Anne was enjoying the excitement of the various preparations, but under it all she carried a little heartache. She was, in a sense, losing her dear old chum; Diana’s new home would be two miles from Green Gables, and the old constant companionship could never be theirs again. Anne looked up at Diana’s light and thought how it had beaconed to her for many years; but soon it would shine through the summer twilights no more. Two big, painful tears welled up in her gray eyes.
“Oh,” she thought, “how horrible it is that people have to grow up—and marry—and CHANGE!”
– Anne of the Island, L M Montgomery
This is how I’ve been made to feel, off and on, for the last few years. My friends from school have been falling in love, getting married, having babies, generally acting all grown-up, while I struggle to come to terms with the demands of adulthood. My copy of Anne of Green Gables is all battered and ruined, while Anne of Avonlea fares better. No surprises here, because I still identify with eleven-year-old Anne more than I ever did with Anne of the Sequels, especially after her brood of children came along.
There ought to be a law against young heroines marrying and having children in sequels. The very point of girlhood heroines is the escapism they offer: knowing that, at some point, they have gone the same way as millions of others ruins the magic. Why does every heroine, after vehemently opposing marriage as a child, go and get herself married as soon as she can, or take the veil when nothing else works out? Except not-so-significant Maud in Louisa May Alcott’s An Old-Fashioned Girl, I cannot think of anyone who chose not to marry and instead go travelling. Even independent Jo had to have Professor Bhaer by her side. The unmarried ones were almost always cantankerous aunts already by the time we got acquainted with them. Books do not have to mirror real life so closely!
The downward spiral began when the Keith twins were brought to Marilla and Anne to bring up. This was training for Anne’s impending motherhood, and she grew all prim-and-proper, much like Katy Carr after her accident, as soon as she found herself responsible for the young children. Her “scrapes” were just incidents to be mentioned in passing. Instead of being the adored, scatterbrained redhead of the first book, she was now a budding matchmaker. This was a sign of things to come- all the promise of her vivacity and ingenuity was to eventually lead to a lifetime of being Mrs Blythe. It could have ended there, but the children had to come along, and at one point, Anne was even led to suspect Gilbert’s fidelity. I read these sequels only last year, but they were nauseatingly grown-up for me, for my memories of Anne. Instead of spending lovely purple twilights paddling in brooks running under fir trees, Anne was worrying over the wrinkles of middle-age and her decreasing superficial attractiveness. Where was that fiery girl who was once all ambitions and vivid dreams?
Imagine being twelve and in the school playground again, whispering secrets and turning your nose up at boys. There is a general acknowledgement that the very idea of marriage is foolish and insane- why on earth would you want to give your freedom up and bear children? You can safely read books without having to come across icky kissing and clumsily written bedroom scenes that are ridiculous rather than passionate. Sentimentality is excused and flowery speeches are accepted.
However, somewhere over the years, things change imperceptibly. You are ashamed to tell your secrets because you’re falling in love with the very boys you’ve long spurned. In due time, you’re whisked off by a stranger and married, now laughing at the very ideas you carefully nurtured on those long summer afternoons, straying as far from the crowd as possible to prevent being overheard. You might even cultivate an air of matronly wisdom that is aggravating to your single friends.
Through my teenage years, I had a “bosom” friend and we told each other just about everything. We then lost contact until we got back in touch last year; she is married now, so it isn’t possible to pick up where we left off. Most of the girls I’ve known over the past few years have set down roots too. I don’t feel lonely, but strangely disappointed. Does this mean I’m to have a Gilbert Blythe at some point too? Surely it won’t be the same? Will I be all wise and proper too?
Companionship is probably not a bad thing, but it shatters several things as it comes along, childhood fantasies and friendships included. Nothing ever prepares you completely for the grown-up world. There always seems to be a little heartache underneath all its perks.