- A Return to the Wild or, Long-Lasting, Mystical "Lunacy" in Anne of Green Gables
It is interesting to note that much of the critical exchange addressing Anne of Green Gables as a subject of discourse involves biographical connections to the life of Lucy Maud Montgomery. Holly Blackford writes, for instance, that "Montgomery clearly recovered her own childhood self when she birthed Anne."1 As we relate to Anne as readers, we seem to be drawn by an almost insatiable need to discover her origins. What or who inspired Montgomery to create Anne? It's a question we are driven to answer, even when we do know, as Blackford points out, that Montgomery "clearly recovered" her past self.
Yet even though Anne was "birthed" by Montgomery, Anne, of course, is not Montgomery but is merely a character in a novel. On the other hand, Anne differs from other characters in other novels, for there is something uncommon about her presence that seems to make us feel that she is more than a character on a page. And so we continue to trace her origins, placing her in Montgomery's childhood or looking for Montgomery's "real-life" sources, because we take great delight in both discovering and recovering her.
Although Anne is surely a composite of many sources, it is also profitable to trace her origins, since it seems that we must, not to a particular person or to memories of Montgomery's, but to a simple, but wild, intimation—that is, to an element of untamed consciousness. A character shaped by her fictional world, Anne is additionally a wild element providing insight into that sort of borderland, or "lunatic," thinking that creatively celebrates the symbiosis between the "real" and the imagined. Anne is a "person" as we read about her, but she is also a gateway into what Mary Daly has called an "Otherworld journey" (16). It is not enough, then, merely to analyze Anne in order to find an avenue into her creator's mind and life. Anne of Green Gables, rather, is a book about unbridled access into the long-lasting powers of wild consciousness perceived and exercised by crones, in the archetypal sense of the word. [End Page 148] Referring to Anne's gray-green eyes, Margaret Anne Doody describes Anne as "witchlike" (29). However, beyond wielding powers that involve supernatural insight and magic, Anne possesses a consciousness that is marked by its crone-like longevity, for she functions to bring vision, levity, and life to others in the novel—particularly Mrs. Lynde, Matthew, and Marilla—as well as to readers of the novel, and so she fosters the wisdom of crones, whereby readers may discover how to gain access into the wilds of time. Thus, although we tend to seek after Montgomery's mind and inspiration in order to find Anne, we can more directly discover the wild element that Anne brings to the text by going straight to the "window" of access that Montgomery pursued. The breezes of inspiration that waft through that "window" are, paradoxically, both innocent and wild; so, under rational systems of thought, accessing them may be perceived as a "lunatic" endeavor. Nevertheless, such an approach can assist us, as readers, in incorporating the artistic process in our understanding of a text not merely as a means of discovering character and delighting in her narrative journeying, but as a way of recognizing how to "uncivilize" our thinking in our own "journeying" outside of the text.
Before looking at the wild elements that emerge in Anne's story of her "birthing," I want to define what I mean by wild "intimations" by making reference to the concept of lunatic thinking—a frame of mind that P. L. Travers, the creator of the character, Mary Poppins, described as essential in developing the capability for "access." "Many people forget this," she writes,
but who are we but the child we were? . . . You do not chop off a section of your imaginative substance; . . . for if you are honest you have . . . no idea where childhood ends and maturity begins. It is all endless and all one. And from time to time, . . . this whole...