Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Rose-Tinted Ideals and the Threat of Spinsterhood: Teaching and Maternalism in Anne of Avonlea (1909) (Idéaux éDulcorés et la Menace Du Statut De "Vieille Fille": L'enseignement et le Maternalisme Dans Anne of Avonlea (1909))

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Rose-Tinted Ideals and the Threat of Spinsterhood: Teaching and Maternalism in Anne of Avonlea (1909) (Idéaux éDulcorés et la Menace Du Statut De "Vieille Fille": L'enseignement et le Maternalisme Dans Anne of Avonlea (1909))

Article excerpt

Readers and critics alike have long considered Anne of Avonlea (1909) an inferior sequel to Anne of Green Gables (1908). Elizabeth Epperly has argued that 'as an active frolic that continues the good times of Anne of Green Gables, the sequel is a success; as an exploration of Anne's development and thinking, the book is a qualified failure' (Epperly 1992: 41). Similarly, Elizabeth Waterston claims that '[a] glance at Anne of Avonlea shows a decrease of power ... L.M. Montgomer y was not yet ready for a real study of late adolescence. Anne's romance builds no suspense' (Waterston 1966: 206). Extending this viewpoint to the entire Anne series, Gillian Thomas asserts the 'progressively unsatisfactory nature' of the sequels to Anne of Green Gables in the ominously titled 'The Decline of Anne: Matron vs. Child' (Thomas 1992: 23). For Thomas, 'far from being alienated and unwanted, Anne in the later books is totally absorbed in a dense social network of family and rural community' (ibid.), which leads to the heroine's deterioration from 'a spirited individualist' to a 'rather dreary conformist' (p. 24). Although Thomas's critique is largely focused on the later Anne sequels, it nevertheless prioritises the significance of Anne's imaginative capacities and 'inner life' in her personal development, an approach shared by Waterston and Epperly due to their focus on the series's 'romance' themes. By concentrating on the large role that Anne's employment and 'work' plays in the narrative of Anne of Avonlea, this article will argue that Anne's teaching in the novel is presented as essential to Anne's personal development and her evolving roles as both a female 'professional' and a potential 'mother' figure.

Some critics have tried to justify the change in tone and 'power' between the novels by seeing it as an inevitable outcome of the protagonist's development from girlhood to young womanhood: '[a]lthough still imaginative, impulsive, and inclined toward misadventures, the older Anne has become less a rebellious individualist, more a conformist, and therefore, less interesting' (Wiggins 1992: 49). While I would agree that Anne does become less of an 'individualist' when she takes her teaching post and becomes a fully realised member of the local communit y, this article will explore why Montgomer y might have felt such 'conformity' was necessar y in order to meet cultural, societal, and - perhaps most importantly - reader expectations. Epperly states that 'Anne of Green Gables is about Anne; Anne of Avonlea is more about what Anne does': a distinction that would, for the most part, appear to hold true (Epperly 1992: 41). However, it is important to consider how this increased emphasis on Anne's external rather than internal realities - what Anne does rather than what Anne thinks - might allow readers to gain a greater understanding of the alternating desires to both resist and conform that many Canadian women struggled with at the turn of the twentieth century. Thus, by focusing on Anne's work, and specifically how Anne's labour is maternalised in the novel, this article will uncover the extent to which Montgomery herself was able to 'resist' (at least temporarily) the expected destiny of her heroine while still ensuring that Anne 'conformed' to societal - and reader - expectations. In the words of Mary Rubio, this analysis will actively seek the 'counter-text[s] of rebellion' and 'hidden agendas' subtly inserted into Montgomer y's novels (Rubio 2014: 112, 134).

L.M. Montgomer y remains one of the few Canadian authors from the early twentieth century still widely read and enjoyed today.1 Montgomery's literar y recuperation in the 1980s led to a surge in scholarship surveying her oeuvre, with particular attention paid to the Anne novels and why they remain so resonant to a contemporar y audience of all ages over 100 years later. Many scholars have focused on the semi-autobiographical nature of much of her fiction (a process greatly assisted by the painstaking editing of Montgomer y's journals by Mar y Rubio and Elizabeth Waterston in the 1980s and 1990s),2 and the extent to which Montgomery's writing can be considered 'feminist,' while others have focused on her use of literary romance and her apparent resistance of more 'realist' modes of expression. …

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