them more suitable.

Anne vehemently disagrees.

But, she says, if she must be called Anne, it has to be Anne-With-An-E, because just Ann is dreadfully boring.

Sorry, Anns of the world.

She says that when she sees names, she sees them spelled out in her mind, and some are prettier than others. Marilla is like "sure, cool, why not" and they go to eat dinner. She's very critical that Anne isn't eating much, but Anne is too upset to eat. Poor thing. Also the food descriptions are very good and I'm getting hungry from reading them XD

Eventually, it's getting late, and Marilla worries about where to put her. They had originally prepared the "kitchen chamber" for the boy they were expecting, but that is apparently not appropriate for a girl. Ngl, I had to look up what a kitchen chamber was.

The "spare room" apparently also isn't appropriate for her to stay in (there are so many rules!) so she ends up in the east gable room. The east gable room is described like much of the rest of the house - extremely clean and tidy, but not the least bit welcoming. It's also fairly bare, with plain white walls and only a rug on the floor. It seems like it could be a sweet little room, but not yet.

Marilla is kind of awkward and doesn't really know what to say to Anne or what to do. Eventually she just tells her to change and she'll be back to blow out the candle.

Funny moment in linguistic changes - Anne's nightgown and some of her clothes in general are described as "skimpy". By this they mean plain, lacking any kind of frill or lace (editing Laina: It was also pointed out to me that skimpy could mean the material was quite thin and cheap and not warm for sleeping in) but it's funny reading that now because wow would a skimpy nightgown mean something else

Marilla comes in once she's in bed, and she's awkward saying goodnight, but not unkind. Anne is just very upset, obviously.

Great character development moment - Marilla picks up the clothes that Anne has left on the floor and folds them. I think that shows both how she likes things to be tidy and in their place, and also that she's not unkind. She doesn't snap at Anne for leaving her things a mess or make her pick them up. She just cleans them up.

Marilla leaves her and goes to find Matthew in the kitchen. She's unsettled, and he's visibly worried and upset. It doesn't take much prodding for him to admit he doesn't want to send Anne back to the orphanage.

Marilla asks what good will a girl be for them (as in, farm work) and Matthew suggests they might be good for her, which is so sweet honestly. He's clearly charmed by her, and suggests she'd be good company for Marilla. Marilla is not having this. She says she doesn't need company and they simply can't keep her. Matthew says she's right, but you can also tell he clearly doesn't agree, and he goes to bed upset.

Marilla is very unsettled by this all.

And Anne is crying herself to sleep as the chapter ends.

This is such a good character development chapter, honestly. You really get a solid sense of who these characters are, even though it's still so early in the book. Clearly from the title it's not a surprise she'll eventually stay but you still feel so bad for Anne. And Marilla and Matthew don't come off as the antagonists. Even Marilla, who is the one saying no, you understand why. It's a really interesting dynamic.

Also, three chapters in, it still has not actually said they're brother and sister, lol. (Editing Laina: Only once in the second chapter.) Which can you imagine reading this for the first time and accidentally putting incest in Anne of Green Gables?
Works cited:

“History Spotlight: British Home Children.” Canada's History - Canada's History, 23 June 2010, www.canadashistory.ca/explore/settlement-immigration/history-spotlight-british-home-children.
Joyce, Sandra. “The Street Arab.” SANDRA JOYCE, www.sandrajoyce.com/cms/books/the-street-arab/.

“Street Arabs and Street Urchins.” The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th Ed, Encyclopedia.com, 1 Feb. 2019, www.encyclopedia.com/children/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/street-arabs-and-street-urchins.

“The Wadsworth-Longfellow House - The Children's Room.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Maine Historical Society, 10 Jan. 2017, www.hwlongfellow.org/house_children.shtml.

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