The Conflict Between Personal Development And Social Expectations In Anne Of Green Gables.

3231 words - 13 pages

As Lissa Paul points out in her essay the period from the late nineteenth till the early twentieth century plays an important role in the development of children’s literature. According to Paul during this period “colonial and patriarchal values” became more apparent in culture and society. As a result, British story papers as Girl’s Own Paper started to circulate. This magazine for girls was founded in 1880 and canvassed the struggle between traditional domestic ideologies and the idea of the “new woman” (Paul 119). Claudia Nelson argues that by reading those magazines girls were expected to adopt virtues such as “purity, obedience, dependence, self-sacrifice and service” (141). However, they also encouraged girls to have “intelligence, self-respect and the potential to become financially independent” (141). Many children’s books show those contradictions in characteristics: on one hand they have to follow the conventional path to womanhood while on the other they must aspire to become a “new woman”. As Gertrud Lehnert argues, girls have to act upon their individuality, even though the fact that those characteristics only mask what actually would be a “uniform personality” (111). Girls are encouraged through literature, by books such as Anne of Green Gables and Little Women, to nurture their personal development. However, the life of a young girl is planned beforehand as she is born to fulfill a role: she is raised to become a wife and mother, and so adjusts to the social expectations. Diversion from this commonly accepted role would in the end lead to rejection by the community. For authors to write about rebellious girls who do stray from the ideal of a woman’s life was a difficult task as they would not be accepted by the—at that time—still very conservative readers. Authors such as Louisa May Alcott in Little Women and Lucy Maud Montgomery in Anne of Green Gables had to “devise an appropriate mixture of tradition and innovation which would appeal to both the child and the adult reader” (Lehnert 114). In creating Anne Shirley, the protagonist of Anne of Green Gables, Montgomery dramatizes the struggle of a girl who initially does not conform to the conventional ideas and the expectations society imposes on her. However, tracing her developments, the novel narrates how Anne eventually learns to negotiate between social expectations ad her own desires.
When Lucy Maud Montgomery published her most memorable novel Anne of Green Gables in 1908 it was an immediate success. The story about the little red-headed orphan girl Anne Shirley bears some similarities to Montgomery’s own life. Although she was not an orphan as Anne was, Montgomery did also suffer from a rigid upbringing. Maud’s grandparents took her in after her mother died before she was only two years old and her father, grief-stricken over his wife’s death, left her and Prince Edward Island shortly after that. Like Anne, Maud Montgomery was a very emotional and passionate girl, who...

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