I AM Marilla Cuthbert

In Anne of Green Gables, Marilla Cuthbert is often the enemy. At least that’s how she appeared to me in all of my readings as a child. Her severe, dour outlook was in direct opposition to the romantic Anne’s impulsiveness and flights of fancy. When Matthew shows up with Anne in his cart she purses her lips and says, “We were supposed to get a boy, to help you with your work.”

Ever practical she refuses to make Anne a dress with puffed sleeves, seeing the fashion for what it is, ridiculous, frivolous and silly. My childhood heart would long for Anne to get her puffed sleeves, cheered for Matthew when he bought a dress in secret, and chafed alongside her at all of the severe restrictions Marilla placed on her girlhood freedom.

Now I am the mother of little girls. I often refuse to get them things that they long for as we walk through the store because it’s either ridiculous, frivolous or silly. I am exasperated with their endless foolishness, especially when the results are disastrous, things are broken, clothes are wet, order disrupted, all in the name of some girlish flight of fancy. I respond to drama with acerbic observations and point out obvious, unpleasant consequences. I am desperate to ground this this flighty girl and force into her some pragmatism and sense of duty. I have little patience for the imaginings of my girl/s, especially when they get in the way of what needs doing right now. I am the enemy.

At least, that’s how I feel.

But Marilla is also the woman who decided to keep Anne with her, rather than let her go into a situation of indentured servitude. Marilla made her clothes and meals, taught her to cook and sew, and helped her through the consequences of her several disastrous escapades. Marilla stood up for her when no one else did. Marilla was the firm reliable place in Anne’s life. Marilla was home. Marilla loved Anne fiercely, and showed it by doing what was best for her, even when she didn’t agree.

Marilla wasn’t the enemy, but the staunchest ally a little girl/young woman could have. Anne eventually came to realize this. Hopefully, if I play my cards right, my girls will too.

all content © Carrien Blue

7 thoughts on “I AM Marilla Cuthbert

  1. I love this post.
    I read Anne of Green Gables over and over while growing up, and I love your illustration. Sometimes I suddenly stop and wonder with surprise how I changed into this ‘practical’ mother.

  2. I’m having a sudden glimpse into my future with our first little one. I was such a drama-queen (my dad’s nickname for me was “Sarah Heartburn”), and of course that will be the first thing to bug me in my own daughter…

    BTW–I can’t imagine you not playing your cards right. Just a few minutes ago Barrett was recalling to his bishop how inspired he was by your methodical routines of discipline with Isaiah when he lived with you guys. You are (both) parenting heroes.

  3. Well I see a little Mary Poppins and even more Maria (Sound of Music).
    You encourage imagination and adventures, you fill your home with music, you generously love you family, friends, neighbors, orphans and those hard to love.

    That is just my humble opinion

    Love you,

  4. Marilla is, in many ways, a portrait of Montgomery’s grandmother, who took her in after her mother died, who fed and clothed her (often in styles different from her peers) and never, ever offered verbal expressions of love. The portrait of this woman in Montgomery’s journals is sometimes a harsh one, whereas Marilla is a much more rounded (and very likable) character. The recent biography makes it clear that Montgomery’s grandmother loved her very much – even to the point of using her own money to send her to college for a year, in defiance of her husband, who didn’t approve of education for women. Apparently Montgomery spoke very lovingly and appreciatively of her grandmother in real life, reserving her gripes for her journal. So there was a real ambivalence there.

    Anyhow. I think you can get away with a fair bit of frowning upon frivolity if you pair it with the occasional “I love you.”

  5. I kept thinking about this post today and my first comment. Mary Poppins and Maria don’t cut it. The literary character that comes close to who I see in you is “Marme”.

    Connie 🙂

  6. Gee you guys are really sweet.

    Sarah-I do things I regret as a parent pretty much everyday. So I can imagine it.

    Bea-I can always count on you for an interesting and informative comment.

    Connie-Marme is my favorite literary mother. I often hear myself saying something and realize I stole it from her. So thank-you. 🙂 I love you too.

  7. I am currently re-reading the Anne series, and I have found that I see things differently, too. One of the things I never noticed before was just how much Marilla loved Anne, and what a special relationship they really had. I hope you have that with your daughters, however you get there!

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