WHAT IS CLASSIC REMARKS?
Classic Remarks is a meme hosted here at Pages Unbound that poses questions each Friday about classic literature and asks participants to engage in ongoing discussions surrounding not only themes in the novels but also questions about canon formation, the “timelessness” of literature, and modes of interpretation.
HOW CAN I PARTICIPATE?
Leave your link to your post on your own blog in the comments below. And feel free to comment with your thoughts even if you are not officially participating with a full post!
You can find more information and the list of weekly prompts here.
(Readers who like past prompts but missed them have also answered them on their blog later and linked back to us at Pages Unbound, so feel free to do that, too!)
THIS WEEK’S PROMPT:
WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE AUSTEN HEROINE? OR HERO?
Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
L. M. Montgomery is one of my favorite authors for many reasons, from her vision to her characters to her keen social observations, but I have also always been in love with her prose. When readers complain about overblown descriptions in novels, I always think about Montgomery’s writing and how she can describe anything and catch my interest– and also convince me she’s seen exactly what it is is she’s describing.
If I were to describe a tree or a flower, for instance, I’d probably end up rather hand-wavy and say it was tall or vibrant and maybe bother to specifically say it was a poplar or a daffodil. It turns out I don’t really know all that much about trees or flowers besides I think they’re nice. L. M. Montgomery, however, makes me believe she knows all about nature and truly loves it, and she makes me wish I were the same.
Here, for instance, is the beginning of a simple description of a garden. The prose is beautiful — I have always loved the phrase “old-fashioned flowers ran riot” — and I come away thinking Montgomery has seen a garden like this and truly enjoys it, not that she’s writing some throwaway description of some plants because she feels she has to:
The Barry garden was a bowery wilderness of flowers which would have delighted Anne’s heart at any time less fraught with destiny. It was encircled by huge old willows and tall firs, beneath which flourished flowers that loved the shade. Prim, right-angled paths neatly bordered with clamshells, intersected it like moist red ribbons and in the beds between old-fashioned flowers ran riot.
And here is another example, where Montgomery beautifully describes Anne, nature, and the effect that nature has on Anne:
Its beauty seemed to strike the child dumb. She leaned back in the buggy, her thin hands clasped before her, her face lifted rapturously to the white splendor above. Even when they had passed out and were driving down the long slope to Newbridge she never moved or spoke. Still with rapt face she gazed afar into the sunset west, with eyes that saw visions trooping splendidly across that glowing background. Through Newbridge, a bustling little village where dogs barked at them and small boys hooted and curious faces peered from the windows, they drove, still in silence. When three more miles had dropped away behind them the child had not spoken. She could keep silence, it was evident, as energetically as she could talk.
However, Montgomery’s prose is not all flowers and beauty and making me want to fall in love with the world as she sees it. Montgomery also has a remarkable talent for capturing different voices for each of her characters. For instance, here is the no-nonsense Mrs. Rachel Lynde:
“Well, of all things that ever were or will be!” ejaculated Mrs. Rachel when she was safely out in the lane. “It does really seem as if I must be dreaming. Well, I’m sorry for that poor young one and no mistake. Matthew and Marilla don’t know anything about children and they’ll expect him to be wiser and steadier that his own grandfather, if so be’s he ever had a grandfather, which is doubtful. It seems uncanny to think of a child at Green Gables somehow; there’s never been one there, for Matthew and Marilla were grown up when the new house was built—if they ever were children, which is hard to believe when one looks at them. I wouldn’t be in that orphan’s shoes for anything. My, but I pity him, that’s what.”
Compared to Anne gushing over her new dress with puffed sleeves:
“I don’t see how I’m going to eat breakfast,” said Anne rapturously. “Breakfast seems so commonplace at such an exciting moment. I’d rather feast my eyes on that dress. I’m so glad that puffed sleeves are still fashionable. It did seem to me that I’d never get over it if they went out before I had a dress with them. I’d never have felt quite satisfied, you see. It was lovely of Mrs. Lynde to give me the ribbon too. I feel that I ought to be a very good girl indeed. It’s at times like this I’m sorry I’m not a model little girl; and I always resolve that I will be in future. But somehow it’s hard to carry out your resolutions when irresistible temptations come. Still, I really will make an extra effort after this.”
Montgomery’s writing is so versatile. Often flowing and gorgeous, but sharp and biting when it needs to be. I can only aspire to one day write like her!
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