The Anne of Green Gables Read-a-long continues this week with Ingrid Center's response ot Chapter VI: Marilla Makes Up Her Mind. Welcome, Ingrid!
This chapter could have two other titles...."The First Hinge" or "Anne's Second Convert."
AGG is a carefully crafted novel and every sixth chapter introduces a major hinge point where there is a swing in the development of the plot. We are enchanted as readers to move from one plateau to another in the story development and keep turning the pages to find out what will happen next to Anne. This chapter 6 is our first " hinge " in the book.
The story hinges on Marilla's agonizingly slow decision to keep Anne at Green Gables. She is a woman of deliberate habit and speech, with a set routine tied to the hard work of farming in P.E.I. Her Presbyterian faith and culture of good works through action and theological certainty has wrought in her a formidable conscience. She is grounded in reality, with no room for imagining a different one. However, in the first chapter we read " there was a saving something about her mouth which...might have been considered indicative of a sense of humor."
The chapter begins with the transition from a sunlit drive along the "woodsy and wild and lonesome " shore road to the " big yellow house " of Mrs. Spenser"...which sounds busy and cheerful. But then they are shepherded into the "parlor, where a deadly chill struck on them ....it had lost every particle of warmth it had ever possessed. " L.M. Montgomery is the master of light and dark, sunshine and storm, warmth and chill. Seen here as Anne's internal state is matched by her surroundings which both influence and mirror her mind.
The chapter is the classic plot of broken telephone that results in Marilla and Matthew receiving a girl instead of a boy from a Nova Scotia orphanage. Mrs. Spenser is apologetic, but in her capable way notes that another neighbour, Mrs. Blewett, is looking for a little "home girl " to act as an unpaid servant. Mrs. Blewett is a "sharp-faced, sharp-eyed woman " about whom the gentle Matthew later remarks " I wouldn't give a dog I liked to THAT Blewett woman." Even as a young reader, I just knew Mrs. Blewett was not only a shrew but probably planned to have Anne raise her badly behaved children.... perhaps even twins.
Here Anne's face is " pale with its look of mute misery " and Marilla becomes Anne's Second Convert, after her brother Matthew became Anne's first convert on the ride from Bright River Station.
When Marilla decides to take Anne back to Green Gables to discuss with Matthew the matter of turning over Anne to Mrs. Blewett "a sunrise " dawns in the tense orphan's face and her eyes brighten like " morning stars. " We have gone from sunlight to darkness to dawn.
The last part of the chapter sets down the Rules for Raising Anne, as declared by Marilla. The Second Convert is comfortable with her decision only if she can be guided by the rigor of two commandments.
1. Marilla will train Anne up to be an ideal child, "a useful little thing"
2. Her brother Matthew will not interfere with Marilla's methods.
Now the novels' plot is set in motion. Will Anne grow up to be a model Victorian child? How will Anne's imagination and lack of realistic expectations mesh with Marilla's realism and lack of imagination? Can Anne's impulsive loving heart soften Marilla's latent and stifled heart?
Stay tuned, gentle reader, and turn the page.................................
Ingrid Center inherited two copies of L. M. Montgomery books from her English mother and grandmother when she was ten years old. Her first reading of Anne of Green Gables took place during a snow storm on Christmas Day in Ottawa, Canada. Since then she has collected and read all of L. M. Montgomery's fiction and carried them around the world, much to the confusion of inquisitive customs officials who wondered why anyone needed four copies of Anne of Green Gables in their sea freight consignment.
Marilla would not understand this, but Anne would.