Book Reviews, Bookish Odds & Ends, Classics, Features

Things That Made Me Cringe While Reading Anne of Green Gables #AnneReadAlong2017

CringeWorthyMoments in AoGG

As you all are aware by now I am participating in the Anne of Green Gables Read Along hosted by Jane @Greenish Bookshelf & Jackie @Death By Tsundoku.

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I read Anne of Green Gables for this first time this month, and I absolutely fell in love with this heartwarming read.  In my first post, 5 Reasons Why You Should Read Anne of Green Gables + My AoGG Aesthetic #AnneReadAlong2017, I shared some of my favorite aspects about this book and why you should read it if you haven’t read it already…

  Today however, I want to talk about a few things that made me cringe while reading this beloved classic…

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Now I am going to preface this post with the fact that many of these “cringe worthy aspects” have to do with the era this book was written and set in.  I tried to keep the views and norms of society during these times in mind while reading Anne of Green Gables, but that doesn’t really make some of these views/happenings any less cringe worthy.  I would also like everyone to keep in mind that I loved the book, and am not “hating on it.”

*Possible mild spoilers*

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» The views & treatment of orphans

This wasn’t a huge shocker to me as there were many similarities to how orphans were viewed and treated in the United States in the early 1900s, but it is still hard to hear about.  Instead of orphans being adopted into families as part of the family, orphans were almost looked upon as indentured laborers.   Many children were adopted to fill a need around the house or farm, instead of a way to add to a family or give the child a good home.  Even Mathew and Marilla were not interested in really raising a child, but had a need to fill (Matthew needed help on the farm).  Now we could also get into whether or not the child is better off in an orphanage, or better off in a home where they may have better opportunities despite the fact they were basically adopted as extra labor…  Regardless, I often cringed at how orphans were basically viewed as property in this book.

 » Marilla

Now, I know that Marilla does get better over the course of this book, but I cannot forget some of the awful things Marilla says throughout this book.  I’m well aware that Marilla has a change of heart, and even grows to love Anne, but I feel that some of the things Marilla says are too easily forgiven and forgotten.

No. We want a boy to help Matthew on the farm.  A girl would be of no use to us.

You always hear talk about how Rachel Lynde says some awful things, but Marilla was just as bad in my opinion.

I don’t like children who have so much to say.  I don’t want an orphan girl, and if I did she isn’t the style I’d pick out.

I have to admit, I didn’t care for Marilla much in the first book.

» The relationship between Mr. Phillips & Prissy Andrews

I don’t think much of the master, though.  He’s all the time curling his mustache and making eyes at Prissy Andrews.  Prissy is grown up, you know.  She’s sixteen and she’s studying for the entrance examination into Queen’s Academy at Charlottetown next year.  Tillie Boulter says the master is dead gone on her.  She’s got a beautiful complexion and curly brown hair and she does it up so elegantly.  She sits in the long seat at the back and he sits there, too, most of the time – to explain her lessons, he says.  But Ruby Gillis says she saw him writing something on her slate and when Prissy read it she blushed as red as a beet and giggled, and Ruby Gillis says she doesn’t believe it had anything to do with the lesson.

I mean, I know that teachers were much younger back then, so the age difference between them may not have been cause for alarm…  Is it ever stated in the book how old Mr. Phillips is?  Possible age difference aside,  I just couldn’t help but cringe at the fact that a teacher was openly courting one of his students… during school hours no less.  Very inappropriate no matter if there was a big age difference or not.

» The views & treatment of children (girls in particular)

It’s such a relief to talk when one wants to and not be told that children should be seen and not heard.  I’ve had that said to me a million times if I have once.

I really hate the old saying that children should be “seen and not heard.”   Sure, I too become exhausted with my children’s incessant questioning and chatter, BUT I also realize that this curiosity and dialogue is how children learn.  Why would we want to squash their inquisitiveness?

“Well they didn’t pick you for your looks, that’s sure and certain,” was Mrs. Rachel Lynde’s emphatic comment.   Mrs. Rachel was one of those delightful and popular people who pride themselves on speaking their mind with fear or favor.  “She’s terrible skinny and homely, Marilla.  Come here, child, and let me have a look at you.  Lawful heart, did anyone ever see such freckles?  And hair as red as carrots!”

 I was also not a big fan of the norm that adults can say whatever they like to children, as if they don’t have feelings of their own.  My biggest example is when Mrs. Lynde meets Anne for the first time and basically calls her skinny, freckled, ugly and comments that her hair is too red.   There are other examples of this throughout the book, but this one was the most shocking.  Now Marilla didn’t condone what Rachel said, BUT she didn’t defend Anne either, which is just as bad.

