Margaret Atwood on Anne of Green Gables

Filed under: Fun — joy at 8:31 am on Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Margaret Atwood wrote an intelligent, fascinating article about Anne of Green Gables, which is turning 100 this April. She goes over the history of the book, its continuing popularity, and the life of its author, LM Montgomery. And she asked some Japanese readers why these books are so popular in Japan. (Who knew?) Here are some of their responses:

Anne of Green Gables was first translated by a Japanese author who was very well known and well loved already. Anne was an orphan and there were a lot of orphans in Japan right after the second world war, so many readers identified with her. Anne has a passion for apple blossoms and cherry blossoms – the latter are especially dear to the hearts of the Japanese – so her brand of aesthetic sensibility was very sympathetic. Anne had red hair, which – before the past 20 years or so, when even middle-aged Japanese ladies may sometimes be spotted with blue, green, red or orange hair – was thought to be extremely exotic. Anne is not only an orphan, but a poor girl orphan – the lowest of the low on the traditional Japanese social ladder. Yet she wins over that most formidable of Japanese dragons, the bossy older matron. (In fact, she wins over two of them, since she adds overbearing, opinionated, but good-at-heart Mrs Rachel Lynde to her collection basket.)

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.

Naturally, I loved these books as a kid. Loved! Them! I re-read them not too long ago and was a bit disturbed by some of the more melodramatic passages. But despite all the Victorian swooning over nature and such, I still have enough interest in them to want to read the biography on LM Montgomery that is coming out in October.

Oh, patient patient Gilbert Blythe.

~ Joy

1 Comment »

Comment by Mia

April 15, 2008 @ 7:27 am

One of my best loved books is the Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery, which was written for adult readers, I read it yearly. She wrote about women’s lives and experiences in a way that still resonates today, while I love Margaret Atwood I doubt her books will be popular a 100 years from now, yet L.M. Montgomery’s books will live on. Amazon has heaps of other readers who have reviewed and love the Blue Castle.

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