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Atwood of Green Gables

Margaret Atwood, writing in The Guardian, offers a lengthy take on Anne of Green Gables. Aside from giving a brief intro to the book to those who haven’t read it “ and those who haven’t “are most likely male,” she says “ Atwood delves into the darker side of the Anne story that has helped give it such lasting power. She also takes a look at Anne tourism:

We didn’t buy any Anne dolls or cookbooks, nor did we visit the “Green Gables” facsimile farmhouse, which “ judging from online accounts of it “ is as complete as Sherlock Holmes’s digs on Baker Street, containing everything from the slate Anne broke over Gilbert Blythe’s head to her wardrobe of puffed-sleeve dresses to the brooch she was accused, wrongly, of losing. There’s even a pretend Matthew who gives you drives around the property, though he’s not described as running to hide out in the barn at the approach of lady visitors, as the real Matthew would have done. Now I wish I’d taken in more of these sights while I had the chance, though somewhere along the way we did check out the early 20th-century one-room schoolhouse where the high double desks were just like the ones Anne would have known.

Atwood also attempts to get to the bottom of the Japanese fascination for all things Anne. The answers she gets from Japanese fans are interesting, but don’t really illuminate anything, so she attempts her own explanation:

Anne has no fear of hard work: she’s forgetful because dreamy, but she’s not a shirker. She displays a proper attitude when she puts others before herself, and even more praiseworthy is that these others are elders. She has an appreciation of poetry, and although she shows signs of materialism “ her longing for puffed sleeves is legendary “ in her deepest essence, she’s spiritual. And, high on the list, Anne breaks the Japanese taboo that forbade outbursts of temper on the part of young people. She acts out spectacularly, stamping her feet and hurling insults back at those who insult her, and even resorting to physical violence, most notably in the slate-over-the-head episode. This must have afforded much vicarious pleasure to young Japanese readers; indeed, to all Anne’s young readers of yesteryear, so much more repressed than the children of today. Had they thrown scenes like the ones Anne throws, they would have got what my mother referred to as What For, or, if things were particularly bad, Hail Columbia.