Anne of Green Gables is a 1908 novel by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery. Written for all ages, it has been considered a classic children’s novel. I’ve seen the tv series, the movie, the musical, but only recently have I read the book. Now I gain a new appreciation for the humour and the sorrow of Montgomery’s story lived out in Anne (spelled with an “e”).
Without intending to bore any of you who are already so thoroughly familiar with the story, Anne is a precocious orphan girl sparking with imagination and all things romantic who wants nothing more than to belong to a family. Through a rather important miscommunication she is accidentally inserted into the home of an aging bachelor brother and sister (Matthew and Marilla) who are wanting a boy ready to work the farm and carry the load on Prince Edward Island.
Anne would not be that person; she would be a “gadding roustabout” – a silly-heart taken away on the (mis)adventures of her own imagination. Nosey neighbour Mrs. Lynde even declares that Anne is “filled with original sin” – as if the trouble she gets into is original to her. Nevertheless, she eventually emerges as a cherished child who cannot help but be loved.
The Longing to Belong
Though Anne is impoverished relationally – she is affluent with a fertile mind:
… it seems so wonderful that I’m going to live with you and belong to you. I’ve never belonged to anybody – not really.
Not really even then – for very quickly the joyless and demanding Marilla is determined to return Anne to the person who mistakenly brought her to the “island.” In the five miles to be travelled, Marilla makes the mistake of asking Anne to tell her what she knew of herself.
Oh, what I know about myself isn’t really worth telling.
Though a sad commentary on her sense of self-worth, nevertheless Anne goes on to disclose how destitute a life she has lived in her 11 years. This story softens Marilla to change her mind – or more accurately – to change her heart in order to keep Anne rather than return her to the “sanatorium”:
Marilla asked no more questions. Anne gave herself up to silent rapture over the shore road and Marilla guided the sorrel abstractly while she pondered deeply. Pity was suddenly stirring in her heart for the child. What a starved, unloved life she had had – a life of drudgery and poverty and neglect… no wonder she had been so delighted at the prospect of a real home.
The Longing to be Blessed
Now that Marilla had committed to the task of raising Anne, she goes about putting Anne through the curriculum of house work. During one errand, Anne fails to return promptly to which Marilla marches after her:
She found Anne standing motionless before a picture hanging on the wall between the two windows, with her hands clasped behind her, her face uplifted, and her eyes astar with dreams. The white and green light strained through apple-trees and clustering vines outside fell over the rapt little figure with a half-unearthly radiance.
‘Anne, whatever are you thinking of?’ demanded Marilla sharply.
Anne came back to earth with a start.
‘That,’ she said, pointing to the picture – a rather vivid chromo entitled ‘Christ Blessing Little Children’ – ‘and I was just imagining I was one of them – that I was the little girl in the blue dress, standing off by herself in the corner as if she didn’t belong to anybody, like me. She looks lonely and sad, don’t you think? I guess she hadn’t any father or mother of her own. But she wanted to be blessed, too, so she just crept shyly up on the outside of the crowd, hoping nobody would notice her – except Him.
I am sure I know just how she felt. Her heart must have beat and her hands must have got cold, like mine did when I asked you if I could stay. She was afraid He mightn’t notice her. But it’s likely He did, don’t you think? I’ve been trying to imagine it all out – her edging a little nearer all the time until she was quite close to Him; and then He would look at her and put His hand on her hair and oh, such a thrill of joy as would run over her!’
The Longing to be Loved
I am drawn in by how effortlessly Anne enters the scene found in Matthew 19, spotting herself on the outside edge – being beckoned somehow to come inside Jesus’ sphere of sight and touch – to belong, to be blessed, and to be beloved – for surely He invites each one of us to Himself.
And, isn’t this what each one of us long for?
Such is the musing of a chance read this summer: coming upon another childhood classic I never read till now – and being so much more ready to take it in at this stage of life.
What are you reading this summer that stirs imagination and longing?