. L. M. Montgomery is best remembered for writing Anne of Green Gables, although she wrote many other books. She is considered primarily a children's author, but many of her books touch upon dark themes and mature subjects for her time period (war, depression, being an orphan, etc). WARNING: general spoilers if you've not read the books.
About 2 years ago, I decided to read her books in chronologically published order. I've read her many times before: either the series or random books individually, but I thought it would be exciting to imagine myself reading them as fan might have read them when she first published them. It has been an enlightening journey. LMM is often dismissed as something who writes about happy endings, idyllic lives and sugarcoating of small town farm life throughout Victorian-World War 2 times. (LMM's books were published between 1908-1938. Although she was well aware of Modernist writers, she choose to continue writing in an Victorian/Edwardian style.)
While I've always detected traces of bitterness, unfulfilled, and tragic notes in the her books, reading her books in chronological order has really torn the wool away from my eyes. I've gone from 'detecting traces' to see how her books (especially those written post World War 1) are filled with unhappy people living trapped lives. The happy endings feel tacked on rather than earned.
Which brings me to the subject of this posting. Firstly, I must say, LMM would be a fabbbbbulous tv writer if she was alive today. She really knows how to drag out all that unrequited angst and lovers torn apart and eventually reuniting. For that matter, she puts many television writers to shame because even though she does the whole long drag out, she allows her characters to grow and change so when they eventually reunite after many long years, you know they are ready for each other. (I'm looking at you Gossip Girl writers. Growth! is not something you should be afraid of.)
However, that said, I can't help but wonder WHY she felt it neccessary to drag it out. The 'lovers not together until the verrrrrrrrry end' of the story was only something she started doing midway in her career. The Anne series is full of heroines (included the main star) who have their happy endings... and their stories keep on going. We see the characters get married, have families, even see the 2nd generation grow and start and start courting. The heroines in the books from 1908-1921 as well as The Blue Castle and even A Tangled Web all get happy endings midway through their stories (misunderstandings continue but nothing that wholly threatens the heroine's ability to enjoy life).
With Emily and Pat, the heroine not only doesn't get a happy ending, but they also get continually punished for not choosing the love of their lives when he thought she was ready. Emily spends years wasting away as a middling writer (and even burns her first book) while Teddy (her great love) goes on to fame and fortune and near marriage with their best friend, Ilse. Pat chooses being homemaker/old maid of Silver Bush (her heritage home) to a relationship with Jingle. Pat is forced to see her family home ruined by longtime rival, May Binnie who marries Pat's brother, many deaths, and Silver Bush burning in the end.
While Anne and the other early heroines are, without doubt, overly idealized, they are still postive examples of womanhood. They suffer, but their pain is eased by having joys and stability. There is a well-roundedness to the early heroines. They make mistakes but aren't punished for making the wrong choice. I find it compelling and shocking that LMM is so...vile...to her post World War 1 heroines because they are good characters too. Their stability is constantly shot down and their joys are few and far between.
To give LMM the benefit, I will add that she did have a very unhappy marriage (she married for status, not love, and regretted it her whole life) and also suffered from depression. I'm fuzzy on the details, but I don't believe she ever seeked the proper treatment for her depression but rather tried to act like it wasn't an issue. Her marriage was far from ideal, but she loved her children so she stayed in it.
Anybody else a LMM fan? What are your thoughts on why she did this? Do you think she was trying to send a message about love in her later books about how society acts towards women who don't marry? Do you think her own unhappy marriage and depression influenced the way she treated the later heroines the way she did?
Edited to fix italics.