We're back with the Anne of Green Gables Read-a-long. This week Ingegerd Jonasson joins us with her take on one of the classic moments in the novel, "Chapter XVI: Diana is Invited to Tea, with Tragic Results."
Chapter XVI: Diana is Invited to Tea, with Tragic Results
By, Ingegerd Jonasson
Diana is invited to tea. That sounds peaceful enough, but already in the heading we learn that the result is a tragedy. This dramaturgy is so typical for Anne´s life at Green Gables, starting with great joy, hope and expectations and the ever sought after feelings and behavior of grown ups as Anne sees them. She argues with Marilla about the rosebud tea set, the spare room for her guest´s hat, and the wish to sit in the parlour. When denied these things she is still playing the well-bred grown up woman posing polite questions she already knows the answer to. This part also gives a glimpse of social life in Prince Edwards Island at Anne´s time, the late 19th century. Who would be asked into the parlour? What would be proper to serve the minister and on what china?
Before the tragedy occurs, we get a lovely example of gossip about school mates and of Anne´s mishaps in an everyday context, where Mrs. Chester Ross appears, another of these conservative, stern women, condemning Anne´s behavior just by looking at her.
The tragedy isn´t really the fact that Diana has three big glasses of what turns out to be wine, it´s rather her mother´s stern and relentless reaction to it.
Anne tries to make amends by an apology that, this time, is thoroughly genuine, even though she doesn´t really feel that she is to blame. It has none of the triumphant humiliation in it as when she was compelled to ask forgiveness of Mrs. Lynde, earlier in the book.
In this chapter there is a development of some of the characters in the book. Matthew isn´t even present, but through Marilla´s description of him we find him to be the good one, always taking Anne´s side whatever she does. Matthew is really the same from beginning to end. But Marilla shows in this context not so much of the very strict, law-abiding, god-fearing woman she at first appears to be, but a sense of humour when Anne declares that even God himself probably couldn´t do much about Mrs. Barry, and also empathy, when she kisses the sleeping Anne´s wet cheek.
There is also a new tone in Anne´s perception of adultness: she can see that being a well bred woman isn´t just about keeping your toes in order at a tea party or asking the right, polite questions, but instead to be able to grasp what is true and what is false in a person´s behavior and character and to show some compassion and generosity towards the one, who is the weaker part. Another striking characteristic in the whole book is very evident in this chapter, at the beginning especially: the description of Nature, particularly the colors.
There is the royal crimson of the maple trees, the birches golden as sunshine, the cherry trees with shades of dark red and bronzy green, the chill autumn dusk and the pale little moon. But also, the bright red of the fatal raspberry cordial.
This chapter really has it all: Anne´s sensitive mind with a strong feeling for honesty, a longing for beauty, a wonderful gift for fantasy, for true friendship. A dramatic story, persons good and evil but also with more realistic, truly human sides. And around it Nature with all its sparkling colours.
Ingegerd Jonasson is a retired psychiatrist and psychotherapist in Sweden. She has five daughters. She and her sisters grew up with Anne, reading their mother´s copies, now 100 years old, which she still possess. She has always loved Anne, quoting her in all situations in life, even to her patients. She is a retired psychiatrist and psychotherapist in Sweden.