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Saturday, February 16, 2019

Anne of Green Gables Read-Along: Chapters 4-6

Do I need an intro here? Y'all know what's up, right?

(Link to Twitter thread) Chapter Four: Morning at Green Gables

So, Anne wakes up in Green Gables and I adore the descriptions at the beginning of this chapter. They're so vivid and detailed and really give you a picture of the the place without being boring or overdrawn.

There's a cherry tree outside of Anne's room, and she describes the light coming in through the window as "a flood of cherry sunshine", and basically every tree is in bloom outside. So pretty.

This is also the first real time we've been in Anne's POV. Anne gets lost in looking at how beautiful everything is, and is surprised by Marilla coming in to tell her to get dressed.

Marilla isn't used to talking to children, and she's a bit curt due to discomfort, though she doesn't mean to be.

This morning, she tells Anne to get herself cleaned up and to make the bed. This makes me go back to what I was saying yesterday - when Anne was upset, Marilla picked up after her. Now that Anne is feeling better, she has her cleaning up after herself. I do think it's a couple of moments that show her softer side when compared, and that she was sympathetic to how Anne felt and how upset she was.

Anne comes down to breakfast and goes on a bunch about how mornings are magical and lovely because Anne is totally a morning person and I do feel some sympathy for Marilla when she tells Anne to be quiet and eat, lol. It's early, girl. Anne actually does, which after a couple minutes kinda freaks Marilla out. She realizes Anne is daydreaming and wonders why Matthew would ever want to keep her.

And she can tell he definitely still does even though he hasn't said anything. In fact, it bothers her more that he hasn't said anything than if he did, because you can't argue with something someone hasn't actually said.

Anne offers to help with the dishes after breakfast, and Marilla very distrustfully takes her up on it, and also reminds her to make her bed. Apparently Anne has not before encountered a "feather tick", which I actually looked up.

I realized I wasn't ENTIRELY sure what a feather tick actually was, so I did a bit of research. A feather tick is basically a feather mattress, and each morning they needed to be shaken and fluffed back into shape.

She manages, though, and when she gets downstairs, Marilla says she can go out and play, but Anne is too scared to get attached to Green Gables. She already doesn't want to leave, though she's resigned herself that this is how things are going to be.

Marilla is annoyed that she also finds Anne interesting and wonders what she'll say yet. She's trying so hard not to get attached and kinda failing XD Meanwhile Matthew is the king of nonverbal communication and Marilla continues to be vexed at him because she can tell what he's feeling (how much he wants Anne to stay) but she can't argue with it if he doesn't actually say anything.

They leave to "settle" things with Mrs. Spencer, who brought Anne from the orphanage, and as we close the chapter, Matthew looks wistfully after them from the gate as they leave. Shorter chapter today, with some great descriptions of how beautiful Green Gables is, and I'm very excited to get into the next chapter when there's more backstory and such.

(Link to Twitter thread) Chapter Five: Anne's History

Well, I've got a murder game I'd like to play, so let's get today's chapter done. This is Chapter Five and it's a good one!

Marilla and Anne have just left Green Gables to go see Mrs. Spencer and basically see about returning Anne like the shirt I just returned to Walmart, but Anne has decided to stay positive and enjoy the drive there. I want to point out, though, that this isn't Anne being a Pollyanna. Deciding to enjoy the drive doesn't mean she isn't upset about what's going to happen. This is her trying to get any bit of pleasure out of things that she can.

And this is going to be very relevant as Marilla decides since Anne is determined to talk through the drive, she might as well tell Marilla about herself.

Here's what we learn.

Anne is 11 as of March. A bit of quick googling about tree blossomings suggest that it might be around the middle of end of May currently. So she's probably not been 11 very long. She was born in Nova Scotia to Walter and Bertha Shirley. Anne likes their names. She does not, however, like the name Jedediah and is grateful that was not her name.

Jedediah's of the world, I am truly sorry.

