At Feministing, I’m writing a series of post on Anne of Green Gables, the beloved series by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery in the early 1900s. I read Anne when I was a girl, and decided to use a trip home to Sydney as a chance to get to know her again – and, of course, to blog about it:
When we meet her, at age eleven, she has led a difficult life. Orphaned as a newborn, she was sent to live with a series of families who viewed her as a burden or as hired help. By age eleven, she has helped to raise three sets of twins. She has survived this terribly lonely existence by making up imaginary friends and by scrounging up beauty from everyday things that other people barely notice – trees, words, anything from which a drop of pleasure can be squeezed. She is deeply, desperately lonely. She has no memory of ever being loved, by anyone.
And yet she knows, instinctively, how to love and be loved. She knows what a better, warmer, kinder world looks like, even though she has never experienced it. She can imagine having a best friend, or a mysterious and handsome beau, or a mother figure who can love her unconditionally, even though the world has never given her reason to hope for any of these things. She has never known love, and yet, she grows into a woman who can give and receive it in every possible form.
It is this trait that makes Anne so very remarkable, and, in my view, a model for those of us who work for social justice. Anne is capable of turning pain into beauty, and injustice into love. She is able to imagine a better world. More than that, she views it as her duty and her delight to create that better world, through teaching and learning or even, simple though it might sound, through treating people with kindness and empathy and love. The question of whether Anne is a feminist remains for another post – and oh yes, I’ll get to it soon – but there can be no doubt that she is, in her own quiet way, an activist. She believes in the possibility of a better world and is determined to do her part to create it. Like I said, as far as fictional heroines go, I really could not have asked for better.