The LMMI's celebration of the 110th anniversary of Anne of Green Gables continues with Rita Bode's response to "Chapter XXXVI: The Glory and the Dream."
Chapter XXXVI: The Glory and the Dream
By, Rita Bode
At the end of Chapter 35, Anne seems to have reached a point of happiness and fulfillment that augurs well for her future. She has put her rivalry with Gilbert in perspective and declares to her friends with seeming confidence, “’just now I honestly feel that as long as I know the violets are coming out all purple down in the hollow below Green Gables and that little ferns are poking their heads up in Lovers’ Lane, it’s not a great deal of difference whether I win the Avery or not.’” As always, thoughts of Green Gables offer her a deep sense of security and spiritual and emotional sustenance, and the chapter ends with a strong sense of Anne’s future possibilities.
The title of Chapter 36, “The Glory and the Dream,” with its reference to Wordsworth’s “Immortality” Ode both affirms and undercuts the previous chapter’s optimistic strain. The chapter’s allusive title introduces the elegiac quality that informs Wordsworth’s famous poem, suggesting the inevitability of changes that thrust themselves into human lives without warning and over which human beings have no control. The Ode’s opening stanza speaks directly to the sense of hope that we see in Anne at the end of the previous chapter but focuses not on a celebration of such a vision, but on its loss, introducing the sombre events to come:
There was a time when meadow, grove and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;--
Turn wheresoe'er I may,
By night or day.
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.
Wordsworth works through his own sense of loss in his poem to an affirming resolution. Anne’s resilience suggests that she will be able to do the same, but not before, she, too, like Wordsworth, will have to face “something that is gone” (line 53), and she, too, will be asking herself, “Whither is fled the visionary gleam? / Where is it now, the glory and the dream? (lines 56-7).
The LMMI's celebration of the 110th publication of Anne of Green Gables continues with Dr. Rita Bode's response to "Chapter XXXVI: The Glor an
At the opening of Chapter 36, Anne’s uncaring attitude about the Avery has vanished completely. She is “pale and quiet,” fearing to know the results, but her success in winning the Avery is soon revealed. Her first thought flies back to Green Gables: “”Oh won’t Matthew and Marilla be pleased!’” both of whom, of course, are intensely proud of their Anne-girl and her achievement.
Returning to Green Gables after commencement, Anne learns a number of things that disturbs her. She finds out that Gilbert won’t be going to Redmond with her in the fall since his father can’t afford to send him. She sees Marilla looking “tired” and finds out that she has headaches and eye problems, and will be seeing a “distinguished oculist” who is coming to the Island. She listens to Marilla’s fears about the “shaky” bank that holds all of hers and Matthew’s savings. But what strikes Anne’s observation most forcefully is Matthew’s looking “grayer than he had been the year before.” Marilla confirms that his heart has been giving him “real bad spells.”
When Matthew and Anne fetch in the cows together that evening, Anne expresses her deep concern for the aging and beloved Matthew by reminding him that “’If I’d been the boy you sent for, I’d be able to help you so much now . . . I could find it in my heart to wish I had been, just for that,’” she tells him. Matthew’s response is one of unqualified love: “’Well now I’d rather have you than a dozen boys, Anne,’ said Matthew patting her hand. ‘Just you mind that – rather than a dozen boys,’” he repeats to ensure she understands. Matthew does not stop there. He continues: “’Well now, I guess it wasn’t a boy that took the Avery scholarship, was it? It was a girl—my girl—my girl that I’m proud of.’”
This is an exceptional moment in the novel worthy of careful attention. Matthew’s avowal of the worth of another’s life is intensely comforting, and also deeply moving. In this exchange with Anne, when his own mortality hovers over their conversation, Matthew thinks not of his imminent passing, or the nature of an afterlife, but, rather, he turns the pending event of his own death into an affirmation of life – Anne’s life. Such love and care are rare. Perhaps no love could be more meaningful and enduring.
Rita Bode is Professor of English Literature at Trent University. She is co-editor with Jean Mitchell of L. M. Montgomery and the Matter of Nature(s)(MQUP 2018), and with Lesley Clement of L. M. Montgomery’s Rainbow Valleys: The Ontario Years, 1911-42(MQUP 2015).