I started this blog just two weeks ago to document my little project of reading through all the Lucy Maud Montgomery books in publication order. Part of the challenge was to also see how my mood and motivation improves with daily doses of my childhood favourites.
I haven’t written a post in over a week, even though I meant to write daily. I’m still reading one or two chapters of Anne of Green Gables every day, but I’ve decided that I would no longer write daily posts about what I’m reading.
In general, I am finding that my days seem brighter with a little bit of Anne in my life. But I prefer to reflect on this on my own rather than in public.
I will still keep this blog open–mainly because I think I would still like to write some L. M. Montgomery related posts eventually. In particular, I’m interested in documenting differences between the book and its various adaptations. So I may write again in August, once I’ve finished re-reading the book and can make a full comparison.
In the meantime, thank you to everyone who chose to follow this blog so far–I really appreciated the encouragement in that first week.
Last night being Sunday night, I resumed my reading of Anne of Green Gables so that I can wake up feeling motivated to do work this Monday morning. I read the subsequent two chapters: Chapter 11 which includes “Anne’s Impressions of Sunday School” and in which Anne makes her first public appearance in Avonlea; and Chapter 12 which includes “A Solemn Vow and Promise” between Anne and Diana.
It could be said that both chapters highlight Anne’s need to fit in and have friends. She arrives at Sunday School and feels left out because the other girls’ dresses have puffed sleeves and hers don’t. And in the subsequent chapter, she is nervous about meeting Diana, and in particular making a bad impression on Diana’s mother.
I’m not sure if there’s a single lesson I can take away from these chapters, but I highlighted a few quotes that stuck out for me at this time in my life.
“But I’d rather look ridiculous when everybody else does than plain and sensible all by myself,” persisted Anne mournfully.
Anne of Green Gables, Ch.11
I’m definitely more of a “plain and sensible” kind of dresser, but I understand Anne’s point about wanting to fit in. I think there’s also something to be said about the confidence that clothes sometimes give us to do things.
After months of working from home, dressing for comfort in sweats and a T-shirt, I found my focus and energy at work dwindling. I couple of weeks ago I decided that I would “dress the part” when I sat down to work, and ever since then I tried to fool myself into being more productive by wearing at least one article of clothing that is associated with the office (e.g. dress shoes, a blazer, a skirt, etc.)
The other thing that stuck out for me while reading these chapters was the description of Diana.
“Diana, you might take Anne out into the garden and show her your flowers. It will be better for you than straining your eyes over that book. She reads entirely too much–“
Mrs. Barry in Anne of Green Gables, Ch.12
I think while watching the mini-series, it’s easy to look over Diana’s personality. But it’s worth noting that there are reasons why Anne and Diana are friends. Or rather, why Diana is friends with Anne.
In Chapter 11 we not only learn that Diana is excited to finally have someone nearby to play with, but we also learn that Diana is predisposed to enjoying storytelling by virtue of being an avid reader.
It might seem like the two girls have different personalities, but I suspect the only difference was that Diana had grown up under her very strict mother which made her more afraid of being too fanciful like Anne.
This may be something to keep in mind if we ever find ourselves questioning our friendships, or questioning the friendships people have with others.
As it’s Sunday, I’m continuing to take a break over the weekend from reading more Anne of Green Gables, and will be back with those posts again tomorrow. But I did want to take some time and reflect on how this little reading experiment worked over the past week.
One of the reasons I started this blog and took to reading a little bit of Anne of Green Gables each day was because I wanted to re-gain that childhood spark that I felt was missing in my life. I’m not sure whether I’ve fully regained that “spark”, but I’ve certainly felt more motivated over the past week.
I’ve been better about waking up and getting started on my day earlier. And I’ve been better about pushing through the tough and frustrating tasks in my workday. I found myself less inclined to sit on the couch and watch TV because “there’s work to be done”.
One thing that I was surprised to experience is a feeling that the days are longer. Maybe it really is due to the influence of Anne’s character encouraging me to take more notice of the things around me. Regardless, it’s been nice to no longer feel like time is running out.
