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Saturday, February 23, 2019

Anne of Green Gables Read-Along: Chapters 7-9

At some point I'll probably figure out an intro to this, but I can always edit that in. And remember, after February 28th this blog will no longer be updating. Follow me on Wordpress to continue reading (please!).

(Link to Twitter thread) Chapter Seven: Anne Says Her Prayers

When we closed the last chapter, Marilla had decided to allow Anne to stay but not to tell her til the next day. She now goes in to tell Anne it's time for bed. Unlike last night, tonight Marilla tells Anne that she must pick her clothes up each night and fold them on the chair, not leave them on the floor.

Honestly this kind of confirms to me that she was being gentler with Anne because she could tell Anne was so upset. The secret soft spots of Marilla Cuthbert could be a whole essay in itself lol.

She is, however, horrified to hear that Anne has never prayed before bed. This is one of the parts of the book that is really Christian-heavy, just FYI.

Anne has gone to Sunday school at the asylum, but she has "never cared about" God since Mrs Thomas told her He made Anne's hair red on purpose. All her life Anne has basically been told that her red hair makes her bad or worth less than others, so that's a lot to hear. Reminder that she is 11 years old and for most of her life has been raising other peoples' children and is a victim of neglect and very likely abuse, but sure, SHE'S the bad one.

I'm not religious, but I do find this scene interesting anyways. Anne talks about how if she really wanted to pray, she'd go out into nature and look up at the sky to feel close to God. This is very true to Montgomery's experience, I think. She later married a minister, but some of her very important moments in her faith weren't in church or anything. She often spoke of something she called "the flash". Montgomery often went for walks alone in nature, and she'd describe a moment of tranquility and clarity where she was inspired by the feeling of a higher spiritual power running through nature.

Anne's feelings are pretty clearly inspired by that.

It's interesting because I don't think this kind of thing would really be considered proper? But while people have interesting responses, it's framed similarly to other things Anne does that we're supposed to approve of even if others around her don't. VERY MUCH not my area of expertise, but an interesting scene.

Marilla is too embarassed to teach Anne "Now I lay me down to sleep" like she had planned, thinking it doesn't really suit her at all.

I also kinda like this line. Anne "knew and cared nothing about God's love, since she had never had it translated to her through the medium of human love." I like that Marilla blames people for not treating her well? Like I don't think every child needs to be raised with religion in their life, but Marilla very clearly considers it part of the foundation of child-rearing, and she feels the people in Anne's life have failed her on that.

And I do think it's nice that she doesn't think that Anne should just have magically figured this out on her own and been perfectly pious when the world and people were being terrible to her. It just feels more fair somehow. You know what I think it is? It's that it's about peoples' actions, not just what they say.

Anne basically ad-libs a prayer, and Marilla says goodnight and leaves. When she gets downstairs, she is super riled up and glares at Matthew, and she's now even more certain of her decision to keep Anne. According to Marilla, Anne CLEARLY needs people in her life to help her not be almost a heathen and it's about time someone adopted her.

Frankly I think Marilla is just glad to have a plan again, and that she can be in control of something.
I think she likes having a "problem" to solve, too.

And that's the end of the chapter!! We might do another tonight - we'll see what else I get done today. Honestly of religious things I've read, this chapter is by far not the worst. Montgomery injects enough humour into this (Marilla being so flustered) that even though it's not my thing, it's fun to read.

(Link to Twitter thread) Chapter Eight: Anne's Bringing-up is Begun

It's now the next day, and Marilla still hasn't told Anne she's staying. She's not really sure why. Maybe she's nervous, even.

She has been having Anne do chores all morning though - not to the extant of the other people she lived with. Just normal chores. Like, Anne's 11 and she's just moved to a farm. A certain amount of work was expected of children that age back then, and really should be of most kids now, and she's not raising peoples' children or anything.

Marilla concludes that Anne is "smart and obedient, willing to work and quick to learn", but she has a tendancy to stop to daydream in the middle of a task.

Two side notes here. One, forenoon" is a cool word. Means morning. Two, is this a thing in the US too where the means used to be "breakfast, dinner, supper"? Lot of older people here still call the noon-time meal "dinner". I'll probably say "dinner" as they use it in these threads, fyi.

So after washing the dinner dishes, Anne breaks down and begs just to know if she can stay or not. Not knowing either way is killing her, which, SAME. It me for real. Marilla FINALLY tells her yes, and Anne happy cries. Which has never happened to her before in her life.

Marilla doesn't approve of this, lol. And it's not that she doesn't feel things - she's just a more private person emotionally.  Marilla very much keeps her emotions inside and doesn't display them very much.

Anne worries about being good enough because Mrs Thomas told her she was "desperately wicked". Like a lot. And again I hate these women so much.

Since it's only two weeks til summer vacation, Anne won't be starting school til September. So I don't know when summer breaks used to be, but it does make me feel like this is around mid-May since like. You'd want June free because kids would be working, right? Editing Laina: It's confirmed to be June by the book in later chapters.

