Two very important things are established in this chapter. One is that Anne falls in love with Green Gables. It would be very tempting for me to quote half of this chapter with Anne’s speeches about this.
The room in which Marilla put Anne the previous night (not the spare room, which is reserved only for very important guests, which Anne certainly is not, but recall from the last chapter that, being a girl, she wasn’t to sleep on the couch that had been prepared for the intended boy) has a view of the grounds and a cherry tree growing right outside its window, “so close that its boughs tapped against the window, and it was so thickset with blossoms that hardly a leaf was to be seen.”
Flowering cherry trees are more or less spectacular. It isn’t difficult to understand why Anne names the cherry tree outside the window “Snow Queen.”
Marilla comes into the bedroom to find Anne kneeling beside the window, soaking in the beautiful orchards and gardens and woods beyond Green Gables.
“’Oh, isn’t it wonderful?’ she said, waving her hand comprehensively at the world outside.
‘It’s a big tree,’ said Marilla, ‘and it blooms great, but the fruit don’t amount to much never – small and wormy.’”
Thank you, Marilla, for missing the point entirely.
“’Oh, I don’t mean just the tree; of course it’s lovely – yes, it’s radiantly lovely – it blooms as if it meant it – but I meant everything, the garden and the orchard and the brook and the woods, the whole big dear world. Don’t you feel as if you just loved the world on a morning like this?’”
Again, beauty – and specifically beauty in nature – helps Anne to transcend her circumstances. Once again she finds herself in a situation in which she isn’t wanted and her despair dissolves as she basks in beauty. I can really relate to this. And in fact, if ever you feel like you are not wanted, I recommend you go to the ballet or go see some beautiful art or sit in a lovely, flowering garden or listen to some beautiful music. I was once in the depths of despair because I thought someone didn’t want me and the New York City Ballet fixed me right up.
I think the reason this works is because beauty is something that is so much bigger than even your depth of despair, and if you commune with the beautiful, it’s like it touches you with its magnificence and dignity, imparting some of those qualities onto you. I think it also gives perspective, in the way only something timeless and perfect and vast can give.
The other important thing established in this chapter is that Anne is an incorrigible optimist.
“’The world doesn’t seem such a howling wilderness as it did last night,’” Anne says to Marilla at breakfast. “’I’m so glad it’s a sunshiny morning. But I like rainy mornings real well, too. All sorts of mornings are interesting, don’t you think? You don’t know what’s going to happen through the day, and there’s so much scope for imagination.’”
When Marilla sends Anne outside to play after breakfast, Anne declines to go.
“‘I don’t dare go out,’ said Anne, in the tone of a martyr relinquishing all earthly joys. ‘If I can’t stay here there is no use in my loving Green Gables…There is no use in loving things if you have to be torn from them, is there? And it’s so hard to keep from loving things, isn’t it? That was why I was so glad when I thought I was going to live here. I thought I’d have so many things to love and nothing to hinder me. But that brief dream is over. I am resigned to my fate now, so I don’t think I’ll go out for fear I’ll get unresigned again.’”
OMG, Anne, you are breaking my heart. But only for about two seconds because then she asks, “‘What is the name of that geranium on the windowsill please?’
‘That’s the apple-scented geranium.’
‘Oh, I don’t mean that sort of a name. I mean just a name you gave it yourself. Didn’t you give it a name? May I give it one then? May I call it – let me see – Bonny would do – may I call it Bonny while I’m here? Oh, do let me!’”
Anne, you are not fooling anyone. You’ve already named half of the place. You are not resigned to your fate of not loving anything at Green Gables. You don’t have it in you. You are too optimistic.
And this trait, I do not understand. Not even a little bit.
I try. I have tried very hard to be more like Anne in my attitude, to adopt her optimism. I’m sure being an optimist is really pleasant. But I am not an optimist, and trying to make myself become one is a lot of work. It’s very frustrating work and I always have this feeling like I’m just lying to myself and it all seems so ridiculous. I’m not afraid of hard work for self-improvement (not that I am convinced optimism is an improvement over pessimism), but forced optimism never seemed to improve much for me.
I also find that I handle general pessimism better than I handle disappointment, and I feel like optimism inevitably leads to disappointment. For example, I’m moving to the middle/south of the country from Los Angeles very soon and instead of hoping I’ll find things there I can enjoy, I am going to pretend that I’m camping. Because then, as long as there’s a hot shower I’ll feel like counting my blessings. Which is much better than thinking I’ll give the local sushi place a try because I think after the sushi available here, it will feel like heaping insult upon injury.
Are you an optimist? Please weigh in on this matter. Are you a natural optimist? If so, does it make life better/easier/happier for you, do you think? If not, do you work to become an optimist? How does that go for you? Do you think innate optimism/pessimism makes certain situations easier or more difficult?
One aspect of Anne’s optimism I do somewhat understand. Her love of mornings, I share to a certain extent. I actually do love mornings. I especially love mornings in the city. There is just something sort of fascinating and purposeful about a city in the morning, and it’s catching and then I feel fascinating and purposeful as well. The noise of the traffic and people are different and the light is more diffused and the air smells newer and feels fresher.
I do not, however, like getting up early. And it is very rarely that I find the perfect combination of being up early for some reason I’m not resentful about, not exhausted because I am generally a night owl, and in a great city for mornings. But when I do, it really can make for a nice day, or at least the expectation of one. Maybe I am an optimist under the right conditions?