Friday, June 22, 2012

Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery

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Anne Shirley is a toad. And in my mind, she could receive no greater compliment.

Others may have used this terminology before me, though I've never heard it. A toad sees the best the world has to offer, and a toad always has ambitions simply because the world has so much possibility. A toad may go along with society's rules, and a toad may shatter them; either way, a toad is indifferent to those societal standards, because a toad has her own standards of what is great and glorious, good and worthwhile.

I wrote a few months back about Toad from The Wind in the Willows and how so many folks try to squelch his free-spirited ways. Since then, I've developed a bit of a toady fascination, and I see toads in all kinds of great stories. Ramona Quimby is a toad. Jane Eyre is totally a toad. (Goodness, why are so many toads female?) I think Bilbo Baggins is a toad, though he has to learn to embrace his toadiness. And young Anne Shirley is as toady as the best of them.

She does not bow to the expectations of others simply because it is expected of her. She finds exceptional beauty in the most routine locations, and for her, every individual has great heroic and tragic possibilities. Through it all, she is neither selfish (a claim often levied against the toads of the world) nor selfless; her wild spirit enriches her own life in ways she sees fit, and still she is always concerned with the well being and benefit of everyone in her wider community.

No one sees the world quite like Anne Shirley does. And her enthusiasm for life itself makes Anne of Green Gables the funniest, most endearing, and most uplifting book I've read in ages.

Everything goes right for Anne throughout the book, yet we do not begrudge her the seeming luck. After all, her accomplishments are earned more through pluck and dedication than blind luck. When things go horribly wrong for her, as they inevitably do, she feels as deeply and powerfully as anyone else; yet on the other side of tragedy, she sees opportunity and possibility where others might see only a narrowing of the road. Where her road was once straight and marked with possibilities, Anne ends the book with a bend in the road. "I wonder how the road beyond it goes," she says, "what new landscapes--what new beauties--what curves and hills and valleys further on."

Like a true-blooded Toad, she knows that "nothing could rob her of her birthright of fancy or her ideal world of dreams." Oh, if only we could all live with such satisfaction in our birthrights! If only we could all be toads, thrilled by the bends in the road! Poop poop!

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