Chapter 18: Father Cassidy
by Yoshiko Akamatsu
Chapter 18 entitled “Father Cassidy” is very enjoyable, because it is full of humour. Father Cassidy, an Irish Catholic priest, only appears in this and the following chapter, but he makes a great impression on Emily and readers. The inhabitants of New Moon are in crisis since Lofty John declared he would cut down the bush between his land and New Moon’s. The trouble is told in a “house-that-jack-built progression,” whereby Emily is blamed by Aunt Elizabeth who says, “This is what comes of bringing Emily here.” With no resolution in sight, twelve-year-old Emily tries to save the bush from Lofty John’s vengeance and succeeds.
The chapter focuses on Emily’s brave behaviour, but to show this, it effectively consists of two contrasting relationships between Emily and Aunt Elizabeth, and Emily and Father Cassidy. The former is harsh, while the latter is very heart-warming. Regarding Emily and Aunt Elizabeth, the people of New Moon are horrified with Lofty John’s declaration and Emily is given even more anguish by her aunt: “Elizabeth Murray, angry and unhappy as she was, slept soundly at nights; but beside her in the darkness, afraid to move or turn, lay a slender little creature whose tears, stealing silently down her cheeks, could not ease her breaking heart.” Readers cannot but feel sympathy towards Emily, thinking that her aunt’s behaviour is childish and selfish.
After Teddy Kent’s suggestion that Lofty John, a Catholic, might give up his plan if Father Cassidy asked him, Emily decides that she herself will go to the priest to save her beloved New Moon. After supper, Emily walks two miles to White Cross feeling “[h]orribly frightened, miserably nervous.” However, Emily’s first impression of the tanned priest with brown eyes and brown hair is very humorous, thinking he looks just like “a big, brown, wholesome nut,” and it puts her at ease.
The conversation between Emily and Father Cassidy is in stark contrast to the one she had with Aunt Elizabeth, because of the priest’s charming character. As someone who believes in fairies and elves, he notices Emily’s “pointed ears” and treats her as an elf. He listens carefully to her explanation and request, which he first declines, but on seeing her tears of disappointment, he continues: “Elves never cry—they can’t. It would break my heart to discover you weren’t av the Green Folk. You may call yourself av New Moon and av any religion you like, but the fact remains that you belong to the Golden Age and the old gods. That’s why I must save your precious bit av greenwood for you. He promises her that he will intervene to stop Lofty John from cutting the grove for the elfin Emily. With his good humour, he softens Emily’s feelings and shows his kindness.
While enjoying some plum cake, Emily asks the priest’s advice with the plotting of her epic poem. As she explains the plot, he murmurs, “One av the seven original plots in the world,” this feud “can only be healed by an alliance between Capulet and Montague,” and finally offers a solution that she needs to have “a dispensation from Rome.” Along with the priest, readers are easily aware that the plot is contrived, but he tries not to discourage her from writing her ambitious poem.
Father Cassidy’s most unforgettable kindness is his encouragement after she recites her poem “Evening Dreams,” telling her: “Keep on—keep on writing poetry.” Afterwards, “Emily was so happy she wanted to cry. It was the first word of commendation she had ever received except from her father [. . .]. To the end of her struggle for recognition Emily never forgot Father Cassidy’s ‘Keep on’ and the tone in which he said it.”
Father Cassidy’s manner and words are warm and humourous, certainly more generous and considerate than those of Aunt Elizabeth. The sharp contrast of the two relationships shows Emily’s bravery which overcomes difficulties beyond the differences of religion and gender. Readers feel overjoyed with Emily, believing that the kind priest will alleviate the peril in some way, and that she will indeed become something if she does “keep on” writing.
In the Japanese anime, Emily, the Girl of Wind: Emily of New Moon (2007), Emily’s visit to Father Cassidy was carefully animated and her courage in facing the Catholic priest and the scene’s happy ending made the audience feel as if they were standing right there beside them. Personally, Father Cassidy somehow reminds me of the late Father Bolger (1925-2017), an Islander and scholar of history and L.M. Montgomery. His warmth and encouragement prompted me to continue my studies of Montgomery works.
Photos 1 to 3: The book covers of Nobuo Kandori’s translation of Emiri [Emily]. [Emily of New Moon]. 3 vols. Tokyo: Kaisei-sha 2002. Illustrated bySachiko Takayanagi.
4. Father Cassidy and Emily from the Emily anime, Emily, the Girl of Wind, Emily of New Moon (2007) Copyright: TMS Entertainment
5. Father Bolger (1925-2017) posing with Sister Seiko, the “mascot” of Notre Dame Seishin University, sent by Yoshiko Akamatsu (2016). Photo by Terry Kamikawa at Blue Winds Tearoom, PEI.
Bio:Yoshiko Akamatsu, PhD, is a professor at Notre Dame Seishin University, Okayama, Japan. She has loved Emily since she encountered the Japanese translation by Hanako Muraoka, Dear Emily. She was literary adviser for the Japanese anime, Emily, the Girl of Wind (2007), and has published papers on the Emily trilogy.