This essay explores the intertextual connections between Anne of Green Gables and several contemporary Canadian children’s novels that feature heroines who resemble the iconic Anne. Drawing on the theoretical work of Mikhail Bakhtin, it argues that Anne’s power as an intertextual figure lies in her "dialogic imagination" and the atypical artistry through which she expresses it.
Copyright: Bonnie J. Tulloch, 2020. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (Creative Commons BY 4.0), which allows the user to share, copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format and adapt, remix, transform and build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially, PROVIDED the Licensor is given attribution in accordance with the terms and conditions of the CC BY 4.0.
What makes an “Anne-girl”?1 Is it the age, the lack of parents, the red hair, the lively tongue, the Canadian island home, or the irrepressible imagination? Perhaps. And yet, the ever-growing body of Anne scholarship suggests that the answer to this question is more complicated. Laura Robinson, for example, points out that Montgomery’s iconic heroine is “multiple, complex and not easy to reconcile,”2 and Val Czerny notes that “Anne differs from other characters in other novels, for there is something uncommon about her presence that seems to make us feel that she is more than a character on a page.”3 Uncommon and complex as she may be, however, the fact remains that traces of Anne are common enough in Canadian literature to suggest her influence on the national imagination.4 The following essay explores this influence as it appears on the pages of several award-winning Canadian children’s novels: Janet Lunn’s The Root Cellar (1981), Polly Horvath’s Everything on a Waffle (2001), and Kit Pearson’s The Whole Truth (2011) and And Nothing But the Truth (2012).5 Like Anne, the child heroines of these island narratives challenge the gendered conventions that attempt to circumscribe their identities and homebuilding endeavours. On the one hand, their willingness to imagine alternatives to the status quo sets them apart from other girls of their age; on the other, it further aligns them with the “queer,”6 yet kindred, spirit of their literary ancestor. Viewed intertextually, the dialogues these characters create thus suggest that to be an Anne-girl is to be, quite appropriately, A-typical. If Miss Barry’s nickname of Anne indicates a certain “type” of girl, it indicates the kind who is willing to reimagine the scope of girlhood to encompass more possibilities and “ambitions.”7
My interpretation of the Anne-girl builds on the work of other scholars who have aligned Anne’s uncommon presence with her (and Montgomery’s) ability to creatively disrupt patriarchal gender norms.8 While Janet Weiss-Town notes that Anne “is not stereotypically female,”9 Susan Drain observes that she is “unlike her female peers, without being at all like the male.”10 Anne herself recognizes the atypical aspects of her personality when she tells Diana: “There’s such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I’m such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn’t be half so interesting.”11 The orphan’s admission indicates the way her discomfort acts as a positive catalyst for her creativity. Her artistic sensibility allows her to appreciate the “troublesome,” yet “interesting,”11 nature of her personality and the insight it offers into the complexity of human existence. “Anne’s imagination,” Paige Gray points out, “works in concert with her convictions and individuality, not against them.”12 The orphan, in this respect, is “A-typical” in a double, paradoxical sense. Anne is “atypical” from other girls, but she is “atypical” in a way that makes her “a typical” artist. “Though only a child,” Mary Rubio observes, “Anne plays the role of an artist in a culture: she gives people a new vision of themselves and a myth through which to live.”13 Anne’s capacity to artistically envision alternative realities, I argue, forms a central connection between her and the other heroines mentioned in this essay. Exploring the transformative power of their imaginations, they too, embrace the uncomfortable and interesting task of being A-typical people, that is, people who are not afraid to introduce new perspectives into their communities. Like Anne, their minds live in the mythical possibility of progress, as achieved through their courageous pursuit of hope, healing, and home.
Understanding how the above-mentioned heroines resemble the Anne-girl, however, involves theorizing the nature of Anne’s artistry and the “myth”13 it creates. “Myths,” philosophers George Lakoff and Mark Johnson observe, “provide ways of comprehending experience; they give order to our lives.”14 Developing Rubio’s observation,13 I suggest that Anne’s myth, as presented in Anne of Green Gables (1908), is the personal philosophy that gives structure to her life story. This philosophy, which underlies her artistic vision, gives order to people’s lives through its emphasis on the role imagination plays in shaping human experience; it highlights the ever-present opportunity for personal and social transformation. By encouraging people to “imagine things different from what they really are,”15 it not only gives Avonlea residents “a myth through which to live,”13 but a myth that allows them to live, that is, to grow and change, thereby leading to the creation of what Kathleen Miller describes as “living art.”16 Of course, a key difference between Anne’s myth and other myths is that hers remains unresolved. “The story,” Elizabeth Waterston observes, “is open-ended: Anne contemplates a bend in the road and affirms the possibility of a change around that bend.”17 The redhead resigns herself to staying home at Green Gables, but she does so with the acknowledgement that her circumstances can, and likely will, undergo transformation. While scholars like Roderick McGillis and T.D. MacLulich view this ending and Anne’s eventual conformity as Montgomery’s capitulation to convention,18 Elizabeth Epperly points out that “providing the expected conclusion does not mean Montgomery erased Anne’s possibilities at the end of this novel.”19 Although the storylines of later Anne books inevitably develop these possibilities in a certain direction, the unresolved ending of Anne of Green Gables sustains the myth of progress associated with the orphan’s life story. Through the ambiguous image of the “bend in the road,”20 Montgomery intentionally leaves scope for change.
Literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin describes this kind of ending as “dialogic.”21 In Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics, he observes that “dialogic” forms of literary representation do not promote a singular or “monologic”22 view of reality but, rather, gesture to its many different interpretations. According to Bakhtin, dialogic forms of composition, while less conventional, are more realistic.21 Thought and language, he points out, are produced through dialogue: “The idea is a live event, played out at the point of dialogic meeting between two or several consciousnesses. In this sense the idea is similar to the word, with which it is dialogically united. Like the word, the idea wants to be heard, understood, and ‘answered’ by other voices from other positions.”23 Stylistically speaking, the ending of Montgomery’s novel is dialogic, because it presents a dynamic idea of Anne’s future. Epperly notes that “[r]eaders truly ‘akin to Anne’ can choose to imagine that a continuing independence and self-knowledge will take Anne to a happy self-sufficiency.”24 In contrast to the redhead’s seemingly static state, the metaphor of the “bend in the road”20 implies movement and change. Through it, Montgomery dialogically beckons alternative storylines. Anne’s last thoughts want “to be heard, understood, and ‘answered’ by other voices from other positions.”21 Montgomery locates the redhead’s future, not in the text, but in the reader’s imagination.
Anne as Artist of the Idea
In Bakhtin’s view, it is Fyodor Dostoevsky’s ability to represent the dialogic nature of human thought that makes him a true “artist of the idea.”21 Unlike artists who aspire to communicate a finished message through their work, the Russian author presents ideas as they actually exist in the world—as dynamic forces that gain their meaning through complex relationships to other ideas, conversations, and contexts.21 In my view, Montgomery is also an artist of the idea, as is the character she creates. Anne is a representation of an artist who understands the dialogic nature of human consciousness. In this respect, she functions as both an “artist of the idea” and as an “idea-force.”25 According to Bakhtin, when an idea “loses its monologic, abstractly theoretical finalized quality, a quality sufficient to a single consciousness, it acquires the contradictory complexity and living multi-facedness of an idea-force, being born, living and acting in the great dialogue of the epoch and calling back and forth to kindred ideas of other epochs.”26 This description easily applies to Montgomery’s character. Like Bakhtin’s conception of the idea, the Anne of many “different Annes”11 possesses a “contradictory complexity” as well as a “living multi-facedness.”22 Her artistic imagination calls out to “kindred spirits”27 across socio-historical and cultural contexts. The redhead’s dialogic orientation to reality not only allows her to foresee and welcome perspectives beyond her own, but also to transcend the confines of the novel in which she appears.
As various scholars have noted, Anne’s artistry often expresses itself through the act of storytelling, which, depending on the situation, takes both written and oral forms.28 “Anne,” Trinna Frever observes, “does not simply give information; she tells stories, stories with entire life histories behind them, and vested with her own observations and reflections, to guide the reader toward the interpretative act.”29 While Anne’s stories are often conveyed through long monologues,30 they remain dialogic in their presentation of ideas. The interpretative act always involves a negotiation of different perspectives. When explaining the origins of her wincey dress, for example, Anne tells Matthew: “A merchant in Hopetown last winter donated three hundred yards of wincey to the asylum. Some people said it was because he couldn’t sell it, but I’d rather believe that it was out of the kindness of his heart, wouldn’t you?”31 In speaking to Matthew, Anne offers different viewpoints and invites him to reflect on his own. This pattern of dialogic representation continues throughout the chapter, surfacing in what the orphan has “always heard” about Prince Edward Island, her knowledge of Mrs. Spencer’s opinions, and the things “[p]eople are always telling [her].”32 In her consideration of the ideas of others, Anne thus leads her listener to consider what Bakhtin refers to as “someone else’s hostile word.”33 Anne is not afraid to voice the thoughts of those who possess different opinions from her own and neither is she afraid to voice an opinion that contradicts that of the majority. Whatever her thoughts, they are represented in relation to those of others.
