Anne Shirley’s Ambitions

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I’ve always loved the image of the “bend in the road” that appears in the final chapter of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. Anne’s plans for the future change, and while she can’t quite see what’s ahead of her on that road, she’s ready to move forward with confidence to embrace the unknown. I thought about this passage last summer when I found Montgomery had pasted into her Red Scrapbook a Notman Studio photograph of a bend in the road at Point Pleasant Park.

"Anne Shirley's Ambitions"

My photograph of the bend in the road at Point Pleasant Park featured on the Notman Studio postcard.

And I thought about it in June of this year when I visited Prince Edward Island and took some photographs of Warburton Road, a heritage road in Fredericton.

"Anne Shirley's Ambitions"

Warburton Road

Imagine my delight when I looked up the passage from that last chapter of Anne of Green Gables once again and discovered that in addition to talking about making peace with the mysteries of the future, Anne talks about her ambitions. She tells Marilla she’s decided to stay at home with her so they won’t have to give up Green Gables:

“Nothing could be worse than giving up Green Gables – nothing could hurt me more. We must keep the dear old place. My mind is quite made up, Marilla. I’m NOT going to Redmond; and I AM going to stay here and teach. Don’t you worry about me a bit.”

“But your ambitions – and – ”

“I’m just as ambitious as ever. Only, I’ve changed the object of my ambitions. I’m going to be a good teacher – and I’m going to save your eyesight. Besides, I mean to study at home here and take a little college course all by myself. Oh, I’ve dozens of plans, Marilla. I’ve been thinking them out for a week. I shall give life here my best, and I believe it will give its best to me in return. When I left Queen’s my future seemed to stretch out before me like a straight road. I thought I could see along it for many a milestone. Now there is a bend in it. I don’t know what lies around the bend, but I’m going to believe that the best does. It has a fascination of its own, that bend, Marilla. I wonder how the road beyond it goes – what there is of green glory and soft, checkered light and shadows – what new landscapes – what new beauties – what curves and hills and valleys further on.”

– From Chapter 38, “The Bend in the Road”

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’ve been getting more and more interested in the topic of ambition in relation to Jane Austen’s life and works. I had forgotten that Marilla and Anne use that term when Anne talks about the bend in the road. So now, of course, I’m inspired to explore what Montgomery says about ambition elsewhere in her novels, alongside my research on “Austen and Ambition.” I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on either of these writers – or my other favourite author, Edith Wharton – and the things they say about ambition in their fiction and letters. I’m curious to find out more about this topic and I’ll keep you posted as my “dozens of plans” take shape.

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