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» The “redhead hate”

Now you see why I can’t be perfectly happy.  Nobody could who had red hair.  I don’t mind the other things so much – the freckles and the green eyes and my skinniness.  I can imagine them away… But I cannot imagine that red hair away.

The “redhead hate” really breaks my heart.  Anne is constantly reminded by everyone how unfortunate it is that she has red hair… It’s no wonder she is so self conscious about it!

Red hair is my life long sorrow.

I feel like historically redheads have been ridiculed and scorned for something they have no control over!  How is one hair color better than another?  Why does red hair make you “ugly”?  Who decides the standards of beauty anyways?!

“You’d find it easier to be bad than good if you had red hair,” said Anne reproachfully. “People who haven’t red hair don’t know what trouble is.”

I like to think that Anne would do very well for herself if she was real and lived in modern times since red hair and freckles are now very “in” these days… Anne would be taking the modeling scene by storm 🙂

» Marilla & Matthew were brother and sister?!

Am I the only person who read the majority of this book thinking Marilla and Matthew were married?!  How did I miss this BIG distinction that they were not husband and wife, but siblings?  Only at the end did I finally catch that they were brother and sister.  Let’s just say this really threw me for a loop…

 » The name “Moody Spurgeon MacPherson”

This has to be one of the most awful names I’ve ever encountered in a book.  I cringed each time I heard the name (read via audiobook).  Why would you do that to someone?!  Poor Moody Spurgeon MacPherson 🙂

Divider2LetsChatDid I miss any cringe worthy moments/aspects in Anne of Green Gables?

Do you agree with my cringe worthy moments/aspects of Anne of Green Gables?

Comment below and let me know 🙂

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12 thoughts on “Things That Made Me Cringe While Reading Anne of Green Gables #AnneReadAlong2017”

  1. I confess I haven’t read this one yet so I’ve skimmed over the details a bit to avoid spoilers, but it’s good to know it isn’t all roses with this one. I guess reading classics is always tricky in a way… The views and norms of society are just so different from what they are now.

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  2. I’ve seen the movie back when I was younger and never thought of these points but now that you bring them up, yeah, those are awful things. Especially the teacher and student thing. Also, I love redheads. No need for all the hate. Ann (with and E) shouldn’t hate it so much.

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  3. Yes, Mr. Phillips and Prissy Andrews made me cringe too. There was one other thing that made me cringe: when the peddler sells Anne the hair dye and Marilla scolds Anne by saying, “I told you never to let one of those Italians into the house!”

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  4. This is such a fun post! I laughed out loud about Moody’s name–it is really bad! Haha. And yes to Mr Phillips and Crissy Andrews. That’s pretty weird.

    Haha that is so funny you didn’t pick up on Matthew and Marilla being brother and sister. I guess I just have so much experience with this story (book, movies, etc) that I have never wondered if they were married.

    I think Marilla is so endearing to me because she changes and loves Anne so much. I think of it as a different time when children were “seen and not heard” but I love that Marilla opens up and lets Anne into her heart, red hair and all (which btw I think red hair is so fun! I have a nephew with red hair and we are all obsessed with it!)

    Thanks for the fun post! Can I add it to our link up?

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  5. Nice to read your thoughts. Marilla is sweet though. She is one of those strict people who seem cross and say harsh things on the outside but are good on the inside. The first time I read Anne of GG, as a child, I thought they were married. The brother sister relationship was not so emphasized. And our mind must have tuned the story like that since they adopt Anne. I got it the second time around

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  6. It is always a little unsettling to read stories set in the past or written long ago. I cannot help but wonder what the future will think of the books we have today.

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  7. Being a redhead – I love that you mention the “hate” because it actually used to upset me when I was little and read and watched these! This is a fantastic list because I cannot argue any of it, yet I would have thought it impossible to come up with 😉

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  8. In the famous film version with Megan Follows, that teacher looks about 40, and Prissy looks about 12. It creeped me out as a kid when I watched it. Because I had seen the movie so many times, when I read the book I knew that Matthew and Marilla were brother and sister, but it seemed to me like it would make more sense if they were a couple who could not have children. If you read LMM’s memoirs/journals/autobiography, you’ll see that the brother and sister were based on her grandparents (but even they were a couple). She also writes that humiliating a child is seriously just the worst; it had happened to her, so LMM knew and used her feelings to make us really pity Anne. I wrote about it in my review of her short autobiography: https://grabthelapels.com/2016/12/22/alpine/

    Oh, and the thing about red hair? Yeah, that will stick around for a few more books. *sigh*

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