One of the consequences of Anne’s dialogic orientation to reality, however, is that most of her ideas remain unresolved. She is a dynamic character partly because her thinking supplies more questions than it does answers. Pondering her many unanswered questions, she remarks: “Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive—it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we knew all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there?”32 Possessing more “scope for imagination,”34 in this respect, involves actively imagining ideas that extend beyond one’s own thoughts and experiences. The orphan is an artist of the idea because she recognizes that her consciousness is the product of the many dialogues taking place in the world she inhabits. Just as Anne “wouldn’t be half so interesting” if she did not possess as many selves, so the world “wouldn’t be half so interesting”35 if it did not possess so many different ideas. This recurring phrase sets up a parallel between Anne and the world she represents. The world, like Anne, is “interesting” because it is complex in a way that prompts continuous learning and discovery. Anne finds it interesting because, as an artist, she possesses a receptive stance toward new and different forms of thought. Czerny observes that “[a]s an ‘author’ herself—one who renames and reconfigures the reality that surrounds her—Anne is, without exception, ‘attentive’ and ‘in readiness,’ ever expectant and open to catching elements of that elusive ‘imaginative substance’ that does not discern between the past and the present.”36 Simply put, Anne’s dialogic imagination explains her “unfinalizability”37 as a literary character and her ongoing relevance to Canadian culture. Time increases, rather than decreases, readers’ ability to engage with the scope of Anne’s artistic vision, extending it to encompass new ideas and situations.
Herein lies Anne’s intertextual power, both within the text and beyond it (for example, in readers’/writers’ responses). As someone who possesses a dialogic imagination, she is an unfinalized character, one who maintains an open stance toward change. This openness shapes Anne’s interactions with others. Bakhtin notes that “[t]he individual manner in which a person structures his own speech is determined to a significant degree by his peculiar awareness of another’s words, and by his means for reacting to them.”33 Montgomery highlights Anne’s peculiar awareness of other people’s words and perspectives on multiple occasions, including the one that leads Miss Barry to call her “Anne-girl.”1 When apologizing to Miss Barry for disturbing her sleep, the orphan is accused of not knowing the extent of the discomfort she and Diana caused. Responding to this accusation, Anne states: “I don’t know, but I can imagine … I’m sure it must have been very disturbing. But then, there is our side of it too. Have you any imagination, Miss Barry? If you have, just put yourself in our place.”38 Anne’s reaction, the narrator observes, has a healing effect on the older woman. Not only does it take “[a]ll the snap” out of Miss Barry’s eyes, but it replaces the snap with “a twinkle of amused interest.”39 In the course of their conversation, the amusing Anne-girl awakens Miss Barry’s imagination to the possibility that “someone else’s hostile word”33 may not be hostile at all, but rather, rejuvenating. The orphan’s words remove the anger and self-preoccupation that blind Miss Barry, allowing her to experience a greater view of the world.
Anne’s dialogic imagination, of course, is directly related to her love of language, which is compounded by her love of literature. “Anne,” Robinson observes, “literally rewrites her world through her daily imaginings and naming of things motivated by her excessive reading.”40 Montgomery’s narrative references such prominent writers as “Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Robert Browning, and William Shakespeare,”41 as well as others.42 This image of the Anne-girl as an intertextual figure, however, extends beyond the pages of the novel to the circumstances of her creation. As Czerny notes, “Anne is surely a composite of many sources.”43 Scholars have traced Anne’s resemblance to various literary predecessors, such as Josephine March from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (1868/1869), Rebecca Rowena Randall from Kate Douglas Wiggin’s Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1903),44 and the characters of various magazine stories, including “Charity Ann. Founded on Facts” (1892) by Mary Ann Maitland and “Lucy Ann” (1903) by J.L. Harbour.41 At the same time, scholars have also traced Anne’s impact on Montgomery’s literary successors. This list of authors includes Canadian writers Margaret Atwood, Margaret Laurence, Marian Engel, and Alice Munro;45 Swedish children’s writer Astrid Lindgren (whose character Pippi Longstocking bears a significant resemblance to Anne);46 and Canadian children’s writers Tim Wynne-Jones, Bernice Thurman Hunter, Carol Matas, Jean Little, Julie Johnston, and Kit Pearson.47 These intertextual associations invite readers to expand the scope of Montgomery’s work by considering Anne’s relationship to other authors’ words.
To extend this intertextual network even further, the following half of this essay considers the connections between Anne of Green Gables and several contemporary Canadian children’s novels, each of which is set on an island and features an orphaned female protagonist. This is not to say that all Anne-girls necessarily are orphans or live on Canadian islands. Rather, the juxtaposition of Montgomery’s Canadian island novel with several other Canadian island novels invites readers to consider the striking similarities and differences between their protagonists’ personalities. Like Anne, the heroines of these novels possess artistic dispositions that set them apart from those around them. Whether through acts of writing (The Root Cellar), cooking (Everything on a Waffle), or painting (The Whole Truth and And Nothing But the Truth), each of these girls represents new ways of seeing and experiencing the world. Their artistry, which is deeply connected to their desire for belonging and home, expresses itself in their irrepressible hope that their circumstances will change for the better. Viewed in relation to Montgomery’s novel, these narratives extend the myth of progress associated with Anne’s artistry, particularly as it relates to the possibilities associated with female choice. Like Anne Shirley, Rose Larkin (The Root Cellar), Primrose Squarp (Everything on a Waffle), and Polly Brown (The Whole Truth and And Nothing But the Truth) discover that all “bend[s] in the road”20 are accompanied by bends in oneself. The pursuit of progress and personal transformation is most successful when achieved through psychological and emotional healing.48 The best part about being an unfinalized person is that it affords opportunities for self-growth.
Theoretically speaking, my identification and exploration of these different Anne-girls is grounded in Bakhtin’s observations concerning dialogism and Roland Barthes’s understanding of the reading experience. Barthes’s work, in particular, provides insight into how I address issues of authorial intention. “The text,” he observes, “is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture.”49 Anne of Green Gables, scholars have shown, is a canonical text situated within the centre of Canadian culture.50 Consequently, one might confidently say that Lunn, Horvath, and Pearson, as writers of Canadian children’s literature, are aware of Montgomery’s work. That being said, it is more difficult to state the extent to which their awareness of Montgomery’s national presence, or each other’s, for that matter, impacts their understanding of their own work. “Our practical everyday speech,” Bakhtin notes, “is full of other people’s words: with some of them we completely merge our own voice, forgetting whose they are; others, which we take as authoritative, we use to reinforce our own words; still others, finally, we populate with our own aspirations, alien or hostile to them.”51 Accordingly, when it comes to questioning the intentionality of the intertextual connections between Anne and these Canadian heroines, this essay places more emphasis on the indirect quotations (and allusions generally) of Anne found within Lunn’s, Horvath’s, and Pearson’s texts, than it does on the authors’ direct acknowledgement of Montgomery’s influence. Justifying this emphasis is the recognition that each author’s words are full of other people’s words, some of which she might not consciously perceive, but that readers’ imaginations are free to identify. With this view, I now turn to an intertextual reading of the above-mentioned novels, keeping in mind the way their words gain new significance in relation to Anne of Green Gables.
The Root Cellar (1981)
While The Root Cellar contains no direct reference to Anne of Green Gables, it, like the other novels mentioned in this essay, presents a “peculiar awareness”33 of Montgomery’s story. This awareness reveals itself in the physical resemblance between Lunn’s heroine, Rose Larkin, and Anne. Rose, the narrator states,
… didn’t look like a china doll. Her bright red hair was pulled tightly into two neat braids. She had a long nose and her face was pointed which gave her a slightly elfish look and sometimes led strangers to expect mischief or humour until they looked more closely at her set chin, her mouth so firmly shut and the guarded expression that was too often in her large grey eyes.52
Apart from the shut mouth and guarded expression, this passage echoes Montgomery’s description of Anne, who has “two braids of very thick, decidedly red hair,” a “very pointed and pronounced” chin and “large” greenish-grey eyes.53 Moreover, Rose’s “elfish”54 look recalls the otherworldly quality Montgomery attributes to Anne when Matthew thinks her a “freckled witch,”34 not to mention Montgomery’s other heroine, Emily, who looks as if “she was kin to tribes of elfland.”55 In fact, Lunn’s juxtaposition of “mischief or humour”56 with Rose’s firmness evokes Montgomery’s description of Marilla, Anne’s adult double,57 who, despite her rather severe appearance, has “a saving something about her mouth” that “might have been considered indicative of a sense of humour.”58 Whether intentional or unintentional, these parallels establish a strong intertextual connection between Lunn’s and Montgomery’s characters.
Further increasing this resemblance between Rose and Anne, however, are the similar circumstances they face. As previously mentioned, Rose, like Anne, is an orphan. After her “austere” grandmother passes away, the twelve-year-old is sent to live with her paternal aunt and uncle on an island located “off the north shore of Lake Ontario.”59 Given these similarities, it is not surprising that Mary on Goodreads would write that: “Reading [The Root Cellar] illicited images of Anne of Green Gables.”60 Despite the different time periods in which the novels are set, the similarities between the heroines’ ages, appearances, and lives invite readers to recognize Anne’s image in the character of Rose. At the same time, they also invite readers to identify points of divergence. Bakhtin, remember, notes that the way a person speaks is “determined to a significant degree by his peculiar awareness of another’s words, and by his means for reacting to them.”61 Understanding how Lunn’s words are structured by an awareness of Montgomery’s requires readers to reflect on how she chooses to react to them. Susan Meyer notes that “to consider the way that later Canadian children’s writers respond to L.M. Montgomery is to see such a mixture of homage and contention, of celebratory affirmation and aggressive revision.”62 This pattern certainly applies to Lunn’s novel. The similarities that bind Anne and Rose together create opportunities for interesting reversals, and these reversals form the basis of the dialogue they create.
