Chapter 29: Sacrilege
by Sarah S. Uthoff
Giving Emily a Chance
I have to start out confessing that I never read Emily before this and I’m grateful I was included in this read along so I did. I hadn’t before for a very silly reason. Although I’d bought the Emily books back when I was buying and reading all the Montgomery books, I just somehow felt that reading Emily was disloyal to Anne. I know, I said it was silly, I never felt that way about reading any of Montgomery’s other heroines or any other book character, but I felt that way about Emily and I just couldn’t bring myself to read her story until now.
Even if I HAD started it on my own I might not have finished it. You see when I was a little kid my mom started to read me a series she loved, The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew. By the end of chapter 1, I was bawling (yes, crying that badly, red face, violent noises and all) and begging her to stop. That was too bad because it’s hard not be able to pass on a series you love, but it’s STILL the saddest thing I ever read. No other book has ever even come close – the beginning of Emily made it to the number 2 slot, easily jumping over all other contestants. Continuing on I didn’t have the feeling everything was going to work out for Emily. Even though I knew there were two more books I had an uneasy feeling that she might - I don’t know - fall down a well or something. So I might have given up if YOU hadn’t been counting on me to write up this chapter, so it’s a very truly given appreciation for keeping me going.
A New Chapter for Emily
Not knowing the book, I just said give me any chapter and amazingly I was assigned what has become my favorite chapter in the book. It’s “Sacrilege” and the chapters that followed it that made me love Emily after all and made me anxious to read Emily Climbs.
“Sacrilege” is a turning point in both Emily’s story and in her relationship with Aunt Elizabeth. It’s in this chapter that I feel Emily’s childhood ends and a maturing girlhood/womanhood starts. It may be because of the time of life I’m first reading it, but while Aunt Elizabeth could be very unfair sometimes, Emily could be a bit of a brat sometimes, too. I never felt entirely on Emily’s side until this chapter.
The Fate is Written
It had been said before that Aunt Elizabeth didn’t like novels, but the marked degree that she felt that way falls like a bolt of lightning. This isn’t something that Aunt Elizabeth is doing to be mean, she genuinely believes that writing fiction is wicked. Also, she is genuinely afraid that, by coming out in Emily, Douglas Starr is going to take someone she loves away from her again. We see a change in Aunt Elizabeth that she pauses before she said something about Emily’s father. She had never worried about anyone else’s feelings in her path to do what was right, but now she has grown enough to care for Emily that she is thinking about it. This isn’t a Marilla like transformation, but it is showing that Emily and her unadmitted love for her has caused Elizabeth to grow as a person.
Emily is also showing a deeper respect for Elizabeth. She is no longer sneaking out of her punishment the way she had when she was condemned to the SPARE ROOM. She’s willing to give up buying paper to write on and instead find paper to reuse, but write she must and doesn’t this call to every writer? “It is in me. I can’t help it….I just want you to understand how it is that I have to go on writing stories…” Then, rather than sneak to write, as she had snuck to do things against Elizabeth before, for this she had to openly write and not take the coward’s way. This pushed up against that Elizabeth has to face that she couldn’t bear it, she “…could not send her away…”
In this same chapter, while the struggle over writing continues, Aunt Elizabeth finds Emily’s letters to her father. Elizabeth discovers Emily’s thoughts written in her darkest hours. She read them “-with anger, and something underneath it that was not anger.” She confronts Emily whose first thought isn’t shame for having written them, but fury that Elizabeth violated her privacy. Elizabeth is forced to face that truth. However, even though Emily won their argument she realizes that she had hurt Elizabeth and that she felt enough for Elizabeth that it hurts Emily to hurt her. They hadn’t come together because of love in the first place, but they have come to a place where they both love and respect each other even though old habits had prevented each of them from realizing and saying so before this. While she worries about having to leave New Moon, as time passes it’s the hurt she did to Elizabeth that stings most. She’s driven to apologize just as Elizabeth has also realized that she must apologize.
A New Understanding
Emily feels she can’t burn the letters to make a completely clean slate just as she can’t really start over with Elizabeth. However, she does give up her time to go through and write in each one that she was mistaken. The poison of the incident has destroyed her ability to write her father as a confidant, but to some little extent she’s gained a new confidant in Aunt Elizabeth whose relationship from this point is marked with a mutual respect and an acknowledged love. (At least through this book, I haven’t gone farther yet.) And from here on, I love Emily, too.