As I re-read Anne of Green Gables, I can’t help but compare what I’m reading to the on-screen adaptations of the story. In particular, I’ve watched the 1985 mini-series starring Megan Follows almost every year, and while it’s an excellent adaptation that stays quite faithful to the book, there are nonetheless some differences.
Now that I have re-read ten chapters from the Anne of Green Gables novel, I wanted to write down some of the differences I had noted so far.
One of the biggest differences between the mini-series and the novel is in how it starts. The mini-series chooses to introduce Anne in her life prior to coming to Green Gables, whereas the book begins immediately with Mrs. Rachel Lynde seeing Matthew going to pick Anne up at the train station.
However, although in the novel we simply hear Anne tell us history rather than watch it acted out, Anne’s history feels much more detailed and vivid in the novel. The mini-series does not include any mention of Anne’s parents, Bertha and Walter Shirley, who were both teachers and died of fever soon after she was born. The mini-series also does not mention the fact that, as a baby, Anne was initially taken on by her parents’ housekeeper Mrs. Thomas. It was after Mrs. Thomas’s husband died when Anne was eight that their neighbour Mrs. Hammond (the woman with three sets of twins) took her in.
There’s a couple of important points that we miss in the mini-series by not seeing Anne’s history prior to living with the Hammonds. One is the strong bond that Anne still feels for the parents she never knew. The other is the fact that Anne may have experienced hardships beyond having to work hard and take care of children. It is mentioned in the book that Mr. Thomas was a terrible drunk who likely had an equally terrible temper. In particular, Anne mentions that her imaginary friend “Katie Maurice” was a reflection in one pane of a glass-fronted cabinet that had the other pane broken by Mr. Thomas when he was drunk.
When Marilla asks Anne whether the people she was previously with were good to her, Anne responds by saying she knows that they “tried to be good”.
The inner thoughts of the adult characters
One thing that the book is able to do that an on-screen production never can is give a clear glimpse of the inner thoughts of the characters.
Perhaps due to the script and perhaps due in part to Colleen Dewhurst’s excellent acting, this is less of a problem when it comes to Marilla. However, I noticed that there are aspects of Matthew’s and Rachel Lynde’s personalities that don’t come through as well in the mini-series.
In the mini-series, Rachel is depicted as simply a meddler. However, there are moments in the novel where her caring nature comes through.
Additionally, it should be noted that Matthew in principle didn’t want to adopt a girl. The mini-series focuses on the fact that Matthew is shy and likes Anne’s talkativeness. However, it should be noted that the novel also mentions that Matthew didn’t like girls because they laughed at him and thought he was strange. Anne was different from the others.
And the carriage ride with Anne from the train station is what sold Matthew on the idea of keeping Anne. Similarly one could say that the carriage ride with Anne to visit Mrs. Spencer and ask about the adoption mix-up is what sold Marilla on keeping Anne, too. It seems like all anyone needs is a few hours alone with Anne to fall in love with her.
Last night I read Chapter 9 in which “Mrs. Rachel Lynde Is Properly Horrified” and Chapter 10 which includes “Anne’s Apology”. It’s not too hard to see the lessons we are meant to learn from this pair of chapters.
After being insulted by Mrs. Lynde, Anne lashes out at her and insults her back. Marilla’s punishment to her is to have her stay in her room until she is ready to apologize.
“It was very wicked of me to fly into a temper because you told me the truth. It was the truth; every word you said was true. My hair is red and I’m freckled and skinny and ugly. What I said to you was true, too, but I shouldn’t have said it. Oh, Mrs. Lynde, please, please, forgive me.”
Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables, Ch.10
Of course the lesson to take away here is to be kind and courteous to everyone, regardless of how slighted you may feel by them. It’s probably an important lesson to keep in mind when dealing the a comment section online. And I’ve always felt the only way to get someone to listen to you is to take a deep breath and approach the argument calmly. Studies have been done suggesting that people stop listening when they are being yelled at.
At the same time, there’s also no benefit to bottling things up. As Mrs. Rachel Lynde states:
“but there’s one comfort, a child that has a quick temper, just blaze up and cool down, ain’t never likely to be sly or deceitful.”
