CBC

In Episode 2, An Anne By Any Other Name Would Still Be As Precocious

Anne runs away twice, before finally finding the place she belongs.

Anne Shirley is precocious, and that makes her exasperating. Even within the pantheon of freckled, redheaded heroines (Hall of Famers include Little Orphan Annie, Pippi Longstocking, and Lindsay Lohan), she manages to be a class unto herself, a chatterbox who turns out a steady stream of fantastical musings, truthful observances, and audacious hopes, one after another, all wrapped with a twinge of truth and sadness. It's this magical combination that makes people fall in love with and/or hate her upon first meeting; it's what makes Matthew learning she "didn't say a word" while at the station, waiting for her train back to the orphanage, so devastating.

It's also what makes Anne smart enough to avoid danger on the other end of her journey, as she deftly escapes a creep who tries to lure her into his carriage with the promise of candy. She may be young, but she's been around.

On her own for the first time since after she's ever had a taste of home, Anne sets off determined to make it on her own. She boards her ferry and curls up to cry in the bow, making it back to the orphanage after dark. She has no idea Matthew is chasing after her through beautifully gloomy Prince Edward Island fields, only a bitter pit of wounds in her stomach and a small patch of dirt and a flowering bush upon which to fall asleep. Yet, compared to Matthew and Marilla, her reaction might be the most mature of all.

Having taken off on Mare with the hopes of catching her before boarding her train, Matthew finds himself unexpectedly facing all of his life's shortcomings: he's slow and lacking the ability to plan for the future. Still, he's persistent, hitchhiking his way to the port, pawning his pocket watch for a ferry ticket, refusing medical help after having his head smashed through a carriage window, and arriving at the orphanage a full day after Anne tricked the milkman into giving her a ride to yet another train station (shout out to both the dumb milkman and the maid who dresses down Matthew for his appearance). It's in the station's waiting room that Matthew finds her, offering "poetic recitation spoken aloud with dignified emotion" for $1, trying to raise enough for a ticket to Halifax. She's not happy to see him.

As Matthew tries to convince Anne that he "came all this way" to find her, she rightfully and spitefully points out that she has, too; she's come as far as this very station, alone and with only herself as her family, because he and Marilla decided to throw her away. Quite frankly, she wins the logical argument. It's only when a bystander steps in on the suspicion that Matthew is another menacing stranger with untoward intentions toward Anne that things take a turn; Matthew blurts that Anne is his daughter, ands she runs to hug him, changing from heartbroken to a puddle of happy sobs along the five-foot divide.

But while all of this is going on, Marilla's been at home, worrying, pacing, baking, and cleaning as the time passes. It's all a very neat and tidy way to express her anxiety, yet it understandably leaves Anne confused upon her return; the only hint of Marilla's remorse is her gifting Anne with her old childhood hair ribbon. Anne confesses to her friend Diana that the magic of Green Gables isn't the same: now, she worries that, at any moment, she could be sent away.

Already uneasy in her place, the Cuthberts and Anne attend the local church picnic, where Diana's parents and the good children of the churchfolk do their best to make Anne feel unwelcome; she's called a "stray dog," and "garbage girl," dismissed for her "awful red hair"; the minister himself wonders if the orphanage is more akin to an asylum. Rejected, Anne runs away yet again, but this time it's Marilla who follows. It's then that Anne, having dramatically hurled herself onto a picturesque log in the forest, finally confronts her; what was the point of having Matthew chase her if Marilla didn't want her in the first place? The two have a heart-to-heart, in which Marilla finally and belatedly apologizes for suspecting Anne of having stolen her brooch, and suddenly everything is rosy again.

The next morning, Anne is called downstairs for two very important reasons. The first is to be told that she can call Marilla by her first name -- she had been referring to her as "Miss Cuthbert." Anne being Anne, she immediately petitions to push the boundaries and use the more familiar "Aunt Marilla" instead, and is shot down by her ever-literal guardian; Marilla simply doesn't believe in calling people things they aren't. Which brings us to the second reason Anne was asked to schlep down the stairs: Matthew and Marilla ask Anne to take their name, and sign the family Bible. Matthew is adorable about it, breaking out the good family pen for the occasion. But as Anne herself says, it's "a matter of much solemnity," since it officially marks the very first moment that she's ever had a family. She convinces Marilla to break out the raspberry cordial, and proceeds to make a vow: "With this pen, I take you Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert to be my family forever, to call you mine and to be yours, for always."

Then she signs, three times.

Anne Cuthbert.
Anne Shirley Cuthbert.
Anne Cordelia Shirley-Cuthbert of Green Gables, née Halifax.

And that's our girl: exceedingly dramatic, a touch vain, and extremely precise, all at the same time, crying as she smiles and signs. She's an imaginative motormouth who never belonged, now suddenly belonging to a brother and sister who previously only belonged to one another. It's hard not to root for her, and hard for her not to break your heart by some combination of tragic observances and prolonged earnestness. At now she finally has the thing that she's always wanted most.

Almost all readers liked this episode
What did you think?

Discussion

Explore the Anne With An E forum or add a comment below.