December 01, 2008
Anne Shirley explains "Twilight"
In Anne of the Island, L.M. Montgomery nicely sums up the attraction of Edward Cullen. And (retroactively) improves on the conceit in several respects. In this scene from the prosaically titled Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel, Kevin Sullivan hews closely to the original text as Anne explains her own predilections:
ANNE: Oh, it seems so funny and horrible to think of Diana marrying Fred. Doesn't it?
MARILLA: What is so horrible about it?
ANNE: Well he certainly isn't the wild, dashing young man Diana used to want to marry. Fred is extremely good.
MARILLA: That is exactly what he should be. Would you want to marry a wicked man?
ANNE: Well, I wouldn't marry anyone who was really wicked, but I think I'd like it if he could be wicked and wouldn't. [Montgomery places the above line here: "Now, Fred is hopelessly good."]
MARILLA: You'll have more sense someday, I hope.
Yep, nothing poisons a romantic fantasy faster than the prospect of a boyfriend who's hopelessly good.
Sullivan then illustrates this axiom by mostly inventing the character of Morgan Harris (Frank Converse), as a wealthy, dashing scoundrel who could be wicked but isn't. Of course, in the end Anne chooses Gilbert, the "boy next door." Gilbert, though, is in medical school, and they postpone the wedding until he earns his M.D.
The bulk of the material in Sullivan's second adaptation comes from Anne of Windy Poplars, the fourth book in the series. In L.M. Montgomery's version, Anne has by then earned her teacher's certificate and her B.A., and is the principal of the school. The sour, cynical Katherine Brooke is one of her teachers.
Sullivan's condensation created a timeline that couldn't account for the ten years that actually elapse between books one and four. So he makes Katherine Brooke the principal and Anne the teacher. Lost is the point that back in 1936, Montgomery quite progressively imagined a marriage of equals between her two protagonists.
But to give credit where it's due, I think Sullivan improves on the overall structure and especially the ending of Anne of the Island (in my opinion, the weakest volume in the series). Accepting Gilbert's proposal (second time around in both cases), Anne says:
I went looking for my ideals outside of myself. I discovered it's not what the world holds for you, it's what you bring to it. The dreams dearest to my heart are right here.
Anne doesn't wear her spunky personality like so much jewelry, but changes and improves herself, and thus her world. L.M. Montgomery created a character as revolutionary then as she is now, which may explain why Anne of Green Gables remains one of the best-selling books of all time (over 50 million copies sold).