“Fiction is the art of transformation. For many writers, including L. M. Montgomery, it allows for happy reconciliations they cannot achieve in real life.”
This passage opened my eyes to how literature saved Lucy Maud Montgomery from her depressive episodes. It was prominent that she took to reading and poetry during her childhood whenever she felt lonely. Without a journal, there was no way Maud could vent out her feelings in solitary. When writing Anne of Green Gables, Maud plucked events and characters from her own reality and drew inspiration from her life. She kept the parts that she held close to her heart, such as her lovely home of Prince Edward Island, but changed many aspects of Anne’s life to the results of what she wanted for hers. Maud experienced many failed relationships, including her unhappy engagement with Edwin Simpson and her miserable senior life after marrying Ewen Macdonald. I like how the author of this biography depicted the importance of fiction to Maud.
The quote beautifully expresses writers during the 1800s-1900s, not just Lucy Maud Montgomery. Life during their times was not as luxurious or as easy. There were many relations to other writers, including Margaret Atwood which the biography mentions. She comments on the main love story in Anne of Green Gables, quoting, “the love story plays out not between Anne and Gilbert Blythe, but between Anne and the love-starved elderly Marilla” (35). After the success of Anne, Maud received a fan letter from Mark Twain, who “[praised] Anne as the dearest, most lovable child in fiction since the immortal Alice” (pg78). This shows us that Canadian authors during this time were respected by other famous writers.
“There were elegant neighbourhoods of grand mansions, but also the immigrant poor crowded into tenements and factories. Maud saw a bustling city of extreme wealth on one hand, dire poverty on the other.”
This was during the time Lucy Maud Montgomery moved to Halifax for further education at Dalhousie University. It’s interesting how she comes from a rich family, but none of that wealth was given to her. When Montgomery’s personal savings couldn’t pay for tuition, it was grandmother Lucy MacNeill who came to the rescue, donating just enough to meet the minimum requirement for life in Halifax. During her stay at the university, Montgomery lived in poorly kept dorms with no heating while her cousins and aunts stayed at ranches and mansions. She had to rely on herself and her intuition to find comfort during lonely Canadian winters. Montgomery’s descriptions upon her arrival at Halifax gave me a perspective of the social disparity during her times.
It’s great to see how much Canada changed from the aftermath of its confederation to developing the values and norms we have now. As debated in class, some say Canada is a post-national state because of how diverse and accepting we are. With new policies such as the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, we are moving away from large power disparities between races. Canada is a place where immigrants and locals can call each other neighbours. When looking back at the norms and values of Montgomery’s time, there was a clear difference between the wealthy to the poor immigrants struggling to be accepted.
“Grandfather seethed with disapproval. Cavendish neighbours and friends clucked their amazement at Maud’s plans. One woman said she couldn’t imagine ‘what in the world’ Maud needed with more education.”
Lucy Maud Montgomery set her career path to becoming a teacher in her early life. Although from a wealthy family, no one but her grandmother Lucy MacNeill supported her. The fact that Maud sought higher education was unfathomable to the rest of her family. I was impressed by how dedicated she was to her studies and passions. To Maud, teaching introduced her to many students and acquaintances who became her best friends and “kindred spirits”. Maud lived with her grandparents for the majority of her childhood. After finishing her teaching major, many of Maud’s job offer required in-person interviews which she couldn’t attend because of grandfather Alexander MacNeill’s refusal to offer a method of transportation. From the lack of emotional and physical support she got from her family, Maud poured her energy into finding a way to positively change people’s lives through storytelling. This also connects to Maud’s quote, “thank God, I can keep the shadows of my life out of my work. I would not wish to darken any other life – I want instead to be a messenger of optimism and sunshine” (pg 79).
Regarding women’s norms during historic times, it was uncommon for females to pursue a lifelong career rather than becoming housewives after marrying. Men were in charge of providing for their family, and women were supposed to care for children. Many of Maud’s female relatives and neighbours followed this norm, baffled at why the young woman would spend money on obtaining more education outside the free public school back in their hometown.