Chapter 6: New Moon
By, Rachel Dodge
In this chapter, Emily is introduced to New Moon, its inhabitants, and its ways. While she struggles “desperately for self-control” due to unexpressed grief, she also finds New Moon curious and intriguing (Montgomery 59). There’s a deep tug-of-war between the things that strive to constrain her and her own nature which will not be held down.
Montgomery creates balance between grief and hope, hard and soft, dark and light at almost every turn in this chapter. These instances provide us with the sense that Emily will not only survive, but actually thrive in this odd, backward place.
While Aunt Elizabeth scolds Emily about her inability to eat, Cousin Jimmy takes her for ice cream—one of the few things that always sounds good when you have no appetite. Though Cousin Jimmy says Aunt Elizabeth won’t allow “new-fangled” things at New Moon, he also claims there are fairies in the woods, giving Emily something to think about in that “out-of-the-way” place (57).
Inside, the kitchen is dark and weird with a “spookish” hole in the ceiling (58). When Emily starts “trembling on the verge of tears,” kind Aunt Laura quickly ushers her into the warm sitting room. Compared with the kitchen, the sitting room is cheerful and interesting. Though Emily receives a stern rebuke at the bookcase, she soon discovers she can see the pretty fairy pattern of the wallpaper “in the air” with her eyes. Even the “ghostly candlelight” is mellowed by “friendly gleams and flickers from the jolly hardwood fire in the open stove” (59-60).
At every turn, a balance occurs. Montgomery won’t allow Emily, or her readers, to sink too far down.
But when it’s time for bed, there’s no counterbalance for pages; bedtime at New Moon is the opposite of bedtime at home. Emily must sleep with Aunt Elizabeth instead of dear Father. Her change of clothes and prayers are coldly and embarrassingly supervised. Even her imagination is quenched in the “big, somber bedroom where there was dark, grim wallpaper that could never be transformed into a fairy curtain” (60). The mirror is too small and too high to find Emily-in-the-glass. There is no relief.
Montgomery describes this scene masterfully with words like smothering, shrouded, poisoning, engulfing, alien, and hostile. Compared with the “dancing friendliness of well-known stars” at home, there is a “cloud of darkness” above her and “not a gleam of light.” Instead of listening to “Father’s soft breathing,” she must lay next to “long and stiff and bony” Aunt Elizabeth (62).
And when it’s all too much, when her sadness overwhelms her and she breaks into sobs, Aunt Elizabeth is annoyed, sharp, and cold with her. There is no understanding, no comfort, no safe harbor. She must force down her emotions and lay still until Aunt Elizabeth falls asleep.
Then, when it seems as if things can’t get any worse, Montgomery does something wonderful. The great juxtaposition of this scene comes at just the right moment, when Emily discovers that one of her former comforts is also at New Moon. Transcending closed windows, loneliness, grief, and even stern Aunt Elizabeth, the Wind Woman comes.
Emily hears the “cooing, friendly, lovesome” sound of the June breeze outside and stretches out her arms in joyful welcome (65). Just as Anne could step into the world of her imagination and Jane could slip away to polish the moon, Emily is set free by the Wind Woman. It’s her saving grace, the one thing no one can take away or control.
When she hears the Wind Woman, Emily’s soul escapes “the bondage” of Aunt Elizabeth’s bedroom. She’s suddenly out in the open, wandering in “enchanted reverie” (65). With the Wind Woman, Emily’s outside of herself, running free.
And we’re with her, running through the night into worlds of wonder.
Bio: Rachel Dodge is an author, speaker, and college English instructor. She holds a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Literature. She gives talks at libraries, book clubs, and literary events. Her recent book Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen (Bethany House, 2018) explores Jane Austen’s three written prayers.
Rachel's web site is www.RachelDodge.com
Montgomery, L.M. 1923. Emily of New Moon. Sourcebooks Fire, 2011.