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Entries in LM Montgomery (1)

Friday
Jul012016

L.M. Montgomery was not Anne Shirley

It's been a busy few weeks. I have been submerged in paper writing, and today, with one little click, I submitted two analytical papers, thus ending my summer semester. The rest of the summer is mine to catch up on the stuff I didn't get done these past few weeks.

As I was scanning my Twitter feed, Hannah Anderson re-tweeted an article called "Things Lucy Maud Montgomery Lied to Me About." It was interesting reading. I am always interested in how others look at Montgomery, because I have read a lot of her works in addition to reading her journals and a few biographies of her. I have also read a number of critical works of her writing, and when you dig beneath the surface, you find out that Maud Montgomery (yes, she went by Maud) was not a happy woman. She lived a desperately unhappy life for much of the time. In the article I read this morning, the writer reflects on some of the rather quaint realities that come up in Montgomery's writing. Oh yes, she paints a very lovely picture with mostly happy endings. Anne ends up with her prince charming, Gilbert Blythe, and even gets to publish some of her works before becoming what seems to be the perfect mother. The thing is, Montgomery isn't anything like Anne Shirley. Just read the five volumes of her selected journals, and you will get a picture of a woman who was not always a good mother, had a very unhappy marriage, and if she was welcoming with cakes and sweets to your face, she may have secretly wished she didn't have to have you over for tea today.

I also found the last paragraph interesting, the conclusion in which the writer says how Montgomery "lied" to her about being published.

That being published would require nothing more than a knack for writing, the money for many sets of stamps, and the patience to continue sending out work; instead of requiring an MFA in writing, at least one good family connection to a famous editor, and the promise of a firstborn child or the blood of a sacrificial lamb.

The character of Emily Starr, of the Emily of New Moon series does present a rather different road to being published than did Montgomery, who wrote in between caring for her aging grandmother, in between being a minister's wife with responsibilities she loathed, and who also wrote what she came to hate in order to pay the bills. Montgomery endured a lengthy legal battle with her original publisher, L.C. Page over the rights to some of her stories. The publishing industry in Canada was basically non-existent when Montgomery's career began, and she had to take what she could get. So, while perhaps she did not need graduate degrees (she didn't even have a BA) to be published, it was not as easy as she depicted in her books.

Montgomery also lived to see her kind of fiction become marginalized over the course of her career. She did not intend to write children's fiction, where her books now seem to fall with regard to genre. She meant them to be for adults. It was only when the face of literature began to change that they took a back seat in that way. Yes, at the time Montgomery's book were being published, men actually read them, too. The lack of seriousness with which the writing community regarded her with was a painful thing to her at the end of her life.

L.M. Montgomery was not Anne Shirley. Her life was often dark, and as the book Storms and Dissonance reveals, there are perhaps some hints within her books that reveal the turmoil with which she lived. She did not live the life of Anne Shriely, but somehow, I can't help but wonder if the beautiful, happy stories she wrote were the dreams she had for herself. She wanted those happy endings even as she came to tire of writing them.

I'm not sure if L.M. Montgomery really "lied" about those matters mentioned in the article. Perhaps it was more a case of people believing fiction to be truth, which as we all know, is not always so. I grew up with Montgomery, and for many years I saw her as an enviable historical figure. It was not until I did some research that I discovered a very tragic figure. And knowing how sad and empty she was, I love her stories all the more.