Marilla says it doesn't matter what a person's name is as long as they behave themselves, but Anne isn't convinced. She also doesn't think that a rose that was called a thistle or a skunk-cactus would smell as good as a rose called a rose, so, you know, sorry Will.

That's probably the last joke I'm gonna make for a bit because it gets sad after this. I would honestly suggest a TW for child abuse from here out.

Anne's parents were both teachers, although her mother stopped when she married Anne's father. The book says she gave it up because "a husband was enough responsibility" but I'm not sure at this time period women were allowed to teach after they married. This does reflect Montgomery's belief that having a family/marriage were most important for a woman

They were apparently "poor as church mice" according to Mrs Thomas, who Anne describes as "a poor woman who came in to scrub". She mentions that Mrs. Thomas spoke to/knew her mother, so I guess cleaning people were just cheaper to hire back then? I dunno, this is why I don't write historical books.

Editing Laina: It was suggested to me the hiring of Mrs Thomas was likely only meant to be temporary, during the last few weeks of Bertha's pregnancy and postpartum.

Her parents weren't from the area, and they had no living relatives, so Mrs Thomas took in baby Anne and raised her even though she was poor and had a "drunken husband". Anne stayed with the Thomases until she was 8, and helped look after the four Thomas children until the husband died falling under a train. After, his mother offered to take Mrs Thomas and the children in - but refused to take in Anne.

Lovely woman.

A "Mrs Hammond from up the river" says she'll take Anne as Anne was known to be good with kids at this point.

Let me point out again. She's eight years old.

These people are also kind of awful.

The Hammonds had EIGHT children, including three sets of twins in a row. Who Anne cares for. At eight years old. She stays there just over two years, so until she is 10 years old. At this point Mr. Hammond dies. I'm honestly shocked it took this long. After the second set of twins brought me to six kids, I'd be slipping some arsenic into Mr. Hammond's tea myself.

...his cause of death is unstated in the book. I'm just sayin'.

I guess Mrs. Hammond decides supporting the eight children she's making the 10 year old orphan raise is too much because she splits her kids up among relatives and hops the border to the US.

If you do the math, Anne probably hasn't quite turned 11 at this point.

At this point, she's sent to the orphan asylum because "nobody would take" her. They either told her, or she overheard them saying that they didn't even want to take her in, as they were overcrowded as it is, but they had no choice. She's been there 4 months.

With the apple and cherry and lilac trees blooming currently, it's probably around May. So she got there about a month before her birthday, probably, and four months total til Mrs. Spencer came to bring her to Green Gables.

Anne seems to say all this pretty matter-of-factly, but she finishes with a sigh of relief. "Evidently she did not like talking about her experiences in a wolrd that did not want her." And how freaking tragic is that. No wonder she broke down when they told her they didn't want her because she wasn't a boy! It's only the fourth time in 11 years! And this time was even worse, because people told her they DID want her, for the first time in her life!

And clearly the "to do farm chores" got lost in translation (the Cuthberts told someone who told Mrs Spencer who told the asylum, basically a game of telephone) so as far as Anne knew, it's not even that they want her to mind children AGAIN. It was just a home. The fact that the kid's still standing is a testament to how tough she is.

Marilla next asks if Anne has been to school, and the answer is, "Not a great deal."

Rural Canada in the 1910s, y'all. Editing Laina: Probably 1870s. This has become a Thing that we will need to investigate further, but around the 1870s is a good starting point guess.

Anne went to school a little the last year she stayed with Mrs. Thomas (7-8), but at Mrs. Hammond's (8-11), the school was too far away. She couldn't walk there in the winter, and in the summer it was closed obviously, so she only could go in fall and spring. For the four months she's been at the asylum she's been going, though.

Anne can read well and she loves poetry, even memorizing pieces. She used to borrow the Fifth Reader from the older girls at school, even though she was only on the Fourth one, because she liked some of the pieces in it and she wanted to read more.

