Chapter 13: "A Daughter of Eve"
By Michaela Wipond
“A Daughter of Eve” is one of several chapters in the episodic Emily of New Moon that contributes little to the novel’s main plot yet provides insight into Emily and marks a turning point in the development of her character. When Emily eats one of Lofty John’s “big green ‘sweet apples’” (101) without permission, he decides to punish her by telling her he poisoned the apple with enough rodenticide to “‘kill a dozen av [her] in a brace of shakes’” (103). Convinced she is about to die, Emily writes a letter of farewell to Ilse (104–5), with whom she quarreled the day before. Among other things, this letter reveals Emily’s genuine selflessness in the face of real terror. In addition to reconciling with Ilse, she begs her friend not to “‘let anybody do anything to Lofty John’” and to “‘tell him not to be hawnted [sic] by remorse’” for accidentally poisoning her. Finally, she admits she is glad she never learned “‘how to put worms on a fish-hook,’” even though she promised Teddy she would, because she “‘know[s] what the worm feels like now’” (105). This realization, insignificant though it may seem, both exemplifies Emily’s extraordinary capacity for empathy and foreshadows the character development she will undergo as a result of her “near-death” experience.
Though it would be easy to dismiss Emily’s reaction to Lofty John’s prank as a simple demonstration of the penchant for melodrama she exhibits throughout the novel, the narrator clarifies that the young girl’s fear is as real as befits a person who truly believes herself to be upon death’s door. Emily is “pale, terrified, [and] alone,” cold hands “shaking in panic” at the thought of “the one great terror” (103–4). Despite Emily’s evidently genuine fear, Elizabeth demands to know whether she is “‘play-acting,’” to which Emily responds, “‘Do you suppose a dying person would be play-acting?’” (105). This indignant retort echoes the argument Montgomery often makes in both her novels and her journals against making fun of children and their feelings. In this chapter specifically, the author argues that––despite the undeniable comedy of the situation––Emily’s feelings ought to be taken seriously. Though her life is never in any real danger, she is as frightened as if it was.
Emily’s initial reaction to the realization that she has been duped is one not of anger but of profound relief. Elizabeth’s assurance that Emily would surely be “‘dead or sick by now’” had she truly been poisoned fills the latter with “a wild, sweet hope” (105) that she may yet be saved. Later that night, while looking out her bedroom window, Emily reflects upon her newfound appreciation for life: “Emily saw a dear, friendly star winking down at her. Far away the sea moaned alluringly. Oh, it was nice just to be alone and to be alive” (107). The image of Emily at her window bears a striking resemblance to that of Anne in the final chapter of Anne of Green Gables: “Anne sat long at her window that night companioned by a glad content. The wind purred softly in the cherry boughs, and the mint breaths came up to her. The stars twinkled over the pointed firs in the hollow and Diana’s light gleamed through the old gap” (245). Each girl’s appreciation for nature elicits within herself a renewed appreciation for life. As Anne says earlier in the chapter, “‘Dear old world . . . you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you’” (243). The notion of feeling glad or grateful to be alive features prominently in much of Montgomery’s work, both fictional and otherwise, and seems especially poignant in light of the emotional distress she suffered toward the end of her life.
Montgomery, L. M. Anne of Green Gables. 1908. Edited by Mary Henley Rubio and Elizabeth
Waterston, W. W. Norton & Company, 2007.
–––. Emily of New Moon. 1923. Rock’s Mills Press, 2017.
Michaela Wipond received her Bachelor of Arts in Honours English at the University of Prince Edward Island, where she wrote an undergraduate thesis titled “Kindred Places, Kindred Pets: Unexpected Friendships in L.M. Montgomery’s Novels.” In September she will begin her Master of Philosophy in English Language and Literature at Queen’s University. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter @michaelawipond.