Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Life and Anne of Green Gables

by Ayano Hayakawa

Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote descriptions of many kinds of plants in Anne of Green Gables. A lot of descriptions of plants, and Anne’s cheerful and positive character are most impressive characteristics in the story for me. I wondered why she put a lot of descriptions of trees and flowers into the story and why she wrote Anne’s positive mind in the story. Therefore, I wanted to research to deepen my understanding of Anne of Green Gables. In my research, I found there are some connections between Lucy Maud Montgomery’s life and her masterpiece, Anne of Green Gables. This paper examines the connections between her life and the story and the importance of Anne of Green Gables for her.

Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables (1908)

Anne of Green Gables (1908) is one of the most popular and famous novels written by Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942), a Canadian author. Maud started to write the story when she was 30 years old. Anne of Green Gables has been translated into more than 40 languages from the original English edition and is still read and loved by many people around the world. It was also made into animations, movies and musicals. It is popular as literature for children and young adults today, but it originally was published for everyone from children to adults.

The main character of the Anne of Green Gables is Anne Shirley, an 11 year- old girl. In the setting of the story, Anne is characterized as a girl who has an unhappy background. She lost her parents from illnesses when she was born. She was adopted into the Thomas family, the Hammond family and a home for orphans. In the beginning of Anne of Green Gables, Anne comes to Prince Edward Island to live with Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert at Green Gables, a farm in the village. Maud also had an unhappy background. She was born in Prince Edward Island in 1874. Her mother passed away because of tuberculosis before she Maud became 2 years old. Her father left her with her grandparents in Cavendish (a rural area of Prince Edward Island) and went to Saskatchewan for his business. Both Anne and Maud spend their childhood without enough love from their parents. In fact, Maud said she also described her own childhood in the story. In her autobiography, she writes that Anne of Green Gables would not be  written if she had not spent her childhood in Cavendish. Maud described Anne as a girl who had a similar background to herself. The name, “Anne” is also one of the points which Maud was particular about. In the story, Anne emphasized that her name is “Anne”, not “Ann”. Maud’s name was often misspelled “Maude”. I thought the reason why Maud named the main character “Anne” is that she wanted to express the connection between Anne and Maud. By naming “Anne”, she wanted to express her sense of closeness to Anne and the story.

There are a lot of plants’ names in many scenes in the story: flowers and trees which are suitable to describe and imply the characters’ feeling. In the story, Anne is described as a charming, imaginative and talkative girl who has a positive mind and likes to imagine this and that by herself. She likes beautiful things and places. She especially really likes flowers and trees. When Anne waits for Matthew at the station, she does not wait in the waiting room. She prefers to wait outside rather than inside because she can imagine and dream various things if she stays outside. Also, she often renames her favorite places and people if she dislikes the name of the place and a person. On her way to the house of Green Gables, Anne and Mathew pass an avenue of apples. Anne is surprised at the beauty of the scene and can not say anything for a while. She says she dislikes calling the avenue simply “an avenue of apples,” and she names it the “White Way of Delight.” In the story, Anne names her favorite places and takes pleasure in making good and imaginative names like this. She gets over her various troubles with her characteristic cheerfulness and her vivid imagination. This shows also a connection between Anne and Maud. Maud liked the flowers and trees around Prince Edward Island. I think she wrote a lot of descriptions of plants with Anne’s imaginative character because flowers and trees were very important for her and her life.

L. M Montgomery’s life was not so simple and happy; she lived a stormy life. Maud wrote in later years that she spend her childhood starved of love. However, she had close cousins in flowers and trees on Prince Edward Island. These things moved her imagination. Since she was a little girl, she liked to write and express with her pen, and she started to write her diary when she was 9 years old. She really liked to write and writing was one of the most important things in her life. She also tried to write some poems and short stories, and sent her poems to magazine publishers and newspapers. In those days, most writers were men, and it is natural that a woman did not go to schools or have a job.

However, she had a dream of becoming a writer. At first, her poems did not appear in any magazines and papers, but she did not give up her dream and she kept on writing. When she was 15 years old, her poem was published in a newspaper for the first time. She visited Prince Albert, Saskatchewan to meet her father again, but eventually she returned to Prince Edward Island because she loved the island, her hometown. She went to a university to become a teacher in Prince Edward Island and she became a teacher in Cavendish. And then she restarted studies at another university in Halifax with her grandmother’s help because she thought it was important for her writing. When she was 24 years old, her grandfather passed away and she had to return to Cavendish to take care of her grandmother. She took care of her grandmother, while she kept writing poems and novels. She had a job as a proofreader at a newspaper company for about one year. She loved the job because she had many good experiences at the company, but she quit her job to take care of her grandmother. At that time, Maud could make enough money to live by writing, but she felt lonely because many people thought that Maud was strange because of her job, a writer. However, she was determined to continue her job as a writer strongly.

In 1905, when Maud was 30 years old, she had a new idea for her novel. She wrote a story with some hints from her childhood. It was Anne of Green Gables, but it refused by every publisher. In 1908, an American publisher accepted it and Anne of Green Gables was published finally. It quickly became a best seller. Her grandmother passed away and she married a minister, Ewen Macdonald. She succeeded as a writer and she married. Everything looked to be going on without any problems, but it was false. At the end of World War I, dark stories of wars were becoming popular and her style of writing was not in favor with people. Also, she had a problem in her private life. In 1919, she lost her best friend. In the 1930s, Ewen’s melancholy got worse and Maud was exhausted in mind and body from taking care of him. However, she kept writing the Anne series from the age of 30 to the middle of her 60s. In the spring of 1942, she passed away because of her strains of grief. She had had a lot of troubles and had faced many adversities in her life, but she kept her writing till the last. She really loved writing. She also liked pressed flowers, collections of her favorite cat’s hair, clippings of articles, samples of cloth, photographs and other things. She pasted them in her daily records. She found her pleasures in words, colors, textures and shapes all her life.

I think Maud kept writing Anne of Green Gables till her last because she really loved Anne and the story which originated from her precious memories of childhood. She cheered herself up by writing a story in which a little girl gets over various troubles and sadness with her characteristic cheerfulness and vivid imagination in Prince Edward Island. Because of these reasons, I think Anne of Green Gables is very important and irreplaceable story for Lucy Maud Montgomery.

References and Further Reading

Lucy Maud Montgomery. The Annotated Anne of Green Gables. Eds. Wendy E. Bany, Margaret Anne Doody, Mary E. Doody Jones. Oxford University Press, 1997.

Picturing A Canadian Life: L.M. Montgomery’s Personal Scrapbooks and Book Covers.

Ayano Hayakawa is a second-year student in the Dept. of British and American Cultural Studies.