Unlike Anne of Green Gables, for example, The Root Cellar is a historical fantasy. This generic difference allows Lunn to fully collapse the liminal boundary between fantasy and reality that many scholars view as central to Montgomery’s novel.63 One might even say that she takes a vicarious pleasure in rupturing some of the limits put on Anne. While Anne imagines herself as the heroine of her own adventures,64 Rose actually lives them. Instead of fantasizing that she is in a different time and place, Rose, who feels like an outsider in her Canadian island home, travels back in time through an old root cellar to the period of the American Civil War. She, too, in this sense, functions as an “idea-force,”22 but the nature of her dialogue manifests differently. Unlike Anne, she physically finds herself moving through time, “living and acting in the great dialogue of the epoch and calling back and forth to kindred ideas of other epochs.”22 Through this physical dialogue, Lunn reminds readers that, on a metaphorical level, all people are time travellers who enter into the past in order to better understand their lives. Rose’s encounters with history are presented as real experiences that lead to physical, emotional, and psychological transformation. Consequently, it is through the genre of fantasy that Lunn validates people’s imagined encounters with time as real occurrences. Rose’s adventures demonstrate that the ideas people possess about history, whether privately thought or publicly enacted through “self-dramatizations,”65 are, in fact, “live event[s].”23
Regarded together, this reversal—compounded by a number of other plot points—engages with and expands upon some of the themes of social transformation associated with Montgomery’s novel, particularly those related to gender norms. Like Anne, for example, Rose receives an unfortunate haircut. And yet, unlike Anne, Rose’s haircut is the consequence of her aunt’s vanity and not her own. Her Aunt Millicent tells her, “before you go to your new home, I think we’d better do something about you, hadn’t we?”66 Rose, the narrator observes, “... was much too bewildered and too well behaved to say anything. She went obediently to the hairdresser where, with two quick chops, her braids were left lying on the floor and her hair was in inch-long curls all over her head.”66 In the 1980s, unlike the 1860s,67 short hair is considered “[s]o chic”68 on a girl. Nevertheless, Rose wishes she could keep her braids and “good navy blue challis dress.”66 Unlike Anne, she does not identify with popular models of femininity that associate being a woman with a particular ideal of beauty. She is not concerned with being fashionable. Artistically speaking, however, Rose and Anne both express a desire to choose how they represent themselves to the world. In each novel, this desire provides a means through which to examine the complex and often-conflicting expectations placed on young women. Rose, for instance, rejects the supposedly feminine desire to conform to socially acceptable ideals of beauty but complies with the stereotype of female submission by obeying her aunt. Conversely, Anne embraces society’s ideal of feminine beauty, but, in her desire to emulate it, defies the stereotype of female submission by doing something she knows Marilla would not sanction (that is, dyeing her hair).
Where Rose and Anne are concerned, hair thus becomes a physical expression of their inner selves. While Anne eventually comes to terms with her haircut (and eventually her red hair), Rose begins to appreciate her haircut when it acquires a functional value. Travelling back in time to the 1860s, her short hair loses its fashionable status, allowing her to pose as a boy and enjoy the freedoms that come with being a male. Instead of a symbol of oppression, Rose’s short hair becomes a symbol of liberation. When she decides to return to the 1860s and take on the identity of “David,”69 she embraces the right to determine aspects of her own future. The physically demanding tasks she performs as a boy (for example, helping out at a blacksmith’s workshop) allow her to exercise the agency she has previously been denied. Unlike Anne, who is not allowed to perform “boys’ work” at Green Gables, Rose proves herself capable of handling hard labour. Engaging in this gender performance affords her the opportunity to experience some of the more restricting gender norms of the 1860s, while developing a sense of female autonomy more familiar to the feminist movements of the 1980s.70 By the time Rose is ready to discard her male disguise and return home, her hair has started to grow. This growth marks a change in how she represents her femininity, a change that is further symbolized by the new makeover she receives before she goes home. Donning an old-fashioned dress with “mutton-chop sleeves, a high collar, and an ankle-length full skirt,”71 Rose looks at herself and whispers, “I like it.”72 Unlike the makeover she receives from her Aunt Millicent, this makeover is conducted on her own terms. Rose’s preference for older fashions, in this respect, actually reflects a modern sensibility of female empowerment, because it signifies her ability to assert herself and construct her own identity. Her adventure in the past has freed her of the inhibitions that have prevented her from outwardly expressing her sense of self.
These corresponding plot points in The Root Cellar and Anne of Green Gables invite readers to reflect on the representation of gender norms in each novel. Unlike Anne, for example, who is initially rejected by Marilla because she is not a boy, Rose is welcomed by her Aunt Nan because she is a girl. Aunt Nan tells her, “I write stories for girls. It’s to get away from boys your uncle Bob says, so you can imagine how nice it’s going to be to have you here.”73 In a home dominated by four male cousins and an uncle, Rose’s female presence holds value. Her aunt’s welcome, however, does not affirm Rose’s strength and independence as much as it suggests a reinforcement of the gendering readers find in Montgomery’s novel, when Mathew tells Marilla that Anne would be good “company”74 for her. Neither does it convince Rose that she belongs. On the contrary, it is not until Rose travels back to another time period that she is truly able to recognize her self-worth. Disguised as “David,”69 Rose and her friend Susan travel across the United States to find their mutual friend Will, a soldier who has been missing since the end of the war. Instead of adopting the role of a damsel in distress, a role Anne reluctantly adopts when Gilbert saves her from the sinking dory,75 Rose adopts the role of a rescuer. By proving herself as capable as a male, she demonstrates that her value does not merely lie in the fact that she is precious, but also, useful. In this way, she expands upon the scope of Anne’s own heroic moments, which include saving Minnie May from the croup.76
Through these different reversals, Rose dialogically extends Anne’s myth of progress to encompass more possibilities for young women. Her experiences in the 1860s reclaim women’s right to have adventures outside of the home, while simultaneously validating the adventurous nature of their lives inside of it. Susan, Rose’s friend from the 1860s, is an extremely hard worker, who courageously agrees to join Rose in the search for Will. This combination of an 1860s-girl and a 1980s-girl-disguised-as-a-boy deconstructs the notion that girls are not strong enough to live out “boys’ adventures.” While Susan proves that girls do not need to adopt masculine characteristics in order to experience danger, excitement, and hardship, Rose’s male disguise allows her to prove that they can take on the responsibilities of the opposite sex. Reflecting on their journey together, Susan tells Rose: “Rose, you know I couldn’t ever have done this without you … I think you’re wonderful brave.”77 When Rose denies her bravery, Susan reminds her of all the challenges of their journey: “You was brave to come and you was brave to stick when things got bad. I expect you could have gone back to wherever you come from any time you wanted and you didn’t.”77 This passage highlights the importance of female affirmation and friendship; Susan and Rose affirm each other’s ability to endure the challenges of their journey together. Bravery, they realize, does not mean that they do not feel fear or make mistakes, but that they are vulnerable enough to admit both.
Lunn, however, does not allow her characters to experience a conventional boy’s adventure without interrogating some of its ideological underpinnings. Instead of promoting romantic visions of Rose’s journey, she uses it to expose the brutal realities of what is often framed as the ultimate boy’s adventure—war. When Rose and Susan eventually discover Will, they find him emotionally broken. Explaining his reasons for enlisting, he tells them: “… when [Steve] talked about going to war, I felt the excitement too. I was so full of glory and halleluiah I had to go. But I never took to it like he did. All I could think was we had to win. I figured we had to save the country, but many’s the long night I lay awake and just prayed for it to be over.”78 In this passage, readers are invited to recognize that the greater adventure taking place in Lunn’s novel, like Montgomery’s, is one of healing.79 Rose, Susan, and Will discover that the glories of war are nothing compared to the glories of friendship and family. Rose comes to the conclusion that she is tired of pretending to be a boy, realizing that she “belong[s] in that other time”80 where she can be herself. When she returns to her family, she finally realizes that she is “just as prickly and difficult”81 as they are, which allows her to feel at home. Her experiences in the 1860s help her recognize that her future does not need to lie in the past in order to be shaped by it. Knowing the history of the home she shares with her aunt, uncle, and cousins allows her to feel a connection to the 1860s that informs how she chooses to live her life in the 1980s.
To some degree, then, Rose actually rescues herself by rescuing Will. Her efforts to convince him to return home lead her to conclude that she should return to hers. He is presented as a male counter-part to Rose, just as Gilbert is presented as a male counter-part to Anne.82 While Anne does not recognize Gilbert as a kindred spirit, at least, not right away, Rose recognizes Will as one almost immediately. Listening to him play his flute “[s]he bec[omes] part of the woods and the water, of the boat and Will.”83 Moreover, whereas Anne initially rejects the idea of Gilbert as a romantic suitor, Rose decides soon after meeting Will that she’s “going to marry [him].”83 However, as the story progresses, Rose realizes that Susan is actually the right person to marry Will. Thus, while Anne’s feelings toward Gilbert gradually transform into romantic affection, Rose’s feelings toward Will follow the opposite trajectory, eventually settling into a deep friendship. This realization marks Rose’s maturity as an individual who recognizes the value of true friendship over romantic infatuation. She tells Will, “I was going to marry you. But I know now that it was silly because I’m not the one who is going to marry you, and anyway I belong in another time, and I have to go back even if I go by myself.”80 Through Rose’s statement Lunn indicates the transformation of her character who, having lived an adventure in another time period, has changed her view of domestic happiness.
