When we had last left Anne, she had been sent to her room by Marilla for telling off Rachel Lynde. Now, Audrey Loiselle gives us her impressions of "Chapter X: Anne's Apology."
Chapter X: Anne’s Apology
By Audrey Loiselle
“Marilla could not rid herself of the notion that something in her scheme of punishment was going askew. Anne had no business to look so rapt and radiant.”
Chapter X opens with an indignant Marilla recounting Anne’s tantrum to Matthew, who offers little support, instead declaring with uncharacteristic verve that “meddlesome old gossip” Rachel Lynde got her just deserts. Concerned for the child’s welfare, Matthew circumvents his promise not to “put [his] oar in” and sneaks upstairs (for the first time in four years!), where he finds Anne sitting by the window in her stark bedroom, “bravely facing the long years of solitary imprisonment before her.” Confessing that her anger and resentment vanished overnight, Anne is urged by Matthew to reconsider apologizing to Mrs. Lynde. She relents, and a relieved Marilla takes Anne over to Lynde’s Hollow, where she delivers her famous theatrical apology to a bewildered Mrs. Lynde. So reflective of Anne’s singularity and charisma is that speech that it notably featured integrally in the latest televisual adaptation of the novel.
“There was no mistaking her sincerity--it breathed in every tone of her voice. Both Marilla and Mrs. Lynde recognized its unmistakable ring. But the former understood in dismay that Anne was actually enjoying her valley of humiliation--was reveling in the thoroughness of her abasement. Where was the wholesome punishment upon which she, Marilla, had plumed herself? Anne had turned it into a species of positive pleasure!”
If Avonlea’s a stage, Anne is incontestably its main and most flamboyant player, but readers could argue that the supporting cast also outperforms itself in this chapter. Mild-mannered, submissive Matthew speaks out his mind unabashedly about Rachel Lynde and meddles so skillfully in Anne’s upbringing that he finds himself “scared at his own success.” Mrs. Lynde, who left Green Gables in high dungeon after Anne’s outburst, is unexpectedly gracious enough to accept the child’s extravagant apology and even seek an atonement of sorts by relaying an anecdote about a former classmate whose hair was “every mite as red” as Anne’s but eventually darkened to “a real handsome auburn.” This sharp-tongued gatekeeper of Avonlea’s respectable society turns out to be a rather amiable dragon after all. Her assessment that a quick-tempered child is preferable to a deceitful one and her final pronouncement, “On the whole, Marilla, I kind of like her,” bodes well for Anne’s further integration into the community that lies outside the gates of Green Gables.
But if one character comes close to stealing the show from the fiery redhead in this chapter, it is Marilla, who is after all the focus of the first and last scenes. The “dreadful determined” yet wholesome spinster, who cannot envision “starving people into good behaviour” and recoiled at Mrs. Lynde’s suggestion that she disciplines Anne with “a fair-sized birch switch,” displays a surprising leniency for a woman whose rigidity is constantly highlighted. Moreover, unlike Mrs. Lynde who, as Montgomery pointedly tells her readers, is “not overburdened with perception,” Marilla is able not only to rapidly come to the realization that the punishment she devised did not have the intended mortifying effect, but also to see the comic side of the situation and to wisely decide to let it go. Not bad for a woman of “narrow experience” who has never raised a child and probably had very little contact with youth in the past three decades or so.
Still, at this point, the modern reader feels it might be a relief for Marilla to take a leaf out of a certain Mother Superior’s book and launch into a liberating song-and-dance rendition of “How do you solve a problem like [Anne]?” Unfortunately, Marilla, who was born a century too soon without musical inclination, can only fall back on worn sayings and flat morals. Those obviously make very little impression on the elated Anne who, while rhapsodizing about the loveliness of the night and the bliss of coming home to Green Gables, draws closer to Marilla and slips her hand “into the older women’s hard palm.”
“Something warm and pleasant welled up in Marilla’s heart at the touch of that thin little hand in her own – a throb of the maternity she had missed, perhaps. Its very unaccustomedness and sweetness disturbed her.”
No wonder the esteemed Margaret Atwood declared that Marilla may be the true central character of Anne of Green Gables, owing to her remarkable evolution throughout the course of the novel. Indeed, in a mere number of chapters, Marilla’s sternness and remoteness have already started receding, giving way to amused tolerance and budding affectionate feelings, but not yet to a degree that the exhausted lady can’t welcome Anne’s vow not to “talk any more just now” with a devout “Thanks be to goodness for that!”
As a child, Audrey Loiselle spent many happy hours at the public library of her hometown in the Eastern Townships of Québec and has only grown more fond of books (and silence) since. She holds a B.A. in French studies from Concordia University in Montréal and works as a translator for the federal government in Ottawa. Her empathy for Marilla has grown exponentially since she gave birth to two chatterboxes of her own.