22 October 2008

Call her "Em'ly" at your own risk

[This is my first contribution to the Emily of New Moon discussion over at Blogging Anne of Green Gables]

I first read the Emily books as a teenager living in Colombia and was struck by the subtle sense of danger that's threaded through them. I've mentioned that although I've always considered Anne a friend, I personally identify more with Emily--not because she seems more "human" or has more faults (which certainly is an argument that could be made), but because the world in which she lives is more hazardous; hence, real. We never really fear for Anne in the various environments and "scrapes" in which she finds herself, but Emily's situation is much more precarious. The physical setting of New Moon and the fragile condition of her internal state deepen the reader's concern. Plus, Emily's world is simply darker... By the time you hit Emily's Quest, you wonder whether Montgomery was influenced by Villette in evoking the novel's tone. (In her journals, she mentions not being able to forgive Charlotte for the ending--but it would be interesting to compare the dates to see if this was before or after the last Emily book was published.)

I'm reading this one more slowly and am only at Chapter 7 (it's hard for me to slow down once I start rereading these books!). I don't think I'll list the literary allusions in the same way I did with Anne, but I do plan on mentioning them. Aside from the clear references to The Pilgrim's Progress and the Song of Solomon (her comments about the former always make me smile because they're so true!), I also suspect that George MacDonald's At the Back of the North Wind may have inspired the "Wind Woman." (I easily imagine Emily flying away with her like Diamond did.)

I was also reminded of Jane Eyre (which I am almost positive influenced these novels). It begins with this exchange with Ellen Greene:
"I don't think I want Aunt Ruth to take me," said Emily deliberately, after a moment's reflection.

"Well, you won't have the choosing likely. You ought to be thankful to get a home anywhere. Remember you're not of much importance."

"I am important to myself," cried Emily proudly.
I was immediately reminded of one of Jane's famous lines to Rochester:
"I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself."
I have some thoughts about "the flash" as well, but I'll save them for another post. I look forward to reading other thoughts on this brilliant little book.

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