This part is quite interesting. Marilla isn't big on being called "Miss Cuthbert". Most people in Avonlea don't call her that, and she doesn't want Anne to, either. Anne, however, worries very deeply that just plain Marilla is disrespectful.

This is something I really get. When I grew up, I didn't call adults "Miss" or "Mr" anything besides teachers, but also no one TOLD me what to call them so I kinda just didn't say names at all for most adults. When I worked at the library, I would always introduce myself as my first name to the kids I worked with, but their parents sometimes called me "Miss (MyName)" and I didn't mind that or anything.

However, I think I've talked before about how when I'm emailing (i.e. mostly querying) I really dislike when people decide I'm a "Ms" without asking. Makes me really uncomfortable. But also I know that my perspective is like. Like I'm white, clearly. And I know that definitely changes things as to what's respectful, culturally and also location based?

The attitude of the book is almost a modern attitude, though. Marilla says that if you speak respectfully, there's nothing disrespectful about calling someone by their name if that's what they want you to call them. Like I said, almost a modern attitude! Marilla also does not like the idea of Anne calling her "Aunt Marilla", as she doesn't believe in "calling people names that don't belong to them", and this leads into Anne being rather shocked that Marilla isn't big on imagining things.

We go a bit religious again as Marilla decides Anne should learn the Lord's Prayer instead of winging it at night. Anne does go off on a tangent here and Marilla says when she tells Anne to do something, she should do it and not ramble on.

This is one of those things that sounds harsh but honestly isn't unreasonable. They live on a farm! Sometimes you need to do things in a timely manner. Like... milk the cows... or something. I do not live on a farm.

Plus, what about emergencies?

Rather demonstrating this point, when sent to get something from another room, Anne immediately gets distracted by a picture in the sitting room. It's called "Christ Blessing Little Children" which seems to be kind of a popular title for paintings. I don't think it's meant to be important which specific painting it is, if it's a real one, more that Anne is very drawn to it.

Marilla mildly scolds her for being "irreverant" when she talks about how Jesus is depicted in it. You can tell Marilla isn't really angry though. Anne thinks that pictures of Jesus shouldn't make him look so sad because if he really looked like that, children would have been afraid of him.

Which is kind of an interesting idea tbh???

And I can see how so much of the religion stuff can get a bit old, but at this point I like the idea that they might allow Anne to explore religion in her own way a bit, and see things a little differently. Might not play out that way, but there's the hints.

Anne likes the Lord's Prayer because it makes her feel like poetry does, and also she memorizes it in a couple minutes? How long is that thing, is that impressive? I'm not familiar with it. Like, Anne can memorize something I assume is semi-long in just a few minutes and then immediately gets distracted by the flowers on the table. We also know she used to borrow the older girl's books at the asylum. At the very least, we can say she's probably not being challenged academically enough, yeah???

Also, about said flowers, it's a jugful of apple blossoms that Marilla "eyed (...) askance" but didn't comment on when Anne brought them inside. Marilla soft spot again.

Poor Marilla is trying to get Anne to focus but it is a lost cause because Anne has moved on to wondering if she'll ever have a "bosom friend" - a best friend. A kindred spirit. A @soveryqueer, even.

Marilla mentions Diana Barry, but says Mrs Barry "won't let Diane play with any little girl who isn't nice and good". Anne is just grateful to learn Diana has black hair and not red. She's seriously messed up about the hair. Marilla, meanwhile, thinks it's more important that Diana is "good and smart", but Anne is very delighted she's pretty and deeply hopes they'll be friends

Okay look. I realize history changes how we view things.

But if you look at a girl who immediately asks if another girl is pretty and gets all dreamy over the fact that she is - a modern lens reads that as a touch queer.

Please enjoy that queer subtext.

Then Anne shares about the imaginary friends she made up as a child to try and alleviate her loneliness and it's beautifully written, but it's one of those things you look at as an adult and just feel bad for her. She was SO lonely. And I suspect that this is one of those things that is very much based on Montgomery's childhood. Though she grew up near cousins, she was also alone very often as her grandparents were not affectionate people, and she was very imaginative as a result.

Marilla doesn't approve of all the imagining and thinks it'll be good for Anne to have a real friend. This is a small thing that really does show how differently she intends to treat Anne than the other women. Living with them, Anne didn't have time for friends. Though Marilla expects Anne to do chores around the house, she also thinks that Anne will have time to play and be a normal kid. She's raising a child to be responsible, not keeping a child... I'll say "servant" with heavy sarcasm.

I also think it's interesting to point out that Anne still feels safe telling Marilla about her daydreams even though Marilla doesn't really approve. She tells her things she wouldn't tell other people, even. She already trusts her.

Marilla realizes Anne can't concentrate lol and sends her to her room to finish memorizing the one line of the prayer she didn't have down. Anne finishes on the stairs and instead ends the chapter daydreaming. It's much happier, though, and not just an escape. Gosh this was a lot to talk about in this chapter! And again, not actually a lot happening plotwise but it certainly doesn't feel boring, hey?

