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Did her domestic duties prevent her from ever having the time to ask herself what she wanted?
I wonder now at how easily I internalized this message, as a girl in 1994. Leslie has “heavy braids of burnished hair, the hue of ripe wheat …
twisted about her head like a coronet; her eyes [a]re blue and star-like, her figure, its plain print gown, [i]s magnificent; and her lips [a]re as crimson as the bunch of blood-red poppies she wore at her belt.” This pop of red is Leslie’s defiance.
I thought, When Anne mellows into a gracious mother and wife, smiling gently in the background, her hair easily tamed, her auburn waves twisted high on her head like a crown, I knew my intuition had been right.
By the final book, Anne shrinks to near invisibility, cut from the title of her own story.
As a girl, I devoured these descriptions of Leslie’s beauty; not stopping to remove the bones, chew on the fat, or think about how it tasted.
I couldn’t wait until the penultimate scene when she would be given the reward for beauty—a wedding dress and cooing babies to make her perfectly happy. She craves noise: “I love to come [to the sea] just after a storm—like this.I read sentences about swan-like necks and slim waists and cheeks flushed pink with fury and something burned inside of me, something I didn’t understand, something I wanted more of.Beauty seemed to be the key, the key to being seen, to being noticed, to be taken seriously. eyes blazing, hands clenched, passionate indignation exhaling from her like an atmosphere.” When her academic rival, and eventual husband, Gilbert Blythe offers Anne a candy heart with the words “You are sweet” written on it, Anne “[takes] the pink heart gingerly between the tips of her fingers, drop[s] it on the floor, [and grinds] it to powder beneath her heel.” At eleven, I was enchanted with Anne’s intellect, her imagination, her appreciation of beauty, but most of all, I loved her rage.Anne is feisty, impetuous, with a wild mane of fiery red hair. As a girl, I would slam doors and throw things hard and spit out curse words and bang bony fists against walls.She throws fits, breaks things, screams her anger out loud. Rachel Lynde calls her “skinny and homely,” Anne flies into a rage. I would see and feel and breathe red and want everyone else to see and feel and breathe it too.True and faithful and to be depended on.” Leslie’s marriage is an instant panacea to her wild anger, to “the crash” and “noise” within her. I want something more complex, less confined by the traditional expectations of how a woman’s life I did not know then, nor can I ever really know now, exactly what my mother was was angry about.Marriage enables her to become a “good, sweet” woman. Did she feel betrayed to discover that a beautiful home and a beautiful family do not necessarily equate personal fulfillment?I knew where a secret patch of wild strawberries grew in the lower right field.I had the best cursive handwriting in my class, and this was confirmed by a very official certificate. My four-year-old cousin covertly threw a pea at my other four-year-old cousin, and I tightened the grip on my fork. The kids’ table was a symbol of everything uncomfortable about childhood—it was a clear indication that you didn’t matter, that you were not to be taken seriously.I was angry that my stomach pushed soft against my T-shirt like a baby’s, angry that I was invisible to boys, angry about friends getting their periods before me.I was angry at my mother for not being more content, more like “normal moms” who were happy to cheer on the sidelines at soccer games.