Tell me who your heroines are and I’ll tell you who you are.
Jane Austen‘s Elizabeth Bennett may have been the one who taught me not to give a damn what other people think (of which I am eternally thankful) but it was Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne Shirley who taught me the beauty of… thought.
The first time I was introduced to Anne of Green Gables I was about seven years old and it wasn’t through L.M. Montgomery’s book. My grandmother, ardent theatre enthusiast, had long been taking my sister and I to the theatre. Not Broadway or the West End or anything so decadent—I grew up in the suburbs so these were local companies long since gone under. But when she took us to see a local production of Anne of Green Gables I lit up and did not rest until I had a copy of the book in my hands. The words that awaited me were everything I’d felt but never knew how to express until the rapturous vitality of Anne Shirley did the talking for me:
“Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive–it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there?”
YES! Carpe Diem, Anne!
From then on, and straight through to this day, there are few places I’m happier than in the comfort of my own dreams. Nor in the singular adventure of their pursuit. And, like all truly great pieces of art, you are able to reinterpret and reinvent Anne’s meaning the older you get, the wiser you get. Truly appreciating the gems that were always there— simply waiting for you to catch up.
Parental punishment for me wasn’t taking away the TV or the phone or not letting me play outside—it was taking away my books. And when it was Anne, the tears of protest wouldn’t stop. She was, and is, my bosom friend. Iridescent with hope while plagued with sadness, Anne’s verisimilitude and conviction of character was a lesson I have never forgotten, and, although I have never quite been able to emulate it, have so often and so dearly wanted to.
It is hardly surprising then that the classic Canadian miniseries from 1985 starring Megan Follows and Colleen Dewhurst was an absolute institution in my household, as I’m sure it was for scores of other like-minded wee lasses. My VHS tape replayed to terribly often that it drove my father crazy—and left the video tape warped and wilted. For me that adaptation ranks right up there with the BBC’s 1995 Pride and Prejudice and their 1983 telling of Jane Eyre … and is an integral thread in my childhood’s fabric.
Anne was a self-made woman with no social advantages, little vanity (and what ‘vanity’ there was, well, let us all confess now, is no less the vanity than all of us have ever entertained), great strength of character, will, heart, tireless hard work … and whatever her romantic notions, possessed a sober and refreshingly realistic knowledge of what love truly was all about. (Gilbert Blythe, anyone?)
The wind purred softly in the cherry boughs, and the mint breaths came up to her. The stars twinkled over the pointed firs in the hollow and Diana’s
light gleamed through the old gap…
Anne’s horizons had closed in since the night she had sat there after coming home from Queen’s; but if the pathset before her feet was to be narrow she knew that flowers of quiet happiness would bloom along it. The joy of were to be hers; nothing could rob her of her birthright of fancy or her ideal world of dreams. And there was always the bend in the road!”
‘Always the bend in the road.’ Ah, me. As far as role models are concerned, few are more inspiring than Lucy Maud Montgomery’s dear Anne Girl.
(Absolutely open to discussion!)