This year my favorite redheaded girl, Anne Shirley, turns 100. A 100th anniversary edition was published in February with original cover art and what appears to be a mostly original version of the manuscript, not perfectly edited and all:) I’m tempted to buy it, just as a tribute to my childhood and my favorite books growing up. Anne was my absolute hero between the ages of probably 9 and 15. I read every one of the books in the series probably at least 10 times. Anne’s wild and free imagination only encouraged my already overactive imagination. I spent countless hours wandering through the woods behind my house, naming trees and paths and special spots, just like Anne did.
I haven’t really thought a whole lot about these books recently but now that I am I’m realizing that maybe they had more of an effect on me than I knew. I read an article about the series today that focuses mostly on what kind of a heroine Anne is and if she fits into today’s feminist heroine. Today’s novels, young adult and otherwise, seem to be filled with high powered, highly motivated and driven girls and women. They are cut throat, whether it be while climbing the social ladder in school or the corporate ladder in the work world. Anne doesn’t fit into this world at all. Her world appears almost antiquated in comparison. She abandons the real world for her imagination far too often and she gives up her ambitions to be a writer to raise a family.
I must agree with the Slate article in thinking there’s more to these books than flowery descriptions of nature, a sentimental story about an orphan winning over a town, and a young woman giving up her dreams for her husband and family. Anne has an incredible independent streak. She does what she wants and says what she thinks. Of course that ends up getting her in trouble lots of the time and the great thing is that when it upsets or hurts the people she cares about she goes to great lengths to fix things. She doesn’t let the class cutie, Gilbert, turn her to mush, at least not until he almost dies and she realizes she just can’t live without him (that book, Anne of the Island, was my favorite, especially as I got older, because of its sweet romantic undercurrent.) Anne’s imagination must encourage her readers to get lost in their own imaginary worlds. It certainly did for me. I loved disappearing into books and creating and acting out stories in my backyard. Anything that gets kids away from already completely fabricated stories on t.v. and mindless video games gets five stars in my book.
Now back to the feminist aspect of Anne. I strongly believe that a girl should be told she can do anything she wants. She should be able to go out there and have the same career as any man, she should be given the same respect and women have worked very hard to get close to that point today. I also strongly believe that if we look at media in general today that is all girls are being fed. High power, high fashion women dominate t.v. and books. They run around big cities in their Jimmy Choos and whatever other fashionable shoes they can buy, frantically trying to make it. Young adult novels and t.v. shows seem filled with these images too. Girls fight to be in the top clique in school, kids vie for the best and hottest internships that will launch their careers.
What’s wrong with Anne’s path? Girls could use a reminder that they have more choices and that they do not have to pick the crazy career over the family. Now I sound super old fashioned or something. I am all for having a job, a career, making my own money. Eventually though I would be the happiest girl if I could just stay at home with my kids and raise them. That, in my opinion, is an incredibly admirable job. Anne goes to college, something not too many young women did in her day, she even works for a bit until Gilbert is ready to get married. Then she takes on the job of raising her six kids to be imaginative, independent people just like herself. Through everything she faces each and every challenge head on and with a positive attitude. Why not remind today’s youth of the importance of that? Why not remind them to slow down, be yourself, think for yourself and enjoy the beauty in the world around you? I think the Anne of Green Gables books are timeless and are filled with lessons and characters that I can still relate to as a 24 year old in 2008.
Hum, this all sounded very logical and well thought out in my head. God only knows if it ended up that way. Let’s just finish with the statement that I am a huge advocate of the imagination and anything that encourages it.