Sunday, April 10, 2011

Anne of Avonlea

"Having adventures comes naturally to some people," said Anne serenely.  "You just have a gift for them or you haven't."
This week I re-read L.M. Montgomery's sequel to Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea.  It chronicles Anne's life in her mid-teens as she becomes the Avonlea village school teacher and helps to found a village improvement society.  

Almost immediately the reader can tell that Anne has grown up.  Though she's still filled with flowery language and prone to daydreaming about the beauty of nature she has come a long way from the troubled girl she was.  As grown up as she has become, Anne can still make mistakes.  The most memorable one from this volume is when Anne believes her cow has escaped (again) and is running free in the fields.  She impulsively sells it on the spot only to realize that her cow is safely locked up at home!  I think Montgomery is telling us that we will make mistakes all our lives and the important thing is that we learn from them and make certain we take responsibility for them.

Montgomery introduces a colourful new character in this book as a new neighbour for Anne and Marilla: Mr. Harris.  Harris lives alone with a crude-talking parrot so everyone assumes he is an unmarried bachelor until his estranged wife comes to Avonlea.  Other new characters include Davy and Dora Keith.  These twin children are distant relatives of Marilla's and she takes them in after their mother dies. Davy's mishaps make up for the lack of Anne's.  She's now in a position to help another young person learn from their mistakes.

I find it incredible that 16 year-olds could be school teachers!  Anne becomes a teacher before even going to college.  My grandmother became a teacher in the 1950s at the age of 19 so I suppose it's not far-fetched but it certainly is different from the way things tend to happen today.  I'd say that most teenagers today are nowhere near responsible enough to take on such a role.  Life was much more difficult a hundred years ago so I expect most people had to grow up quite quickly.  In many ways we are quite spoiled today.  I know I have been!

Montgomery's romantic language continues to evolve in this novel.  It's written in a very episodic fashion so it's perfect for reading to children or for children to read one chapter at a time.  Though we miss childhood-Anne acutely there is enough of her remaining in her teenaged self so that we remain in love with her.  As much as we might wish it would, time will never stand still.  Children always have to grow up.  Anne remains young by dealing closely with other children.  She understands their spirit and their needs and is able to encourage them while still helping to mold them into proper adults.  This novel is an interesting exploration of the transitional time of adolescence and the adventure continues...

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