Sunday, 8 May 2011

How to become unsquelchable...part two

So I've read Anne of Avonlea and I'm devouring Anne of the Island now (I defy anyone to start these and not stop), and I've realised the way LM Montgomery makes Anne unsquelchable is: she gives her a sense of humour. The eighteen-year-old Anne laughs off slights that would have crushed her at eleven. And it's not cruel laughter; it's about not minding if other people are mean and not taking life too seriously. Or, as she puts it,
Don't you know that it is only very foolish folk who talk sense all the time?
Montgomery herself never lost her sense of humour, even at the darkest times in her life. In 1908, soon after Anne of Green Gables came out, she marvelled in her diaries:
One of the reviews says 'the book radiates happiness and optimism.' When I think of the conditions of worry and gloom and care under which it was written I wonder at this. Thank God, I can keep the shadows of my life out of my work.
But I'm not sure she does keep the shadows out of her work—the Anne books take in mean-spiritedness, death, illness, financial misfortune, orphans (endlessly), blindness, grief and unrequited love. Just for starters. And like the grit in the oyster, I think the books are better for acknowledging the shadows.

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