31 March 2008

Anne turns 100

Margaret Atwood has penned a lovely, forthright essay on Anne Shirley's 100th year:
"God's in his heaven, all's right with the world," Anne whispers in the very last lines of Anne of Green Gables. She's fond of Victorian poetry, so it's appropriate that she ends her story by quoting from a song sung by the optimistic heroine of Robert Browning's dramatic poem "Pippa Passes"; doubly appropriate because Anne Shirley herself acts a kind of Pippa throughout the book. Pippa is a poor Italian orphan girl who slaves away in a silk-spinning mill, yet manages to preserve a pure imagination and a love of nature despite her lowly status. Like Pippa, Anne is an unselfconscious innocent who, unbeknownst to herself, brings joy, imagination and the occasional epiphany to the citizenry of Avonlea, who are inclined to be practical but drear.
It would be interesting to read more on the literary references in Montgomery's books. Aside from Browning, she also cites Dickens, Thackeray, Shakespeare, Pope, the Bible, Tennyson, the Greeks, and many others. Since I read these books as a child, I often learned the references before the source material. It was funny studying literature in college and finally coming across many of these quotations in the originals. The discovery of this familiarity made the classics seem like old friends (as Anne herself would say).

(via Sarah Weinman)

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