Chapter 27: The Vow of Emily
By Melanie J. Fishbane
“‘I, Emily Byrd Starr, do solemnly vow this day that I will climb the Alpine Path and write my name on the scroll of fame’” (Montgomery ENM 330).
"‘The happiest countries, like the happiest women, have no history,’ said Dean.
‘I hope I’ll have a history,” cried Emily. ‘I want a thrilling career’” (313).
When Emily returns to New Moon after many weeks at Wyther Grange, Aunt Laura sees how much her niece has grown up, and it isn’t just her height. The stories, near death experience, and meeting Dean Priest, are just some of the reasons that intuitive Laura sees that the girl they had brought to New Moon has grown up.
Things are changing in and around Emily. Her friends have also grown over the summer, with news of their own. Teddy has affirmed his goal to be an artist—going against his mother’s wishes and most probably pleasing Aunt Nancy who foresaw this enough to keep the painting that Emily had loaned to her (much to her chagrin.) In the Disappointed House, Emily and Teddy are making plans to live there one day and be artists.
This is counter to the opening pages of the chapter where Montgomery is setting up the relationship between Emily and Dean Priest. Emily feels older in his presence, learning about all sorts of things and asserting herself in ways she has never been allowed to do. While Dean feels younger, like the boy he once was. This December/May pairing is well described by Rachel McMillan, so I won’t go into it here, but all to say that by opening the chapters on this relationship, Montgomery is showing that it is Dean who is an integral part to Emily leaving her childhood behind and defining what her adult life is going to look like. She’s beginning to dream about her future in real terms.
When Dean sends Emily the poem, “The Fringed Gentian,” Emily remarks that she likes the final two lines—two lines that we all know so well, “And write upon its shining scroll/ A woman’s humble name” (330). The lines of fact and fiction blur as Montgomery had writing about the influence of this poem on her writing career, discussing it in her autobiography in Everywoman’s Magazine titled, “The Alpine Path.” Perhaps, like Emily, Montgomery had her own “flash” reading it and set about a vow of her own. At least that is what she infers.
The end of the chapter, Emily muses on more practical matters—what her penname should be. Landing on E. Byrd Starr.
MELANIE J. FISHBANE holds an M.F.A. from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and an M.A. from Concordia University, teaches English and children’s literature in Toronto and is the Digital Media Manager for the LMMI. She has essays published in L.M. Montgomery's Rainbow Valleys: The Ontario Years 1911-1942 and Reconsidering Laura Ingalls Wilder: Little House and Beyond. Her YA novel, Maud: A Novel Inspired by the Life of L.M. Montgomery was shortlisted for the Vine Awards for the best in Canadian Jewish Literature. Melanie lives in Toronto with her partner and their furbabies, Merlin Cat and Angel Dog. You can follow Melanie on Twitter @MelanieFishbane on Instagram, melanie_fishbane and like her on Facebook.