Mrs. Rachel Lynde in Anne of Green Gables, Ch. 10
So speak your mind: defend yourself–but do so calmly.
Last night, I read Chapter 7 in which “Anne Says Her Prayers” and Chapter 8 in which “Anne’s Bringing Up Is Begun”. By this point in the book, Marilla has firmly decided to keep Anne and she sees it her duty to teach her some sense.
“By noon she had concluded that Anne was smart and obedient, willing to work and quick to learn; her most serious shortcoming seemed to be a tendency to fall into daydreams in the middle of a task and forget all about it until such time as she was sharply recalled to earth by a reprimand or a catastrophe.”
Anne of Green Gables, Ch.8
I like to think that Anne daydreams not only of all the things wishes she could do, but also of all the things she knows she will do in the future–thinking of them in anticipation.
Yesterday, I took the day off from work after working extra long and hard on Monday and Tuesday. I thought that I could use the day to run some errands or catch up on housework or work on my other hobbies. But I was so overwhelmed by all the things I wanted to do that I didn’t know where to start. Even when I did start on a particular task, I couldn’t help thinking of the other tasks. And so I kept jumping from one thing to another without actually completing anything in particular.
Thinking back on it now, I could have imagined that the ever-sensible Marilla was there to remind me of what I was meant to be doing. Today, I will try to focus on the task at hand as though Marilla were there to nudge me along.
Prior to learning that “Marilla Makes Up Her Mind” in Chapter 6, and just before we hear about “Anne’s History” in Chapter 5, we get another glimpse of Anne’s optimism.
“It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.”
Anne of Green Gables, Ch.5
However, it’s the way that Anne says she deals with disappointment over hearing Marilla say that her hair will probably always be red which really stuck with me while reading this chapter.
“Well that is another hope gone. My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes. That’s a sentence I read in a book once, and I say it over to comfort myself whenever I’m disappointed in anything.”
“I don’t see where the comforting comes in myself,” said Marilla.
“Why, because it sounds so nice and romantic, just as if I were a heroine in a book, you know.”
Anne of Green Gables, Ch.5
Perhaps, like Marilla, I am much too sensible and practical to initially see the point in being melodramatic. But just as we often feel better after we’ve had a good cry, maybe we’d also get over our disappointments more quickly if we acknowledged them with a few poetic phrases.
I used to struggle a lot with frequent panic attacks. Whenever I happened upon an obstacle or whenever something didn’t turn out the way I hoped it would, I would be thrown into a panic over how I could possibly cope with this unexpected turn of events. Over time, I realized a lot of these panic attacks were triggered because of my own desire for everything to turn out perfectly.
Perhaps, next time, I’m going to try repeating to myself “My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes” and pretending I’m a heroine in a book or a movie to see if that makes me feel better about disappointment. It would certainly make bad experiences seem more exciting.
I’m happy to report that reading one or two chapters from Anne of Green Gables before going to sleep is starting to become a bit of a habit. Last night, I read Chapter 3 “Marilla Cuthbert is Surprised” and Chapter 4 “Morning at Green Gables”.
It was interesting to read the two chapters together because when Anne initially arrives at Green Gables in the evening and finds out the Cuthberts don’t want a girl, she proclaims that she is in the depths of despair. But as despondent as she is then, when she wakes up the next morning she is back to her usual self.
I’m not in the depths of despair this morning. I never can be in the morning. Isn’t it a splendid thing that there are mornings?
Anne of Green Gables, Ch. 4
I feel like over the years I have lost my excitement over a new day. I wake up in the morning dreading all the things I have to do, and feeling immediately stressed about upcoming deadlines.
I read somewhere that people sometimes don’t get enough sleep because they stay up late trying to delay the next day. They dread the morning so much, they want the previous evening to last as long as possible.
Anne of Green Gables can teach us that there’s nothing inherently bad about mornings. We just need to take time to enjoy them.
