I Suppose My Freckles Have Faded Now: Rereading an Old Friend

[This book is over a hundred years old, but…this post does contain spoilers for it, fyi.]

Anne sat long at her window that night companioned by a glad content. The wind purred softly in the cherry boughs, and the mint breaths came up to her. The stars twinkled over the pointed firs in the hollow and Diana’s light gleamed through the old gap.

Anne’s horizons had closed in since the night she had sat there after coming home from Queen’s; but if the path set before her feet was to be narrow she knew that flowers of quiet happiness would bloom along it. The joy of sincere work and worthy aspiration and congenial friendship were to be hers; nothing could rob her of her birthright of fancy or her ideal world of dreams. And there was always the bend in the road!

There are so many books in the world, so a reread is a rarity for me. Sometimes though, it occurs to me that I either don’t remember much of a book I had read years ago, or the book may have something new to say to me at a different age and place in my life. The latter was the case with The Jungle, for example. I can’t recall having a positive thought about the book when we read it in my high school history class, but when I reread it on a whim a year or so ago, I couldn’t put it down.

My decision to reread Anne of Green Gables was more of the former. During a discussion with a coworker, I realized I couldn’t remember much more than the fact Anne had red hair and lived on Prince Edward Island. I was always more of an Emily girl myself. I believe I read that series 10 times over back in my “youth”, but despite my own red hair (though mine has always been more strawberry than carrots), freckles, and imaginative nature, I think I read Anne only once, and never any of the sequels.

Upon rereading, I think I figured out why. I may have looked like Anne, but personality-wise, I was an introvert like Emily. I identified more with Emily’s moody dreaminess than Anne’s exuberance, though they both had the ambition and drive that I both wished I had and had in spades depending on the day of the week.

This is not to say I have any dislike of Anne. On the contrary, I think Anne actually has more to tell me as an adult than she did when I was a little girl. It comes in the last half of the book.

As Anne grows, it is mentioned, she begins to talk less and keep her dreamworld confined to her mind. The story club is shut down and now she is reprimanded in class for including “fantastical” elements in her writing. She matures and though it seems a pity, I relate to that aspect of her character. How often do I take walks and make up stories with my friends anymore? Rarely. I write of course, but gone are the imaginary games in the woods with my friends, and part of me often wonders if by writing fantasy I’m not writing works of actual literary substance.

I felt genuine sadness reading some of these passages. There was a loss of innocence to be mourned. It only grew stronger…and yet…

During the last few chapters of Anne of Green Gables, everything seems to be going Anne’s way. She is well-liked with many friends, decently pretty (even her much maligned red hair has started to darken), and she has won a scholarship to attend college (an amazing achievement for a young woman during this time). She is living a charmed life no matter how many stereotype laden peddlers she has bought green hair dye from in the past. Then tragedy strikes.

Matthew’s death is hard enough. It is then quickly followed by further setbacks: Marilla’s own health troubles and a bank failure. Anne decides to give up her scholarship and stay home to assist Marilla. No longer will Anne be achieving her coveted B.A. It’s a small thing, really, and was probably expected then, in a time when most people didn’t attend college at all, but I was struck and profoundly affected by this in ways I didn’t expect.

Quoted at the beginning of this entry is the last paragraph of the novel. Anne is reflecting on all the has happened and how she has grown. She is still, deep down, the romantic and imaginative little girl she always was, and though her life is not longer laid out before in a straight line, she welcomes the possibilities of her future. It meant a lot to me.

The cart that is my life has gone a little off course of late as I struggle to get my career going. Reading Anne’s reaction to her setbacks, which are even more significant in many ways, hit home hard. Reaching forward from a childhood in which I had given her a slight, Anne says to look forward to the bend in the road. There could be interesting things around it.

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