Rose’s view, however, does not dismiss or detract from the significance of the domestic happiness Susan and Will experience together. On the contrary, she returns home determined to contribute to her new family, and one of the ways she decides to make this contribution is by cooking them an old-fashioned Christmas dinner. In doing so, Rose affirms the value of what Miller describes as the “domestic and social artist.”84 Similar to Anne, she “evidences her social-artistry skills in the traditional feminine forms of domestic art”85 by trying to arrange a special meal for her family and their elderly neighbour. Rose, the narrator informs the reader, “didn’t think cooking anything could be all that difficult,” especially after she had “learned to be a blacksmith and nothing in the world could be harder than that.”86 And yet, like Anne, Rose quickly learns to respect the difficulty of mastering the domestic arts when her carefully planned Christmas dinner goes awry. The meal is saved by Susan, now elderly Mrs. Will Morrissay, who time travels from the past to the present.87 Mrs. Morrissay magically transforms the dining room so it looks like “a fairy-tale forest” set for a feast of “roast goose, brown and glossy.”88 This moment adds an extra dimension to the dialogue created by Lunn’s novel. Like Montgomery, Lunn does not devalue the significance of domestic forms of art at the expense of professional forms.89 In Rose’s experience, a homemaker’s job is more challenging than a blacksmith’s.
Rose’s time-travel experiences, in this sense, increase her capacity as an artist who recognizes the value of creating “living narrative[s].”90 Making the holiday dinner, she becomes “aware that possibly everyone who had ever lived in the house was making Christmas dinner.”91 Her increasingly dialogic orientation to reality expresses itself in conventional narrative form, however, when she revises one of her Aunt Nan’s “silly”92 girl’s stories:
… Aunt Nan said, “I like the way that scene goes. I don’t even remember writing it.”
“I put that in.”
“You did what!” Aunt Nan nearly jumped out of bed. “Don’t you dare rewrite my story!”
Rose went white. “Well, it’s better. You said so yourself.”92
In this metafictional scene, Rose displays her skills as both a social artist and a professional artist (that is, writer). Reading the text, “Polly Learns to Ride,”92 she “populate[s]” it with her “own aspirations,”51 aligning it with her view of what would make a better narrative. While Lunn does not provide readers with a detailed description of the story or Rose’s revisions, one gets the sense that the character’s frustration with the text has something to do with the implications it carries for her own life. Rose, after all, describes her previous infatuation with Will as “silly.”80 Lunn’s repetition of the adjective in this passage (similar to Montgomery’s repetition of the word “interesting”) suggests the way Rose’s living narrative has rewritten some of the gendered conventions that circumscribe the traditional girl’s story.93 Romantic, oversimplified representations of domesticity and adventure, Rose learns, are “silly” when they fail to account for the psychological complexity, strength, and unfinalizable nature of people’s lived experiences.
Rose’s act of revision, in turn, highlights the significance of the intergenerational dialogues that occur between women. In the course of the story, Rose has transformed from being a passive young woman whose voice is silenced by her older female guardians (that is, her grandmother and her Aunt Millicent) to a young woman who is willing to insert her voice directly into their monologues (that is, her Aunt Nan’s story). Like Anne, whose interactions with women such as Marilla, Mrs. Lynde, and Miss Josephine Barry lead to an eventual change in their perspectives on different issues, Rose’s interactions with women like Susan from the 1860s, and Aunt Nan from the 1980s, lead to changes in their perspectives. On a metaphorical level, Anne and Rose do rewrite the stories of the women who came before them, but, in doing so, they learn to value the significance of those women’s life narratives. Their own narratives show that expanding the possibilities of girlhood does not involve depreciating the girls’ stories of the past but, rather, involves learning to appreciate them in all of their fullness. In the context of this intertextual reading of The Root Cellar and Anne of Green Gables, such a realization highlights the significance of Lunn’s story as a response to Montgomery’s. While Lunn does not directly acknowledge Montgomery’s influence on her novel, she wrote a biography on Montgomery’s life, and was therefore very familiar with the author’s work. Lunn’s living narrative thus testifies to the impact of the writer who came before her, just as her written narrative testifies to the way she consciously or subconsciously rewrote aspects of Anne of Green Gables. In a very real sense, The Root Cellar demonstrates how stories function as portals through which readers can experience transformative encounters with the past. Dialogically speaking, the scope of the girl’s story is only as limited as one’s imagination allows it to be.
Everything on a Waffle (2001)
This theme of personal and social transformation also appears in Everything on a Waffle, a novel that, like The Root Cellar and Anne of Green Gables, rewrites some of the gendered conventions associated with literary representations of domesticity and adventure. Similar to Lunn’s novel and Montgomery’s, Polly Horvath’s expands the traditional scope of girlhood through its depiction of Primrose Squarp, an unconventional heroine whose imagination defies the limitations placed on her by others. Physically, Horvath’s character, like Lunn’s, bears an uncanny resemblance to Anne. She, too, has “hair the color of carrots in an apricot glaze … skin fair and clear where it isn’t freckled, and eyes like summer storms.”94 Moreover, like Anne, Primrose also finds herself an orphan and an outcast in the small island town where she lives.95 When her parents are lost at sea during a typhoon, she refuses to believe they are dead. Primrose tells her elderly babysitter: “I don’t know what you think the story of Jonah is about, Miss Perfidy … But to me it is about how hopeful the human heart is. I am certain my parents, if not in the belly of a whale, are wondering how I am doing and trying to get home to me!”96 On account of this hope, Primrose is bullied and rejected by the other children and gossiped about by various adult community members. When the school guidance counsellor, Miss Honeycut, encourages her to accept the reality of her parents’ death, the little girl answers: “Haven’t you ever just known something deep in your heart without reason?”97 Primrose later repeats this question to Miss Perfidy.98 The counsellor’s and the babysitter’s dismissive responses suggest the way Primrose’s faith in her parents’ survival is treated as a “hostile word”33 by the residents of Coal Harbour, British Columbia.99 Instead of admiring the scope of her imagination, they regard it with contempt. Like Montgomery’s heroine, Horvath’s heroine is “troublesome,”11 not because she deliberately sets out to create conflict, but because the way she sees and experiences the world conflicts with the views of the people around her.
Similar to Anne and Rose, then, Primrose is A-typical because she possesses an inherently dialogic orientation toward reality. Her appeal to Miss Honeycut echoes Anne’s appeal to Marilla: “Do you never imagine things different from what they really are?”100 Both Horvath’s and Montgomery’s heroines are viewed as impractical, because the logic that governs their thinking departs from the logic that governs the minds of those around them, which is pragmatically based in the here and now. Like Anne and Rose, Primrose possesses an imagination that “... makes the sort of connections that ignore empirical forces and established systems of thought.”36 The distinction between their consciousnesses and the collective consciousness of the communities they inhabit establishes the ground for the dialogues that shape their personal trajectories as individuals.101 Despite the hardships they face, they all possess the courage to perceive realities beyond those they can rationally explain. The dialogic nature of Primrose’s imagination, for example, reveals itself in her commitment to embracing the “live event” of her belief in her parents’ survival—her commitment to having her idea “… heard, understood, and ‘answered’ by other voices from other positions.”23 Like the redhead from Avonlea, the redhead from Coal Harbour refuses to accept the monologic (empirical) view of reality handed to her by others.
Viewed from this perspective, Primrose is also an idea-force. She, too, represents the reality of her life in dialogic terms, suspended between the viewpoints of different people. Bakhtin notes that “[h]uman thought becomes genuine thought, that is, an idea, only under conditions of living contact with another and alien thought, a thought embodied in someone else’s voice, that is, in someone else’s consciousness expressed in discourse.”21 The community of Coal Harbour presents Primrose with the living conditions through which to authenticate her belief that her parents are still alive. Her idea exists as an alien thought at the point of contact between her consciousness and the consciousnesses of those around her. The collective disbelief of Coal Harbour residents, in this sense, displaces her from the community, marginalizing her as an outsider. Primrose reflects: “I do not live anywhere anymore … I am not in the body of life. I hover on the extremities. I float.”102 While her parents are literally lost at sea, Primrose is figuratively adrift. Her choice to believe that they are still alive detaches her from the body of life (the Coal Harbour community) that they have left. For this reason, she identifies with the fluid (dialogic) motion of the water around her rather than the static (monologic) body of land on which she stands. Just as Anne’s daydreams transport her spirit “far away in some remote airy cloudland,”103 and Rose’s desire to belong transports her to another time, so does Primrose’s belief transport her into another reality, underscoring the liminal nature of her spiritual/physical existence.