My heart breaks a little there.

And this is when my heart breaks more.

Marilla's final question is if the women were good to Anne.

For the first time in the book, Anne stumbles over her words. She also turns red with embarassment. Anne says she's sure they meant to be good to her, and when people mean to be, it's easier to forgive them when they aren't always, and that they had it very hard having a drunken husband and eight kids.

Marilla doesn't ask any other questions.

Honestly the book isn't that subtle about the fact that Anne was probably abused. Marilla begins to feel quite bad for Anne, being "shrewd enough to read between the lines" and realize how much Anne has at the very least been neglected if not worse. She begins to understand why Anne was so happy to finally have a home and for the first time, she considers if they could do as Matthew wanted and keep her.

Which by the way, Matthew never comes across as creepy or anything. Even with time. Like I wanna make that clear, he truly comes across as very much wanting to be Anne's family, not anything weird.

Marilla thinks Anne talks to much but can be trained out of that (which frankly it wouldn't be bad for Anne to learn when the right time for things is, and to, you know, read others' nonverbal cues in a conversation) and nothing she says is "rude or slangy".

Then as they approach the coast, there's a really interesting part of description that's almost, like, Gothic in nature? You know how in Gothic novels, the setting can almost reflect how the character is feeling or set the tone of a scene? The shore road they've been taking is described as "woodsy and wild and lonesome" and there's great descriptions of the sea nearby being bright and shimmering, totally contrasting with that.

It's a real wonderful piece of writing. That's the kind of writing that makes me really want to read more of Montgomery's work, especially the stuff aimed at a more mature audience. I wanna see some darker stuff eventually!!

And we close out this chapter as they approach Mrs. Spencer's house. Anne, clearly, is dreading this.

I'm really excited for tomorrow's chapter, though. I think it's gonna be a good one. Also, craft note? This chapter is a master in how not a ton can happen (they literally just drive on a road) but a ton can happen at the same time (Anne's backstory, they bond, Marilla begins to soften more towards Anne).

(Link to Twitter thread.) Chapter Six: Marilla Makes Up Her Mind

When we finished the last chapter, Anne and Marilla had just arrived at Mrs Spencer's house, who was the one who brought Anne from the asylum. She's obviously surprised to see them and is quick to shift the blame for the situation around. I get a weird feeling off her, and I'm not sure why. She's probably fine. There's just something that doesn't sit right about her.

Anyways, the reason for the mix-up is that the Cuthberts told her brother who told his daughter who told Mrs Spencer. Moral of the story, don't rely on word of mouth/a game of Telephone to pick your orphan for you.

Marilla wants to know if Anne can be sent back to the asylum and Mrs Spencer says that another woman, a Mrs Blewitt, had just visited saying she wished she'd asked Mrs Spencer to bring home a little girl for her. Her reason? She has a large family and "finds it hard to get help".

Ya see where this is going? Yeah, I don't like it either.

Marilla is also uneasy about this idea. She knows Mrs Blewitt to be a "terrble worker and driver" and that "discharged servant girls told fearsome tales of her temper and stinginess, and her family of pert, quarrelsome children."

Honestly I rather enjoy these chapters where you get some of Marilla's POV. She never says everything she's thinking, and her thoughts are very interesting. There's something interesting, also, about how she's been rather critical of other women so far. I think the parts of it that are the most interesting is that she's not critical of them because of appearance or, like, their choices in having children or anything like that. She is always critical about the way they do their "work".

When you're talking about housework or homekeeping in this context (or truly, in any context, but let's stick with this) it's not just about how well you vacuum or sweep or whatever. Everything you do affects others. You don't keep your house clean and your children get the plague, they could take out a bunch of other kids getting them sick, too. You treat your housekeeping staff badly - do they have anywhere else to go?

Though she doesn't seem to like to admit, Marilla especially seems to have a definite soft spot for more vulnerable people being taken advantage of. Montgomery valued this type of work very highly, and I don't think she approve of people not doing it well. It's very interesting to look at.

