Puffed Sleeves are All the Fashion

It had been almost two decades since I last read the classic Canadian novel Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery – although when I refer to the “novel”, I mean a shortened, simplified version customized to a young reader audience (I was six six years old). In addition to the book, I always enjoyed the 1985 film adaptation as a child, and marvelled in Anne’s adventures and love for puffed sleeves. In short, the story details the experiences of two middle-aged siblings, Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, when a whimsical, red-headed orphan named Anne unexpectedly falls into their keeping, and steals their hearts.

I recently decided to purchase the “grown-up” version of the novel during one of my many visits to Indigo. This was partially out of nostalgia, but I was also curious to read the story from the perspective of an adult, and see if it was similar to how I remembered it. I’ve found that sometimes re-reading classic stories as an adult can be interesting… the original edition may be a bit darker or even just less captivating than what you remember as a kid.

Needless to say, immediately upon beginning the first chapter of Anne of Green Gables, I was transported into Montgomery’s world of beautiful Prince Edward Island and charming Green Gables. I completely devoured the 427 page novel within a matter of days. It was so easy to fall in love with each of the characters from sensible, yet caring Marilla, to even the cheeky and brilliant Gilbert Blythe. Anne’s free-spirited persona always kept you on your toes as to what would be her next adventure. I can honestly say that it is no wonder that it is such a cherished story, and I enjoyed every minute of reading it.

Since completing the novel, I’ve been thinking a lot about two of its major themes: the wonder of imagination and selfless love.

An Ode to Imagination

As a child, imagination creates the world around us. We are able to light up our minds to create infinite possibilities, or create extravagance of something ordinary. A pond becomes a “lake of shining waters”. A barren forest becomes “a haunted wood”. I have never been to PEI, however I can live vicariously through Anne’s telling of its wonders.

Being transported to these places through the written word made me reflect on my own inventiveness for the world around me. I found that I could not remember the last time I felt there was “scope for imagination” – a phrase which Anne loves to repeat throughout the novel. Maybe it is because of our digital world or culture of immediacy; where everything is visualized for us, and anything we want can be delivered in two days time with Prime shipping. Perhaps it is the arrival into adulthood, with stresses of work and money taking up too much time to even consider the prospect of using our imagination. Yet we have so much to gain from giving ourselves the permission to invent the world around us.

Anne’s ability to imagine was her most influential trait, catching the affections of her adopted family, friends, and even Aunt Josephine. The ability to imagine is something we should all work on. Using our imagination gives us comfort and escape, something extremely welcoming during a pandemic. It gives us creativity, which we can use to invent or problem solve, even in something as simple as group meetings at work. Finally, it gives us perspective, which we can use to have empathy for those around us.

Overall, I’ve learned that finding scope for imagination – yes, even when it may seem difficult to do so – is something I’ve missed, and something which I’ll strive to bring back to my life.

The Significance of Selfless Love

The story would have been significantly different if Matthew and Marilla decided not to keep Anne, but sent her back to the orphanage at the novel’s inception. Nearing the story’s completion, Anne could have chosen to continue on with her studies at Redmond College, instead of staying in Avonlea to help Marilla. Yet in both the beginning and the end, acts of selfless love demonstrated by the former and the latter characters shook the prospects of any what-ifs upside down.

I can imagine the idea of selfless love is hard to grasp, until you are truly in a position to give it. It takes empathy, sacrifice, and bravery to activate on it, and it is not the “easy” path. Nonetheless, it is magical, admirable, and the greatest kind of love someone can give. And there are times when we will all need selfless love. From feeling empathy for Anne, and taking her in, Marilla created a bond so special, which she never would have made if not. We can all learn from this – having empathy, being open, and showing kindness to those around us, even when it may be difficult, can have an inspiring impact on both others, and ourselves. Even though I imagine it is unlikely a red-headed orphan will come knocking on my door, Anne of Green Gables reminded me to strive to give love and kindness to others whenever possible – this is something which I’m going to work on even harder now.

Overall, I’m going to cherish this book and all that it’s taught me for years to come… at the very least, it’s definitely made me want to go to PEI, and I imagine I’ll soon be picking up the rest of the books in the series. If you haven’t read this Canadian classic, I would highly suggest picking it up. I hope you enjoy being transported into the world of Anne’s imagination as much as I did.

Lots of Love,

Olivia

References:

Montgomery. L.M. Anne of Green Gables. Penguin Random House, 2019.

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