In terms of Anne’s myth of progress, Primrose shares the resilient hope that, against all odds, her circumstances will improve. Recognizing this similarity, readers have identified various connections between the two characters’ stories. One blogger, for example, writes: “If you enjoyed Anne of Green Gables because of Anne’s never-ending optimism despite the fact that mishaps pursued her, because you loved the quirky residents of Green Gables, and because Green Gables was located on the Canadian coast then here’s a book for you!”104 In fact, a study guide for the novel states: “Primrose is the narrative’s central character, an independent, strong willed, red-headed heroine who, as previously discussed, bears a strong resemblance to a similar Canadian heroine, Anne of Green Gables.”105 Anne and Primrose’s resemblance extends the artistic potential of the Anne-girl as an unfinalized character. Like The Root Cellar and Anne of Green Gables, Everything on a Waffle re-patterns traditional conceptions of domesticity and adventure. In the course of the story, Primrose, like Anne, gets into lots of “trouble of some sort,”106 including being hit by a truck and losing her baby toe, setting the class guinea pig on fire, and nearly drowning and losing her fingertip.107 Like Montgomery, however, Horvath uses her character’s “mishaps”108 to reframe traditional understandings of adventure to encompass the everyday contexts and situations people face.109 Through them, she reminds readers that creating a sense of belonging in the world is always a physically and psychologically challenging endeavour. Domesticity is linked to the adventure of self-discovery, a journey that cannot be underestimated in terms of its difficulty.
Being A-typical in the Anne-girl sense of the word, therefore, means finding oneself unwittingly labelled an “iconoclastic spirit.”110 By being true to her beliefs, which are different from those of the people around her, Primrose, like Anne, stands out. Miss Perfidy views this “strange[ness]” as an inherited trait, and, while the babysitter’s memory is not the most reliable source of information, it is worth noting that Mrs. Squarp, like her daughter, is not afraid to be different. 111 Describing the day of her mother’s disappearance, Primrose states:
My father’s fishing boat was late getting in and my mother, who wasn’t one for sitting around biting her nails, put on her yellow macintosh and hat and took me over to Miss Perfidy’s house, saying, “Miss Perfidy, John is out there somewhere and I don’t know if his boat is coming safely into shore, so I am going out in our sailboat to find him.”94
Like Lunn, Horvath subverts the image of the passive female by placing Mrs. Squarp, not her husband, in the role of rescuer. The community of Coal Harbour, however, does not approve of her attempted rescue and instead views it as selfish and reckless. One child bully tells Primrose: “My mother says how come your mother didn’t stay at home with you instead of going into that storm?”112 By making Mrs. Squarp the object of social criticism, Horvath demonstrates how women can reinforce oppressive patriarchal norms by not supporting each other’s ability to act outside of restrictive gender roles.
Intergenerational dialogues, therefore, are just as central a theme in Everything on a Waffle as they are in Anne of Green Gables and The Root Cellar. While Primrose does not encounter empathetic supporters in her classmate or her classmate’s mother, she does find one in Miss Bowzer, the owner of one of the central restaurants in town, “The Girl on the Red Swing.”113 Unlike the other residents of Coal Harbour, Miss Bowzer admires Primrose’s mother. She rejects their monologic reading of Mrs. Squarp’s actions and, instead, chooses to applaud the woman’s bravery. She informs Primrose, “[k]id, I’ll tell you what no one in this town can forgive and that’s that your mother loved your father enough to follow him out into that storm. Now, that’s true love and it’s rare as rare can be.” 114 While Miss Bowzer’s admiration of Mrs. Squarp can be viewed as reinforcing oppressive ideals of female self-sacrifice and the nuclear family, Horvath’s description of the restaurant owner supports a more positive reading. Miss Bowzer is, like Mrs. Squarp and Primrose, an independent, strong-minded person who views herself as equal to men. Her behaviour toward Primrose’s Uncle Jack is akin to Anne’s competitive behaviour toward Gilbert. When Miss Bowzer finally adds one of Jack’s requested “upscale”115 dishes to her menu, she serves it, like all of her dishes, on a waffle, thereby refusing to compromise her sense of individuality to please him.116 Understood in the greater context of the novel, Miss Bowzer’s admiration of Mrs. Squarp thus stems more from her belief that love should be founded on principles of equality, respect, and mutual passion, than the idea that women should sacrifice themselves for men.
Like Montgomery, then, Horvath presents empowering models of femininity that push back against restrictive gender stereotypes. The power of these models reveals itself in a conventional domestic task: cooking. Similar to Montgomery and Lunn, Horvath validates the significance of domestic art. One of the ways she does this is by establishing a dialogic connection between the professional context of Miss Bowzer’s restaurant kitchen and the private context of the home Primrose used to share with her parents. While her parents are away, Primrose tries to remember her mother’s recipes, recording them on her mother’s memo pad. She also records new recipes she thinks her mother would like, many of which she obtains from the different people she encounters. Primrose makes some of these recipes with the help of Miss Bowzer, whose "warm kitchen" is a place of "safety."117 Part of this safety, however, is found in the unconventional nature of the restaurant. Primrose informs readers:
… at The Girl on the Red Swing they served everything on a waffle. Not just the kind of food that went with waffles … No, at The Girl on the Red Swing if you ordered a steak it came on a waffle, if you ordered fish and chips it came on a waffle, if you ordered waffles they came on a waffle. Miss Bowzer said it gave the restaurant class. Also, she liked to give the customer a little something extra.118
In this unconventional kitchen, Primrose, Mrs. Squarp, and Miss Bowzer are spiritually brought together through the act of cooking, which serves as a metaphor for their existence. Living, like cooking, involves combining different ingredients to create something new. Together, the three women represent an alternative recipe for domestic life, one that does not centre on complying to patriarchal norms as much as it involves experimenting with them, altering the traditional expectations of what goes with existence in order to appreciate the “little something extra”113 it has to offer.
Accordingly, in Horvath’s novel recipes are presented as dialogic texts that signify connection and creation. In the absence of her mother and father, Primrose must find a new recipe for home, one that includes the mentorship and friendship of people like Miss Bowzer. A small business owner in a fishing and whaling town, Miss Bowzer has proven that she has the intellectual savvy to survive on her own in an economically challenging environment. Not only that, but she has done so by creating a central space where the community can gather, eat, and exchange ideas. She has made a career out of being a “social artist,” who, like Anne, employs the domestic arts to “creat[e] a living narrative for, and from, the lives of the inhabitants”119 of her community. Primrose, in this respect, functions as her apprentice. Food becomes a metaphor through which the young girl can explore the tangible and intangible elements that sustain human life. Primrose associates each of the recipes she records with different stories. While some of these stories demonstrate the power of domestic art to facilitate connection, they also remind her of its limitations. For example, when reflecting on her parents’ attempts to schedule ‘concentrated family time,’ Primrose concludes that: “Being together, like being able to see certain stars only with your peripheral vision, isn’t something you can create. It’s just something that happens to you.”120 Horvath, therefore, uses the metaphor of cooking to validate the domestic arts, while simultaneously critiquing some of the oppressive philosophies that are often associated with them. Recipes for domesticity, like recipes for cooking, can become bland and unsatisfying when they fail to account for the unfinalizable nature of life.
Similar to The Root Cellar and Anne of Green Gables, Everything on a Waffle thus encourages readers to question the gender norms underlying conventional classifications of the girl’s story and the boy’s story. Primrose’s narrative is presented as a parallel adventure to that of her parents, who “liv[e] very much like Robinson Crusoe”121 until they are rescued. Like them, her life has been shipwrecked by the storm and she must find her own way to survive. Horvath notes that “… survival is central in everyone’s work and life. Whether it is physical, mental, spiritual, etc. You want not to just survive but transcend.”122 Through Primrose’s unconventional story, Horvath’s novel successfully transcends the notion that adventure can only happen in faraway places. Over the course of her parents’ absence, Primrose, who has always wanted to travel, realizes that “… the things that you find out become the places that you go and sometimes you find them out by being jettisoned off alone and other times it is the people who choose to stand by your side who give you the clues. But the important things that happen to you will happen to you even in the smallest places, like Coal Harbour.”123 Unlike Anne, whose “horizons” have supposedly “closed in” with her decision to stay with Marilla and walk the “narrow”20 path of life in Avonlea, Primrose’s horizons have opened by the end of her story. By highlighting the number of “bend[s] in the road”20 Coal Harbour holds for the eleven-year-old, Horvath challenges the perception that life in a small town is itself small or uneventful. This perception is further challenged in Horvath’s sequel, One Year in Coal Harbour (2012), which details Primrose’s response to a logging threat in the area, as well as her attempts to befriend someone her own age. Everything on a Waffle, in this sense, reminds readers that embracing the full scope of the girl’s story involves reconceptualizing domestic life as its own adventure.124
The Whole Truth (2011) and And Nothing But the Truth (2012)
Like The Root Cellar and Everything on a Waffle, Kit Pearson’s The Whole Truth and And Nothing But the Truth add nuance to Anne’s artistic vision. Pearson does this by exploring the ethical tensions that accompany personal and social transformation, which, as this investigation of the A-typical Anne-girl has already revealed, tend to disrupt social norms. “Anne,” Temma Berg notes, “is a spirit that awakens and disorients. Ugly, skinny, freckled, and red-haired she may be, but she is also a powerful force of release.”125 This theme of release pervades Pearson’s novels, which centre on the value of truth, a value that, in both books, serves as an outlet for individual and collective healing. Similar to the other Anne-girls mentioned, Polly finds herself an orphan, living with a relative on a Canadian island.126 Unlike Horvath and Lunn, however, Pearson explicitly acknowledges Montgomery’s influence on these narratives and goes so far as to refer her readers to Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon on her website.127 Scholars have already identified connections between Montgomery’s work and Pearson’s previous novels,128 locating Pearson as a devoted Montgomery fan.129 Given this influence, it is not surprising that Pearson’s heroine, Polly, and her sister, Maud, bear names associated with the famous author.130 While the physical resemblance between Anne, Rose, and Primrose131 invites an intertextual reading of their narratives, these linguistic ties form a strong connection between Pearson’s and Montgomery’s stories. Like Anne, Polly’s journey involves finding release from her past, a process that can only be achieved through difficult moments of personal growth that inevitably impact her relationships with others. Part of living a narrative of personal transformation, she realizes, involves accepting that all people make mistakes. Like Montgomery’s heroine, Pearson’s heroine reminds readers that the myth of progress is most successfully pursued via roads of grace and forgiveness, which account for the unfinalizability of human experience.
