Chapter 19: Friends Again
By, Holly Pike
The title suggests that this short chapter is about Emily’s reconciliation with Lofty John, but it seems to me to be primarily about divisions and potential divisions rather than reconciliation. Most of the chapter is dialogue and reported speech, putting the characters’ speech patterns and usual attitudes front and center. In the reports of what was said in response to Lofty John’s account of Emily’s “appeal to Father Cassidy,” the reader can recognize the characteristic differences between Rhoda Stuart calling Emily “a bold thing” and Dr. Burnley calling her “a Little Devil,” between Aunt Laura’s feeling that “it might have been worse” and Cousin Jimmy’s frank acknowledgement that losing Lofty John’s bush “would have spoiled the garden and broken my heart.” By including Rhoda and Miss Brownell in the list of commentators, Montgomery’s narrator reminds readers that the community is not unified on the question of Emily any more than on other issues.
Lofty John’s dialect, for instance, suggests an immutable division between the Murrays and the Irishman, who notably says he has “many an old score to settle” with Aunt Elizabeth. The difficult relationship between Emily and Aunt Elizabeth is highlighted in Aunt Elizabeth’s response when Emily tells her that Lofty John’s condition for saving the bush is allowing Emily to see him sometimes: “‘I suppose it wouldn’t make much difference to you if I did [object],’ said Aunt Elizabeth. But her voice was not so sharp as usual.” Her speech reveals her assumption that Emily doesn’t care what she feels and the narrator’s description of her manner of speaking shows that she usually speaks as if she doesn’t care what Emily feels.
When Emily complains “indignantly” that Aunt Elizabeth has opened the letter from Father Cassidy, Aunt Elizabeth asserts her right to read Emily’s mail, foreshadowing the clash over Emily’s letters to her father—though that clash does ultimately help them begin to understand each other. Then she expresses shock at Emily’s interaction with the priest, reinforcing the sense of a religious and social divide between her family and other parts of the community. When they encounter Father Cassidy in a store, he feels constrained to whisper to Emily after Aunt Elizabeth’s bow of “great stateliness,” and Emily responds in a whisper, hiding the nature of their conversation from her aunt. As the narrator points out, Emily knows what is appropriate for a “good, Presbyterian half-Murray of New Moon,” a statement that further emphasizes competing values by echoing Lofty John’s statement earlier in the chapter that “I’m as proud as any New Moon Murray av ye all.”
The chapter also develops some of Emily’s potential drives. Her charm and sexual power are referenced when Lofty John says that she has “wiled the heart out av Father Cassidy’s body” and that she “might lave the poor prastes alone” and again when she begs Lofty John to leave the bush: “she summoned all her wiles to her aid,” smiling “as seductively as she knew how—and Emily had considerable native knowledge of that sort.” Her commitment to writing is emphasized through her letter from and her whispered conversation with Father Cassidy about her epic. Of course, both her writing and her various relationships with men and boys will become contentious issues with her family, despite Emily’s desire to make her family happy, shown in this chapter through her excitement over saving the bush.
Given how many threads of the narrative are woven into this chapter and how much it relies on what people say to each other and how they say it, I’m a little unsure of how to read the ending, the narrator’s statement that Emily afterwards always thought of Father Cassidy as “a very agreeable and understanding person.” Are we supposed to think those are Emily’s words? And how do they conclude a chapter titled “Friends Again”?
Bio:Holly Pike is associate professor of English at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University and a life-long Emily fan. She has published a number of book chapters and given many conference presentations on L.M. Montgomery’s works.