The world doesn’t seem such a howling wilderness as it did last night. I’m so glad it’s a sunshiny morning. But I like rainy mornings real well, too. All sorts of mornings are interesting, don’t you think? You don’t know what’s going to happen through the day, and there’s so much scope for the imagination.
Anne of Green Gables, Ch. 4
This morning, I immediately got up and sat down to type up this blog post. It seems like blogging/journalling is building up to be something I look forward to. And it does wonders for exercising my creativity and imagination each day.
So it seems that so far, the lessons from Anne of Green Gables are working: I had a long but productive workday yesterday; and I’m also now less inclined to delay getting ready in the morning. Anne has rekindled some hope in me, and I look forward to what the rest of the day will bring.
I went to bed last night second guessing my decision to start this blog. This happens a lot when I start something new–I get anxious about the work I’d have to put into it and start wondering whether it’s all worth it and give up almost as soon as I got started. I think it all comes down to fear of failure–and I had to remind myself that I would definitely fail if I gave up now. So I decided that I’d read another chapter of Anne of Green Gables before sleep for motivation and inspiration to help keep me going.
In Chapter 2 “Matthew Cuthbert Is Surprised”, we meet Anne for the first time, and reading it I was reminded of how much I saw myself in Anne when I was growing up.
“…her eyes, that looked green in some lights and moods and gray in others.”
Anne of Green Gables, Ch.2
I’m not a redhead, and while I do freckle I’m decidedly not freckled. But I do have her grey-green eyes. If Anne was even a little like me, then maybe she was a version of me that I could learn from.
“She was sitting there waiting for something or somebody and, since sitting and waiting was the only thing to do just then, she sat and waited with all her might and main.”
Anne of Green Gables, Ch.2
As much as Anne is a dreamer, she makes the best of the situations that she is in. And I’ve decided that this is the lesson to take away from this chapter: Do whatever you’re doing wholeheartedly and with a pinch of imagination.
“When we got on the train I felt as if everybody must be looking at me and pitying me. But I just went to work and imagined that I had on the most beautiful pale blue silk dress–because when you are imagining you might as well imagine something worth while–and a big hat all flowers and nodding plumes, and a gold watch, and kid gloves and boots. I felt cheered up right away and I enjoyed my trip to the Island with all my might.”
Anne of Green Gables, Ch.2
If I have to do something boring or difficult, I will stop wishing I were doing something else and instead imagine that I am the kind of person that finds it interesting or easy, and I’m sure that I’ll get it over and done with in no time.
Last night, in my very first post on this blog, one of the things I specifically mentioned was my struggle with maintaining a morning routine. I’m naturally an early bird, so 8am is probably the latest I ever wake up, but that doesn’t mean I get to work early. I get out of bed and putter around the house, checking the news and social media feeds, having coffee and breakfast, and often even streaming something on TV!
Working from home and at my own schedule means I have no incentive to shower and get dressed and get to work right away. If I start work later, then I just finish work later, and there are no more consequences beyond that. Except, being an early bird also means that my optimal work time is earlier. If I don’t start work until later, I end up trying to do work when I’m tired and not as focused or efficient.
So imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning and found myself taking a shower and getting dressed without a second thought.
Today was to be my first day reading Anne of Green Gables so perhaps I was just more excited than usual to get the day started. But once I sat down to read from it while I took a mid-day break from work, I couldn’t help chuckling to myself because it is in Chapter 1 that “Mrs. Rachel Lynde Is Surprised”.
“There are plenty of people, in Avonlea and out of it, who can attend closely to their neighbor’s business by dint of neglecting their own; Mrs. Rachel Lynde was one of those capable creatures who can manage their own concerns and those of other folks into the bargain.”
Once I read that, my behaviour this morning became clear. Of course I got up and got on with my day today! — Mrs. Rachel Lynde was keeping an eye on me!
One thing that surprised me upon re-reading this chapter was just how caring Mrs. Rachel Lynde is depicted to be, and the chapter ends with her expressing true concern for the well-being of the child being adopted by the Cuthberts.
So now I am aware that I must get back to my “chores” because if I put them off or neglect them–well, what will Rachel Lynde say!?