Honesty, as the titles of Pearson’s books suggest, is an important part of this process. The Whole Truth, which is set during the Great Depression, explores the secrets that divide Polly’s family, secrets that include the fact that her father, who is thought to be dead, is actually alive. When Polly discovers that her father faked his own death because he was guilty of stealing from his employer, she is devastated. The narrator informs us: “Polly wanted to hide under the covers as if she were a little child. All she could do was keep her face turned away. How stupid she felt! How humiliated! The grown-ups had been right all along. Her father, whom she had always thought was good, was a thief and a liar.”132 Coming to terms with her father’s guilt complicates Polly’s understanding of human morality. Her struggle to distinguish good people from bad resonates with Anne’s own observations on the subject. “No matter how hard I try to be good,” Anne tells Marilla, “I can never make such a success of it as those who are naturally good. It’s a good deal like geometry, I expect. But don’t you think the trying so hard ought to count for something?”133 Polly has to answer a similar question when reflecting on the goodness of the people in her own life. On the one hand, there are people like her father, who, faced with desperate circumstances, do unethical things that they would not normally do. On the other hand, there are people like her grandmother, Noni, who are not in desperate circumstances but still end up making unethical decisions, such as refusing to let a Japanese woman join the Women’s Auxiliary because of her race.134 Reflecting on the complexity of these different situations inevitably leads Polly to re-evaluate her understanding of right and wrong. Morality, she discovers, is its own idea-force that possesses a “contradictory complexity and living multi-facedness”22 that cannot be easily explained.
A strong thread connecting The Whole Truth and Anne of Green Gables, therefore, is their examination of the moral tensions embedded within different social values. As they gain a richer understanding of what it means to be human, Anne and Polly both question what it means to be “naturally good.”133 When Polly finally does forgive her father, she realizes:
The truth—the whole truth, at last—was as deep as the sea around her. People were complicated. Daddy wasn’t totally good, after all. Neither was Noni, neither was Maud. And Alice, it turned out, wasn’t totally bad. She, Polly, was complicated too. That meant she could love Daddy even though he had disappointed her.135
Here it is important to note how Pearson extends the theme of confession readers find in Anne of Green Gables,136 deepening it to have greater significance. While Anne is usually the one apologizing to adults for her absent-minded mistakes, it is Polly’s father who must apologize to her for his serious misconduct. Pearson notes that in her books children are often “victims of adult society.”137 By reversing the hierarchic relationship of the adult caregiver and the child (a reversal that Montgomery also plays with when she has Marilla and Mrs. Lynde apologize to Anne on different occasions) Pearson demonstrates the healing power138 that comes with forgiveness. The significance of intergenerational dialogues emerges once again as a central aspect of social transformation. Progress, Polly learns, is a multi-directional and multi-generational process. Like Montgomery, Pearson demonstrates that confession and forgiveness are both courageous acts. To perform them, one has to be willing to speak—to “bear[d] the lion in its den.”139 And, as Anne of Green Gables and The Whole Truth demonstrate, some of the scariest lions are found in the domestic dens people call home.
Forgiveness continues to be a central theme in Pearson’s sequel, And Nothing But the Truth, which, like Anne of Green Gables, The Root Cellar, Everything on a Waffle, and The Whole Truth, highlights the importance of personal choice. In this novel, Polly’s worldview is challenged once again when she learns that the reason her grandmother had quarreled and lost contact with her mother was because her mother had become pregnant out of wedlock. This secret is revealed when Polly’s sister, Maud, finds herself in a similar predicament. Forced to navigate the rupture these discoveries create within her family, Polly begins to question the value of certain social norms:
Polly pondered the other happy people she knew … Miss Falconer was living with a man she wasn’t married to. Miss Carr lived alone and was a brilliant and innovative artist. Daddy had chosen to join his life with Esther, whom people like Noni disapproved of. It seemed that the happiest people were the ones who didn’t worry about keeping up appearances.140
Polly’s encounters with people who are not afraid to challenge convention give her the courage to support Maud through her unplanned pregnancy, even when it means taking a stand against her grandmother by running away. Ideas, she realizes, have the power to rupture human bonds, but they also have the power to restore them. Polly experiences this restorative power first hand when Noni follows her to her father’s house and apologizes. The novel ends with an image of intergenerational unity, as Polly, Noni, Maud, and Maud’s newborn daughter Una (named after Polly and Maud’s mother), take the ferry back to Kingfisher Island to share the truth with their neighbours. As the afterward reveals, Polly goes on to marry and enjoy a successful career as an artist and Maud goes on to become a respected judge.141 The fact that Maud, a victim of narrow-minded judgements, becomes an authority on justice further enhances the theme of social progress woven throughout the novel.
In true A-typical fashion, then, Polly’s experiences transform her into an artist of the idea, a person who possesses a dialogic orientation to reality. She, too, learns the paradoxical comfort of discomfort, that is, the benefit of navigating “troublesome,” but “interesting”11 perspectives. Change, she realizes, can only come by “imagin[ing] things different from what they really are.”100 Like Anne, her story demonstrates that “... our perception of reality often becomes the blueprint for our lives.”142 As in the case of the other heroines mentioned here, the significance of her psychological blueprint is expressed through metaphor. While Anne’s artistry is expressed through conversational storytelling, Rose’s through writing, and Primrose’s through cooking, Polly’s is expressed through painting. Away at boarding school in Victoria, she meets Emily Carr, an artist who significantly alters the way she views the world. Describing the inner transformation that results from this meeting, the narrator states: “Polly had been trying to put into practice what she had learned from Miss Carr. Noni had taught Polly to paint exactly what she saw. But you didn’t have to do that. You could paint the meaning of what you saw: the truth behind the object or tree or landscape in front of you, the truth that reflected the truth inside you.”143 Dialogically speaking, this passage signifies Polly’s desire to find more “scope for imagination”34 in her understanding of reality. Like Anne, she recognizes the value of picturing things differently than they appear and, in doing so, becomes an unfinalizable character who “plays the role of an artist in a culture.”13 Pearson’s inclusion of a real Canadian artist in her story underscores the significance of this role. Through her reference to Carr, she substantiates the truth of her fictional narrative by associating it with the life narrative of an actual artist. While Carr’s eccentric personality, independence, and professional status upset many of the gendered expectations Victorian and Edwardian society had for women, her unique artistic style introduced a new way of seeing and understanding the world.144 By referencing this real-life heroine, Pearson reminds readers that real and fictional heroes both play an important part in paving the path to progress.
Perhaps more importantly, The Whole Truth and And Nothing But the Truth also remind readers that heroes are often found in unlikely people. Polly does not possess Anne’s initial boldness but, rather, develops it through the course of her story. The complementary picture these characters present, however, serves to enhance readers’ understanding of the diversity to be found within Montgomery’s concept of kindred spirits. Bakhtin notes:
Every age re-accentuates in its own way the works of its most immediate past. The historical life of classic works is in fact the uninterrupted process of their social and ideological re-accentuation. Thanks to the intentional potential embedded in them, such works have proved capable of uncovering in each era and against ever new dialogizing backgrounds ever newer aspects of meaning; their semantic content literally continues to grow, to further create out of itself.145
Differences, in other words, are crucial to the making of a productive dialogue. Set in different backgrounds and eras, The Root Cellar, Everything on a Waffle, The Whole Truth, and And Nothing But the Truth provide readers with newer aspects of meaning that expand upon the themes of personal and social transformation presented in Anne of Green Gables. Through the course of their different journeys, Rose, Primrose, and Polly learn to respect and value the adventurous nature of domestic pursuits, which involve coping with the unexpected while holding onto the right to expect more out of life than social norms would dictate. Living, they realize, involves making space for alien thoughts that allow for self-growth. Only by acknowledging and attending to each other’s “hostile word[s]”33 can the world hope to experience healing and progress related to issues of prejudice, inequality, and injustice.
