Sunday, February 22, 2015

Truth Bomb: Anne's House of Dreams

I read so much this week, but I also went to the Smithsonian and took care of a kindergartener with a stomach virus, so I didn't have much time to blog.  There will be SO MUCH catching up this week.

I'm going to start with the easy post, though, which is mostly a reblog: Anne's House of Dreams

I think I've come to the end of my recent Anne Shirley reread; I only just barely managed to read Anne of Ingleside one time (on my honeymoon, how gloomy is that), and it's all about being old, and how the Anne we loved and her whimsical past are things of childhood meant to be packed away.  We're supposed to warm to the new generation of imaginative adventures that her children are having, but since Anne spends the first chapter of the book chuckling condescendingly at her childhood self, I'd rather leave her alone with her matronly woes, thank you very much.

But here we have the culmination of Anne and Gilbert's relationship, which of course we've all been waiting for.  Unlike so many romantic payoffs, we get a whole book of our lovers being married and happy together!  Yay!  Except there's so little of it.  I think this is the book where I most noticed the tell-not-show thing that Montgomery does, because there are long walks and long talks that are hardly described; I am told the impression they leave but not of their substance. 

Anne and Gil are comradely, but she spends a weird amount of time fishing for compliments, and there's very little sense of partnership here.  I almost didn't realize what was missing until the end when they're discussing the need for a bigger house, and Anne is lamenting leaving their beloved but tiny starter home--she knows it's necessary, but makes Gilbert talk her into it.  I mean, I've done that, but there's no sense that they're making a decision together, and it just made me realize that they don't appear to be in anything together.

I went looking for opinions on this subject, and I came across this blogger's feelings of betrayal at how Anne's writing abilities are so thoroughly blown off in this book.  And she makes great points, both about how much I hated that, and about how Anne as a True Writer is not as present in the text as you might think.  (Of course, for that Montgomery has given us Emily, so we're all set with that.)

I want to respond to her post (which is a few years old so I'm doing it here instead of there) that there's a broader dismissal of Anne's intellectual life that upsets me here.  When Gilbert and Captain Jim have long discussions about philosophy and important matters, Anne sometimes listens and sometimes goes for a walk on the beach.  WHAT?!?  She lives outside of town, so she's not even really involved in the goings-on of the community--basically, as I said in my last post, she goes from running a large high school to running a small house and teasing Gilbert into telling her how pretty she is. 

What it comes down to, I think, is that Montgomery has much better insight into the internal lives of children than adults.  Maybe it's a constraint of the genre--she couldn't talk about the complexities of the things Anne really might be feeling.  She couldn't talk about the limitations of being a housewife, of how it was anything but rewarding; she had to dance around pregnancy, and only relate the parts of Anne's experience of miscarriage that would be appropriate for a young child almost 100 years ago to hear.  That doesn't leave you with much depth.  Whatever grown-up Anne is thinking, Montgomery didn't--or couldn't--put it in the book.

I'm going to believe that.  I'm going to choose to think that Anne became an adult the same way I did--by dribs and drabs, and half-faking it, and still confused and frustrated and inspired, though less impulsive and moody.  I like this imaginary Anne better. 

And I'll let you know if I end up diving too deep into the world of AoGG fan fic. 

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