(Link to Twitter thread) Chapter Nine: Mrs Lynde is Properly Horrified

So, remember Mrs Rachel Lynde from the first chapter? After Anne has been at Green Gables for two weeks, she's arrived to... snoop, basically, because she's nosy. She's been unable to do so until now due to "grippe" aka the flu. Editing Laina: Like actual influenza - it was quite serious.

Also it's probably June now. Editing Laina: Probably almost July.

Anne has been exploring Green Gables and the surrounding area and is seriously in love with the nature, which is described wonderfully. She has time to play like a normal kid, and that might be a first for her. She talks the ears off Matthew and Marilla about what she sees. Matthew enjoys her chatter and Marilla permits until she finds "herself becoming too interested in it" which is kind of adorable.

Mrs Rachel spends a great deal of time talking to Marilla about her illness in great detail. And it's so funny how the narrative clearly doesn't like her. Mrs Rachel asks if they couldn't send Anne back. Marilla says probably, but they decided not to because Matthew took a fancy to her. And Marilla admits that though she has her faults, the house seems different already and Anne is a "bright little thing". Marilla didn't actually mean to say all that, but she saw the disapproval in Mrs Rachel's eyes.

Another piece of evidence for that "Secret Soft Spots of Marilla Cuthbert" essay.

Mrs Rachel tries to fearmonger more about how "a child like that" will turn out ending with "but I don't want to discourage you". Marilla dryly responds that she's not discouraged, and says, "When I make up my mind to do a thing, it stays made up."

Which is basically what I've been saying for a while. That is very much one of the foundations of Marilla's personality.

Anne comes in from playing and Mrs Rachel, having heard how much they like this child and how highly they think of her, immediately calls her ugly. Lovely woman. Should go meet up with a Mrs Thomas and Mrs Hammond. I'm sure they'd get along wonderfully.

The narrative gets sarcastic here in the best way possible. "Mrs Rachel was one of those delightful and popular people who pride themselves on speaking their mind without fear or favour."


Also, seriously, you're going to insult her for being skinny? She's an ORPHAN. Maybe take a hint that she hasn't had enough to eat over her life.

This is a part I really don't like. Anne calls her "fat and clumsy" and the narrative describes her as "always waddling". If it's not okay for Mrs Rachel to insult Anne for her weight, then it's not okay for Anne to insult Mrs Rachel for HER weight. It's just very unnecessary.

Anne is reasonably angry though! She declares she hates Mrs Rachel and asks how dare she be so rude. Also reasonably, Marilla sends Anne to her room. Then, rather unexpectedly (to herself), she scolds Mrs Rachel for insulting Anne's looks! Marilla says Anne needs to have a talking to, but Mrs Rachel WAS too hard on her.

And this I think is again very reasonable. Anne really can't go around yelling at everyone who insults her, because, unfairly or not, she will get a reputation that way. Yeah it kinda sucks, but that is kind of part of Marilla's responsibilities in raising a child, is teaching her this kind of stuff.

(Child death/child abuse tw) Mrs Rachel has "brought up ten children and buried two" and she suggests whipping Anne with a birch switch instead of the talking-to Marilla has planned.


Mrs Rachel leaves in a huff and Marilla goes to talk to Anne. Marilla is more embarassed than anything and has no idea how to punish Anne. She points out Anne has called herself everything Mrs Rachel said. Anne replies there's a difference between saying a thing yourself and having others say it because you hope others don't think it so.

Suddenly Marilla remembers a time when she overheard an aunt say, "what a pity she is such a dark, homely little thing". It's a memory that has taken until she was fifty to not hurt so much. She admits Mrs Rachel wasn't right in saying what she did, but Anne can't be rude back.

Again, I don't think this is unreasonable.

There's a time and a place for everything. Anne's temper can be a tool when something really unjust is happening, but if you fly off the handle every time someone insults you even a little, people are going to judge you for that. And maybe that's not that unfair? If someone calls you a name and you beat them up, say, you're not in the right because you were insulted.

And honestly Anne needs to learn the balance.

As punishment, Marilla decides that Anne must go and apologize to Mrs Rachel and ask for her forgiveness. This is a very fitting punishment because it's the absolute last thing Anne wants to do. And this is a relatively small stakes thing!

I actually think this is a pretty good example? Almost a natural consequence. If Anne has to apologize to a neighbour to smooth things over, and really doesn't like that, maybe it'll make her think about whether the next time is WORTH losing her temper.

Anne very dramatically says she can't. Seriously, she says they can lock her in a damp, dark dungeon with toads and snakes before she'll do it! Marilla dryly says they're not in the habit of doing that and dungeons are scarce in Avonlea so she'll stay in her room

Marilla leaves Anne in her room and she's as angry with herself as with Anne because every time she remembers the look on Mrs Rache's face, she finds herself wanting to laugh about it.

And that's where we end the chapter! And I'm just going to leave it here that each of these chapter recaps take at least an hour, usually more like 2 hours, to do. So if you appreciate them, maybe drop a tip in ye ol' tip jar.

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