This week's Anne of Green Gables Read-a-long continues with a post all the way from the UK! Jeanette Boyd gives us this interesting contrast between Anne and Marilla in "Chapter XIII: The Delights of Anticipation."
Chapter XIII: The Delights of Anticipation
By, Jeanette Boyd
We find Anne looking forward to her first-ever picnic and first-ever taste of “ice-cream” with Montgomery’s writing delightfully capturing Anne’s philosophy where, “looking forward to things is half the pleasure of them“. Yet Anne is not the only one on a path to new experiences as Marilla will encounter a rather wonderful first-ever experience too.
Montgomery contrasts the different outlooks of Anne and Marilla and opens the chapter by inviting us into the Green Gables kitchen to eavesdrop on Marilla who is speaking her thoughts aloud. We find that Anne has stayed out playing with Diana for longer than permitted, “when she knows perfectly well that she ought to be at her work”. Marilla is irritated that her time-keeping rules, vital to her parenting approach, are not being taken seriously and most startling of all, she thinks Matthew is “a perfect ninny”!
We can see Marilla is an outsider to Anne’s world of imagination, a realm beyond her comfort zone, and she calls time on Anne’s disobedient ways through her brisk “staccato taps” on the window. Anne however, is an unstoppable force of nature, unfettered by rules and time, summed up so beautifully in the description of her hurtling in from the yard with “unbraided hair streaming behind her in a torrent of brightness”.
Having outlined all the details of the picnic to Marilla and been granted approval to attend, we witness a first-ever experience for Marilla, as with Anne’s uninhibited, spontaneous thank you kiss, we learn that “it was the first time in her whole life that childish lips had voluntarily touched Marilla’s face”. Suddenly, we understand a lot more about Marilla.
Anne settles down to her sewing even though “there’s no scope for imagination in patchwork”. How Anne might have found sewing a “crazy quilt” like the one Montgomery made herself as a child, a more satisfying pastime; for Montgomery said of the quilt in her journal, “As for the dreams sewn into that quilt, they were as thick as Autumn leaves.” (Selected Journals, Volume II).
Although Marilla hopes that the discipline of sewing will steady Anne, we feel Anne’s excitement leaping out of the page as she bombards Marilla with an avalanche of talk. As an adult reader, how I feel about Anne’s non-stop chatter, sits somewhere in between Matthew, the “sympathetic listener" and Marilla’s response, after letting Anne talk for 10 minutes, “Now, just for curiosity’s sake, see if you can hold your tongue for the same length of time.”
In spite of my new-found sympathy for Marilla, my old child reader loyalty for Matthew’s style of relating to Anne wins out, as Anne’s uncontainable excitement demonstrates exactly how an orphan girl just might feel on finding herself with a home, family and a flesh and blood best friend for the first time. And to cap it all, there is a picnic to look forward to, the height of romance!
Anne tells Marilla all about the playhouse den that she and Diana have created and we are reminded that Matthew, who is “going to make them a table”, is already a fully inducted member of Anne’s world. Anne’s invitation to visit ‘Idlewild’, “You must come and see it, Marilla - won’t you?” makes me wonder if ever some ‘lost chapters’ of the book were found, then this would be a wonderfully comic one, perhaps entitled ‘Marilla Reluctantly visits Idlewild’.
And so we see Anne, stitching herself into the fabric of Green Gables and the heart of Marilla, as she sews the red and white patchwork diamonds together; where red represents the fiery red-head, and white the more sober and less colourful Marilla. They are beginning to bond “one little seam after another” and Anne’s declaration that, “I would rather be Anne of Green Gables, sewing patchwork, than Anne of any other place with nothing to do but play” shows just how much this belonging means to her.
The closing paragraphs give another glimpse of Marilla’s inner world which links her with Anne in a way hardly imaginable at the beginning of the chapter. We discover that Marilla wears her precious brooch of amethysts every Sunday and “was always pleasantly conscious of their violet shimmer at her throat” which gives a hint of romantic feeling not so far away from Anne’s, “I don’t know how you can pay attention to the sermon or the prayers when you have it on”.
We know Anne well enough by now to see that she views life through the fairy glass “all full of rainbows” but what an unexpected turn to find out that Marilla is also capable of responding to violet shimmers and of being thrilled by a “sensation of startling sweetness” from the wild child herself. Montgomery keeps on surprising.
Jeanette Boyd lives in the UK and discovered Anne on her older sister’s bookshelves in the 1970s (see image) and has read and re-read all things Montgomery ever since. She is currently studying on the MSc course Reading for Life at Liverpool University, inspired by her love of literature and her first-ever visit to PEI and the LMMI conference last year.