So, Marilla is very uneasy with the idea of Anne going with Mrs. Blewitt... who just so happens to be riding up outside at that very moment. DRAMA.

Anne sits very quietly and watches Mrs Blewitt who's described as a "sharp-faced, sharp-eyed" woman. She's so nervous and on edge and is struggling very hard not to break down in tears. Again, the only other times she's cried was IMMEDIATELY after the home she was expecting to have was ripped away from her, and when she was alone in bed. Anne is a tough cookie.

Mrs Blewitt basically wants someone to clean and take care of her kids and if that someone is an 11 year old orphaned child, she's fine with that.

I don't like Mrs Blewitt.

It doesn't say how children many she has explicitly, but I'm assuming several.

Marilla sees how miserable Anne is and realizes she can't let Anne go with Mrs Blewitt because she's absolutely terrible, and, in Marilla's words, Anne is a sensitive child.She speaks up and says no, actually they're not so sure they've decided they won't keep her after all and she needs to consult with Matthew first.

She's TOTALLY using him as an excuse, lol. Marilla has no qualms about making decisions without his imput.

Anne waits only until the other women leave the room to spring up in joy and ask if she might really be allowed to stay or if she was just imagining it.

Marilla VERY GRUMPILY tells her to get a hold on her imagination if she can't tell what's real. Things are, of course, not going to plan. And we've discussed that Marilla really does not like when things don't go according to plan. And she gets grumpy when that happens.

But she tells Anne that, yes, she might be able to stay.

Anne is OVERJOYED. And she also adds that she'd rather go back to the asylum than with Mrs Blewitt, who "looks like a gimlet", which is a... *googles* Cocktail? No, that can't be right. Ah, there we go. "A small hand tool having a spiraled shank, a screw tip, and a cross handle and used for boring holes." Kinda like a corkscrew but for wood.

Marilla has to stop herself from laughing at that, which honestly is a struggle anyone who spends time with kids understands. You can tell how much she's amused and kinda agrees, but it's not appropriate for Anne to say things like that. Frankly, she's not wrong again. It's probably not the best time to insult someone when they're just in the other room.

It's impressive that Marilla often doesn't come off as unreasonable, even if she's being strict.

They go home and another interesting thing is that Marilla actually seems to do a fair amount of physical labour on the farm. She's out there milking cows with Matthew while they talk. She fills him in on Anne's history, and what happened at Mrs Spencer's and Matthew replies with, "I wouldn't give a dog I liked to that Blewitt woman" which is a much harsher thing than you'd ever expect him to say, especially about a woman.

It's unexpected and goes to show both how terrible Mrs Blewitt is and how deeply Matthew already cares about Anne.

They talk and Marilla basically bounces her worries off him until she convinces herself Anne should stay. This scene is really great for showing the dynamic of their relationship. It reminds me of the earlier one where it says Matthew is fond of people who talk to fill the silence so he doesn't have to talk. This chapter is also the first time we're really told they're brother and sister? Editing Laina: Besides that time I missed in the first chapter. Marilla is referred to as "Miss Cuthbert" and she mentions they're an old bachelor and an old maid, lol.

Just saying there XD

As the chapter closes, Marilla decides not to tell Anne until the morning, suspecting Anne won't sleep at all due to excitement, and grumps back into the house. Gosh you can tell how much she hates change XD  I think that's one of the things that really makes you connect to Marilla even though she's strict and not as approachable, is that you can just feel how uncomfortable she is. When she's thinking about keeping Anne, she worries deeply about doing it wrong.

She's a creature of habit with a lot of anxiety, and that's relateable. At least to me!

And that's all I've got for today, lol.
Works Cited:

“Gimlet (Tool).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 May 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gimlet_(tool).

“History of Featherbeds & Duvets.” Old & Interesting, www.oldandinteresting.com/history-feather-beds.aspx.

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