Having examined some of the connections between these heroines and the iconic Anne, I now return to the question that began this essay: What makes an Anne-girl? The answer I have proposed is that the Anne-girl is an artist, who is distinguished by her dialogic orientation to reality. She is an artist of the idea because she represents this dialogic imagination in the words she thinks and speaks. Despite her seemingly static state at the end of Anne of Green Gables, Montgomery’s heroine maintains a dynamic and open stance toward change. Rose, Primrose, and Polly extend Anne’s artistic image through acts of writing, cooking, and painting. Their stories, which re-accentuate the power of imagination, provide new dialogizing backgrounds that reinforce the theme of female choice in Anne of Green Gables. Each girl is able to act on her convictions to determine aspects of her own destiny. In this respect, their stories develop and grow the image of “intentional potential”145 associated with Anne’s own never-ending “ambitions.”7 And yet, as this essay has argued, it is not the finished accomplishments of these heroines that link them to the A-typical Anne-girl, but rather, their unfinalizability as imaginative individuals. Like Anne’s ideas, their ideas also call out for further responses. One of these responses concerns the representation of race, which, though acknowledged in these novels, does not factor strongly in the protagonists’ personal experiences of marginalization. While Gray claims that Anne of Green Gables “ultimately projects a transcendence of limitations, whether imposed by self or society ...,”146 one wonders how Anne’s identity as a Caucasian female complicates this transcendence. Does her distinctly red hair, and the fair skin that accompanies it, potentially limit the dialogue she creates? Does the loudness of Anne’s voice in Canadian culture silence or overshadow the voices and names of other girls with different skin and hair colours?
Anne’s international popularity147 suggests that the answer to this question, like the heroine herself, is far from simple. Writer Evelyn White, for instance, was surprised to learn that the iconic African American singer-songwriter and civil rights activist Aretha Franklin was a fan of Anne of Green Gables.148 While White points out some potential reasons for Franklin’s fondness for Anne, including their resilience and motherless childhoods, her surprise ultimately stems from an awareness of the different cultural contexts of Anne’s and Aretha’s upbringings.148 The comparison between Aretha and Anne reminds readers that celebrating the connective power of kindred spirits also involves acknowledging the significance of the differences that make them distinct. If these differences go unacknowledged, the temptation to universalize Anne’s appeal could potentially lead to the erasure of inequalities that need to be addressed. The fact remains, however, that, as an artist of the idea, Anne intentionally creates space to question the limitations and the possibilities associated with her character. “Perpetually emerging from the page into life ever since Anne was published,” Czerny notes, “Anne authenticates a type of thinking that merges the artistic (gleaned from the written works she has read) with her own imaginative ideas and, in the process, creates a new reality.”149 The iconic orphan, in this respect, authenticates the logic governing her own artistic consumption. An unfinalizable character, Anne is open to the readings and revisions promoted by new texts that grow her to produce alternative realities.
The spirit of this openness is neatly captured in a line from the recent Anne with an E television series, which has already re-envisioned Montgomery’s novel to address such issues as racial diversity and discrimination, including the harmful effects of the Canadian Indian residential-school system. When preparing to write her entrance exam to Queens, Anne remarks to Gilbert: “No matter where life takes me, I now know I must be a relentless thorn in the side of those who refuse to amend the status quo.”150 As the award-winning novels in this essay have shown, Montgomery’s heroine has indeed inspired amendments to the status quo. She is no longer as atypical as she once was. In fact, Anne’s power might lie in the fact that she was never as uncommon a model of femininity as she initially appeared to be. Even so, as a relentless idea-force, she keeps readers and writers asking questions, some of which are more comfortable than others. Her myth of progress continues to raise people’s expectations for the future. And, no matter where their imaginations take her, she is sure to bend them in interesting ways.
About the Author: Bonnie J. Tulloch is a Ph.D. candidate and Vanier Scholar in the School of Information at the University of British Columbia. Her research focuses on children’s and young adult literature/media. Past projects include a study of Canadian children’s island novels featuring female protagonists and a master’s thesis on North American children’s nonsense poetry. Presently, her doctoral work aims to explore the relationship between digital storytelling and digital citizenship, with a special focus on the sense-making practices underlying youth engagement with Internet memes.
Acknowledgements: Thank you to Professor Judith Saltman and authors Kit Pearson, Polly Horvath, and Deirdre Baker, who have helped shaped my thinking in relation to Canadian island literature. I would also like to thank the editors and reviewers of this paper for their guidance and support. Finally, I want to thank Christine, my beautiful older sister, for listening to various drafts of this study, and my dad, for the wonderful trips to PEI.
Funding Details: This research was partly supported by the International Board on Books for Young People Canada’s 2013 Frances E. Russell Grant.
Banner image derived from: Detail from Dialogic Encounters with Anne. Private collection of B.J. Tulloch, 2018.
- 1ab Montgomery, AGG 131.
- 2 Robinson, “‘Pruned Down’” 35.
- 3 Czerny, “A Return” 148, emphasis in original.
- 4 See, for example, Sheckels, “Anne of Green Gables as Intertext” 143; Gammel and Epperly, “Introduction” 10–11; Meyer, "Writing" 262.
- 5 The Root Cellar won the Canadian Library Association Children’s Book of the Year Award, was selected as an ALA Notable Book, named a School Library Journal Best Book, a Booklist Reviewers’ Choice Book, and an IBBY Honour Book (Lunn, The Root Cellar). Everything on a Waffle was named a Newbery Honor Book, Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor Book, ALA Notable Book, Child Magazine Best Book Award, Parents’ Choice 2001 Fiction Gold Award, Parent’s Guide to Children’s Media Award, International White Ravens 2002, Mr. Christie Book Award, and the Sheila Egoff Award (Horvath, "Everything"); The Whole Truth won the Canadian Library Association Book of the Year for Children and the Ruth & Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Award (Pearson, Whole Truth); and And Nothing But the Truth was named a finalist for the CLA Book of the Year for Children Award (Pearson, And Nothing).
- 6 Montgomery, AGG 75.
- 7ab Montgomery, AGG 224.
- 8 See, for example, Drain, "Feminine"; Gray, "Bloom"; Rubio, "Architect" and "Subverting"; and Sheckels, The Island.
- 9 Weiss-Town, “Sexism” 12.
- 10 Drain, “Feminine,” 42.
- 11abcde Montgomery, AGG 133.
- 12 Gray, “‘Bloom’” 173.
- 13abcde Rubio, “Architect” 74.
- 14 Lakoff and Johnson, Metaphors 185.
- 15 Montgomery, AGG 50.
- 16 Miller, “Weaving” 31.
- 17 Waterston, Kindling 68.
- 18 McGillis, “Fantasy” 20; MacLulich, “L.M. Montgomery’s Portraits” 466.
- 19 Epperly, Fragrance 38.
- 20abcde Montgomery, AGG 245.
- 21abcdef Bakhtin, Dostoevsky 88.
- 22abcde Bakhtin, Dostoevsky 89.
- 23abc Bakhtin, Dostoevsky 88, emphasis in original.
- 24 Epperly 38.
- 25 Bakhtin, Dostoevsky 88–89.
- 26 Bakhtin, Dostoevsky 89, emphasis in original.
- 27 Montgomery, AGG 118.
- 28 See Czerny; Frever, “Anne Shirley”; and Robinson, “Anne.” In “L.M. Montgomery and the Literary Heroine: Jo, Rebecca, Anne, and Emily,” MacLulich also discusses Anne’s storytelling, although somewhat dismissively.
- 29 Frever 119.
- 30 See Frever, 117; Blackford, “Introduction” xiii.
- 31 Montgomery, AGG 18.
- 32ab Montgomery, AGG 18–19.
- 33abcdef Bakhtin, Dostoevsky 196.
- 34abc Montgomery, AGG 19.
- 35 Montgomery, AGG 133, 19.
- 36ab Czerny 150.
- 37 Bakhtin, Dostoevsky 87.
- 38 Montgomery, AGG 130, emphasis in original.
- 39 Montgomery, AGG 130.
- 40 Robinson, “Anne” 135.
- 41ab Gammel, “Wildwood” 4.
- 42 See Epperly 27.
- 43 Czerny 148.
- 44 MacLulich, “L.M. Montgomery” 5–10.
- 45 Sheckels, “Anne of Green Gables as Intertext” 143.
- 46 Warnqvist, “‘I Experienced’” 235.
- 47 Meyer 263–74.
- 48 McGillis comments on Anne’s need for healing and Irene Gammel discusses the healing aspects of Anne of Green Gables in her book chapter titled “Reading to Heal: Anne of Green Gables as Bibliotherapy.”
- 49 Barthes, “The Death” 146.
- 50 Gammel and Epperly 11.
- 51ab Bakhtin, Dostoevsky 195.
- 52 Lunn, The Root Cellar 2–3.
- 53 Montgomery, AGG 15–16.
- 54 Lunn, The Root Cellar 2.
- 55 Montgomery, ENM 5.
- 56 Lunn, The Root Cellar 3.
- 57 For more on Anne and Marilla’s relationship parallels, see Blackford, “Introduction” xiv-xv; and Tulloch, “Lost Boys and Lost Girls.”
- 58 Montgomery, AGG 10.
- 59 Lunn, The Root Cellar 1, 4.
- 60 Mary, “Mary’s Reviews.” The word “illicited,” I believe, is a spelling error on the part of the reviewer. The actual intended word given the context of the quotation seems to be “elicited.”
- 61 Bakhtin, Dostoevksy 196.
- 62 Meyer 263.
- 63 See, for example, Epperly 25; Gay, “‘Kindred’” 107; and Gray 169.
- 64 Epperly 23.
- 65 Epperly 17.
- 66abc Lunn, The Root Cellar 4.
- 67 While Lunn does not specify the exact year of the time period in which Rose lives, she does write that Rose comes from “more than a hundred years” after the 1860s (The Root Cellar, 53, 69–70). For this reason, I am assuming that Rose is intended to represent a contemporary character that roughly aligns with the time period of the novel’s publication in 1981.
