Welcome back to the Anne of Green Gables Read-a-long. This week, Swedish journalist and writer, Ami Lönnroth, gives her reading of "Chapter XXIV: Miss Stacy and Her Pupils Get Up a Concert."
Chapter XXIV: Miss Stacy and Her Pupils Get Up a Concert
By Ami Lönnroth
There! At long last, Anne is back to her regular existence after those tedious seven weeks following the drama in Diana’s garden, ending with her broken ankle. What will happen next in the ups and downs of young Anne’s exploration of her Avonlea existence?
Social life for Anne, as well as her young female friends, revolves first and foremost around school.
Happy anticipation “in the hearts of small maidens tripping, unlike snails, swiftly and willingly to school.” Once there, Anne is welcomed back by the other little girls with nods and notes, and even a chew of gum.
Sure, there was a time when Anne refused to set foot in school, but all that is now happily forgotten—or close to it. School is the stage where life’s very meaning is acted out, whether it is to do with the dramatic confrontation with the opposite sex, or with the happy weaving of social bonds between young girls and, best of all, with the lovely new female teacher, Miss Stacy.
Gone are the days when the boorish Mr. Phillips governed the classroom. Now it’s the school’s first female teacher who inspires her pupils, not least her eager disciple Anne. Well, there are boys in the class too, but except for the persistent competitor whose name Anne tries so hard to wipe out of her mind, they seem to play more of a secondary role.
In this chapter we find them climbing to the top of big trees to gather crows’ nests, while at the same time satisfying the new teacher’s need for objects to use in the field studies--a welcome new part of the curriculum. No doubt, this approach to education is a newfangled invention that meets with skepticism on the part of the good ladies of the village.
Anne flourishes under Miss Stacy’s wholesome influence. “I write the best compositions,” she proudly tells Marilla, who, not surprisingly, disapproves. “It’s very vain of you to say so. You’d better let your teacher say it.” Does it help that Anne retorts: “But she did say it, Marilla?"
Probably not. Vanity, one of the seven deadly sins, must be vigorously fought whenever it rears its ugly head in a young soul. The battle against sins is no doubt a basic principle in Marilla’s parenting.
Marilla disapproves strongly of Miss Stacy’s concert preparations, another newfangled invention. But Matthew, this endearing male anti-hero, supports Anne and thanks his lucky star that he is not the one charged with the young girl’s education. He can afford to show his love and admiration of this wonderful newcomer in his not very eventful life.
I’d like to add some personal reflections regarding what Anne of Green Gables has meant to me and the kindred spirits of my generation of Swedish middle-class schoolgirls. I became an eager fan of Anne in the 1950’s. I was a docile pupil in one of Sweden’s oldest girls’ schools, founded in 1835 as a private school with the aim of giving young girls an opportunity to study. It kept its Christian character for more than a century, in spite of several educational reforms that had made it part of the Swedish public school system. The female teachers were pious, often unmarried, totally dedicated to their task of educating their young pupils, teaching them mores as well as substantial knowledge in many fields. We could flourish, undisturbed by boys, just as Anne could flourish under Miss Stacy’s friendly guidance.
Our teachers were our Marillas, guided and guiding us in their Christian rather puritan world, much more so than our more secular mothers or fathers would do. The atmosphere of both warmth and dedication and strict social control in Anne’s Avonlea school—as well as in the rest of her community—got through to me as something I could identify with. It was not all that different from my own school experience or for that matter from the general understanding of the place of little girls in society.
But today? Can today’s young girls crack the Anne code? I can’t help but wonder. School systems, educational methods, women’s roles—all this has changed dramatically in those well over sixty years since I made the acquaintance of the life companion that Anne became for me. A lot of progress has been made, that is for sure, but to what extent relationships with boys and men? That’s a basic question addressed by the #metoo movement that is presently sweeping the western world. That’s also a question raised by L. M. Montgomery through her heroine, the red-haired Anne.
Ami Lönnroth is a Swedish journalist and writer with a special interest in gender issues and the history of women. As a guest professor she has been teaching creative writing at the Stockholm University Department of Media Studies. She currently chairs the literary association Wendelas Vänner (www.wendela.se) that turned the summer home of Sweden’s first female journalist, Wendela Hebbe (1808-99), into a museum and cultural house (Wendela Hebbes Hus), located in the city of Södertälje, south of Stockholm.