Matthew Cuthbert is a Natural Father

matthewcuthbert

 

In each succeeding chapter, Montgomery illustrates her characters in greater depth and detail. Each chapter contains a small story, and as the stories accumulate, we can trace the evolution of the characters and their relationships with one another. In Chapters 9 through 12, Anne blows up at Mrs. Rachel, apologizes, goes to church, and meets Diana Barry. Over the course of these events, Anne demonstrates her willingness to learn and to follow the rules of society. She begins by throwing a wild tantrum, but she ends by apologizing for her bad deeds. Matthew changes too: at the beginning of the novel, he dislikes interacting with women, even hesitating to nod at them on the street. In these chapters, however, he becomes a warm father figure who takes increasing pleasure in spoiling Anne. Matthew and Anne are “kindred spirits,” and in his dealings with Anne, Matthew shows a flair for parenting. In Chapter 10, for instance, Anne agrees to apologize to Mrs. Rachel not because it is the right thing to do or because Marilla threatens her but because she wants to oblige Matthew.

Anne struggles to do the right thing, but Avonlea’s code of manners is unfamiliar to her, and she acts like a well-meaning tourist in a foreign country, violating the standards of propriety by accident. Although anxious to do what people consider right, Anne acts according to her own moral code. She feels that because Mrs. Rachel insults her, she has a right to show her anger, and because she does not truly believe she should apologize to Mrs. Rachel, she makes the apology a piece of theater. Anne’s moral code contrasts with Marilla’s. Marilla frequently observes something Anne does, like decorating her hat with wildflowers, and deems it ridiculous because it is unconventional. Anne, however, does not understand how she can be considered bad when her behavior makes perfect sense to her and when she is not trying to hurt anyone.

Despite her criticisms of Anne, Marilla changes over the course of these chapters, even revising her own moral code because of Anne’s different perspective. Sometimes when Marilla feels she should reprimand Anne, she thinks about the logic of such a scolding and decides against criticizing. For example, when Anne returns from church and calls the preacher unimaginative and boring, Marilla admits to herself that she shares these exact feelings, although she has been unwilling to acknowledge them in the past. As Marilla and Anne begin to understand each other better, they start to question their own standards of judgment and to accept each other’s moral codes.

Chapter Challenge: 13& 14

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2 Comments

  1. I weep whenever I think of Matthew. 😦

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