- 68 Lunn, The Root Cellar 4, emphasis in original.
- 69ab Lunn, The Root Cellar 102.
- 70 This statement is not meant to imply that feminist movements were not taking place in the 1860s, but rather, that some of the advances for women that were being fought for then were more normalized by the 1980s. The sense of female autonomy women in the 1980s could enjoy was the product of prior feminist movements that fought for women’s rights; it was also the basis for which this generation of women could make appeals for further progress in terms of gender equality. Through her dialogic encounters with strong women in the past, Rose gains the confidence she needs to embrace the personal rights she has not previously exercised.
- 71 Lunn, The Root Cellar 203.
- 72 Lunn, The Root Cellar 204.
- 73 Lunn, The Root Cellar 12.
- 74 Montgomery, AGG 31.
- 75 Montgomery, AGG 181.
- 76 Montgomery, AGG 119.
- 77ab Lunn, The Root Cellar 165.
- 78 Lunn, The Root Cellar 183.
- 79 For a description of some of the healing elements of Montgomery’s narrative, particularly as they relate to Anne, see Czerny 160; and Frever 116.
- 80abc Lunn, The Root Cellar 199.
- 81 Lunn, The Root Cellar 218.
- 82 Sheckels describes Gilbert as one of Anne’s “mirrors” (The Island 25). He writes: “This mirroring is reinforced by the times she and Gilbert were almost twinned in achieving academic successes” (The Island 25).
- 83ab Lunn, The Root Cellar 49.
- 84 Miller 34.
- 85 Miller 36.
- 86 Lunn, The Root Cellar 220.
- 87 Although she is technically dead by the 1980s, Mrs. Morrissay is not a ghost. Like Rose, she frequently “shift[s]” between the past and the present (Lunn, The Root Cellar 33), but this time travel is not of her own doing. Rose, for example, encounters Mrs. Morrissay before she enters the root cellar. Mrs. Morrissay’s Christmas visit, however, marks her last appearance at the house (Lunn, The Root Cellar 231).
- 88 Lunn, The Root Cellar 227.
- 89 See Miller for a discussion of the significance of the domestic artist in Anne of Green Gables.
- 90 Miller 31.
- 91 Lunn, The Root Cellar 224.
- 92abc Lunn, The Root Cellar 217.
- 93 When fans of Aunt Nan’s books come to visit her island home, the narrator informs us that “[o]ne girl asked Rose admiringly if she was Emily of Shadow Brook Farm” (Lunn, The Root Cellar 31). This book title, the syntax of which is very similar to Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Anne of Green Gables, and Emily of New Moon, presents another intertextual connection between Lunn’s story and those of Montgomery, because it connects Lunn’s heroine (Rose) to the same narrative tradition (that is, the domestic story/girl’s story). The fact that Rose makes it clear that she is not the character from her Aunt’s novel, shows how she is deviating from the conventions associated with the narrative tradition Montgomery’s work occupies. At the same time, the fact that The Secret Garden is one of Rose’s prized possessions, which she inherited from her mother (Lunn, The Root Cellar 16), demonstrates the respect Rose has for the genre, even as she departs from its script.
- 94ab Horvath, Everything 3.
- 95 While Horvath does not directly acknowledge Montgomery in the novel it is interesting that a variation of the name “Maud” appears in the narrative. When the drugstore owners, the Cantinas, realize that someone has cut the leash of their dog, Dante, Mrs. Cantina yells, “Jesus, Mary, and Maude, someone’s cut Dante’s leash again!” (Horvath, Everything 33). While Horvath does not spell Montgomery’s name in the same way as Montgomery herself did, the fact that she chose to insert this particular name in place of the sainted “Joseph” is suggestive and could be a nod to the famous Canadian author. The fact that Horvath spells this name with an “e” might be a further wink at the way she is playing with some of the themes of Anne of Green Gables. Or, of course, it could also just be a coincidence.
- 96 Horvath, Everything 4.
- 97 Horvath, Everything 73.
- 98 Horvath, Everything 77. This question is a recurring motif in the novel. Primrose also asks variations of it to the Sheriff and her friend Miss Bowzer. While these adults struggle to make sense of Primrose's belief in her parents’ survival, they usually have had experiences where they have known or believed something they cannot explain. See Horvath, Everything 36, 53.
- 99 Although there is a location named Coal Harbour in Vancouver in addition to the Coal Harbour located on Vancouver Island, the descriptions in Horvath’s novel suggests she is referring to the latter (that is, Coal Harbour, Vancouver Island). This connection is made clear when Primrose is sent to the “Comox Hospital” when she loses a toe (Horvath, Everything 71). If Primrose lived in Coal Harbour, Vancouver, it would have made more sense to send her to Vancouver General Hospital. In her Author’s note at the beginning of the book, however, Horvath notes, “Although Coal Harbour is a real place, I’ve changed the geography of it to suit my story.”
- 100ab Montgomery, AGG 50.
- 101 Reflecting on the distinctiveness of Anne’s personality, Drain notes that: “Individuality, then, is established not in contrast to a community, but by a commitment to it, and the individual’s freedom is not in the isolation of independence, but in the complexity of connection” (“Community” 19).
- 102 Horvath, Everything 12.
- 103 Montgomery, AGG 34.
- 104 LIB264, “Everything.”
- 105 “Everything on a Waffle Characters.”
- 106 Montgomery, AGG 148.
- 107 See Horvath, Everything 65, 88, 108.
- 108 LIB264.
- 109 See Tulloch, “The Robinsonade vs. The Annescapade,” for a discussion of the way Montgomery represents everyday life as an adventure.
- 110 Sheckels, The Island 24.
- 111 Horvath, Everything 90, 77.
- 112 Horvath, Everything 15.
- 113ab Horvath, Everything 16.
- 114 Horvath, Everything 17.
- 115 Horvath, Everything 104.
- 116 Horvath, Everything 149.
- 117 Horvath, Everything 16.
- 118 Horvath, Everything 16, emphasis in original.
- 119 Miller 31. Miss Bowzer’s restaurant has certainly shaped Primrose’s living narrative, as is evident by the title of Horvath’s novel, which is written in first person from Primrose’s perspective.
- 120 Horvath, Everything 18.
- 121 Horvath, Everything 145.
- 122 Horvath, “Interview.”
- 123 Horvath, Everything 147–48.
- 124 In his chapter, “Island Homemaking: Catharine Parr Traill’s Canadian Crusoes and the Robinsonade Tradition,” Andrew O’Malley explores the way Robinson Crusoe and narratives like it are actually about homemaking. In doing so, O’Malley essentially invites readers to rethink the binary divide between conceptions of domesticity and adventure that is often used to distinguish different genres of fiction.
- 125 Berg, “Anne” 159.
- 126 Polly lives on a fictional island named “Kingfisher Island” located off the coast of British Columbia (Pearson, Whole Truth 5). This island is intended to resemble Mayne Island (Pearson, “Interview”).
- 127 Pearson, “Try These,” “Interview.”
- 128 See Meyer 274.
- 129 Pearson, “Bio.” In an interview I conducted with Pearson in 2014, she told me: “L.M. Montgomery always influences me because when I read Emily of New Moon I decided to be a writer” (Pearson, “Interview”).
- 130 Montgomery’s childhood friend, Nate, referred to her by the nickname “Polly” (Montgomery, SJ 1:16), and her given middle name, of course, was “Maud.” Pearson also names the character of Polly’s maternal grandfather “Gilbert,” and Polly’s love interest, “Chester” (Whole Truth 82, 189). While Gilbert is the name of Anne’s primary love interest in Montgomery’s narrative, Chester is the name of Montgomery’s eldest son, Chester Macdonald. All of these connections might not be intentional, but they do serve as further links between Pearson’s work and Montgomery’s.
- 131 As far as I am aware, the resemblance between Rose’s and Primrose’s names is a coincidence.
- 132 Pearson, Whole Truth 312, emphasis in original.
- 133ab Montgomery, AGG 147.
- 134 Pearson, Whole Truth 203.
- 135 Pearson, Whole Truth 322.
- 136 For further discussion of this confession motif in Anne of Green Gables, see Epperly 21–2.
- 137 Pearson, “Interview.”
- 138 Pearson notes that the domestic island setting is often a healing place (Pearson, "Interview").
- 139 Montgomery, AGG 129.
- 140 Pearson, And Nothing 306–7.
- 141 Pearson, And Nothing 339. Speaking of her decision to have Maud keep her baby, Pearson states: “… I thought, well, some women might have done it and Maud, just, would do it, she’s just so confident and so brave and she’s fed up with the conventions” (Pearson, “Interview”).
- 142 Rubio, “Satire” 34.
- 143 Pearson, And Nothing 233, emphasis in original.
- 144 For more information on the ways Carr’s life and artwork represented an alternative lifestyle for women in Victorian times, see Nancy Pagh’s articles, “Passing Through the Jungle: Emily Carr and Theories of Women’s Autobiography,” and “Emily Carr: The Silent, Awe-Filled Spaces.”
- 145ab Bakhtin, Dialogic 421.
- 146 Gray 192.
- 147 See Epperly 3–4.
- 148ab “Why Aretha Franklin.”
- 149 Czerny 152.
- 150 “Great and Sudden Change,” Anne with an E.
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