Since its publication, Lucy Maude Montgomery’s novel Anne of Green Gables has defied any ’obvious reads’ by critics. Ostensibly a morality tale for girls about an unruly red-headed orphan who learns to be a young lady, readers identify more with the ’wild’ Anne in the beginning of the novel than the demure young woman at the end. It could not be called literary because Montgomery was a woman writing for girls. Even though the novel has never gone out of print and remains a staple in every North American school library, it is not considered a work of literature because of Montgomery’s gender and her assumed audience. Perhaps understandably, then, the novel was largely ignored by scholars until the past two decades. Even still, scholarship focuses on feminist or autobiographical readings of the novel. However, these readings have more to do with Montgomery and her work than with her novel. This paper gives an overview of these major theories—feminist and autobiographical—commonly used to unpack Montgomery’s novel, how they work, and their limitations.
The best reading of Anne of Green Gables is a queer one, which looks at ways the text both conforms and rejects reader and genre expectations. Queering children’s books shows critics not just the complexity of children’s books, but how children themselves are complex beings that resist adults’ attempt to classify, particularly by what is considered appropriate in children’s literature. It allows us to read the contradictions between the book Montgomery claims to have written, a simple romance for young girls, and the one she actually wrote, a subversive book about the relationships of women.
Maria Catherino, ’16
English & Creative Writing
Sponsor: Shannon Reed