Anne of Green Gables, Anne of the Island, books, Elizabeth Hillman Waterston, Gilbert Blythe, Halifax, L.M. Montgomery, literature, Mary Henley Rubio, The Complete Journals of L.M. Montgomery: The PEI Years
Early in Anne of the Island, Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe go for a walk in Point Pleasant Park with a few friends. L.M. Montgomery doesn’t call the park “Point Pleasant,” but neither does she give it a new name, in the way that she fictionalizes Halifax as Kingsport and Dalhousie University as Redmond College. It’s simply “the park,” recognizable as Point Pleasant because of its shore road and its view of the small, treeless island in the harbour – George’s Island, here named “William’s Island.”
“Gilbert and Anne loitered a little behind the others, enjoying the calm, still beauty of the autumn afternoon under the pines of the park, on the road that climbed and twisted around the harbour shore.” The two of them are good friends at this point, but Gilbert is beginning to indicate he’d like to be more than friends. Montgomery herself sought solace in this park when she was unhappy, and Anne similarly claims, “if ever any great sorrow came to me, I would come to the pines for comfort.” Gilbert replies, “If I had my way I’d shut everything out of your life but happiness and pleasure, Anne” – and he says this “in the tone that meant ‘danger ahead.’”
Anne cuts the conversation short and they rejoin the others in a “little pavilion,” from which they “watch an autumn sunset of deep red fire and pallid gold.” Here’s a picture of one of the old pavilions in Point Pleasant, from which the view is similar to what Montgomery describes in the novel – although I think it would be hard to see the sentry Anne’s friend Philippa spots on the island, standing “on the summit of the fort, right beside the flag.”
She thinks he looks “as if he had stepped out of a romance.” But of course, in fiction Montgomery can put the pavilion wherever she wants to, and make the island closer to the park.
To their left lay Kingsport, its roofs and spires dim in their shroud of violet smoke. To their right lay the harbor, taking on tints of rose and copper as it stretched out to the sunset. Before them the water shimmered, satin smooth and silver gray, and beyond, clean shaven William’s Island loomed out of the mist, guarding the town like a sturdy bulldog. Its lighthouse beacon flared through the mist like a baleful star, and was answered by another in the far horizon.
Later in the novel, when Anne and her friends are looking for a house to rent, they visit the park again “on one of April’s darling days of breeze and blue,” with Anne insisting she won’t worry about finding the right place “just now,” because worry will “spoil this lovely afternoon.” The narrator uses almost exactly the same words Montgomery used in her journal when she described her March 15, 1902 walk in Point Pleasant: “The fresh chill air was faintly charged with the aroma of pine balsam, and the sky above was crystal clear and blue – a great inverted cup of blessing.” Here’s what she says in the journal: “The fresh, chill spring air was faintly charged with the aroma of pine balsam and the sky over me was clear and blue – a great inverted cup of blessing.”
The 1985 edition of The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, Volume I: 1889-1910, edited by Mary Rubio and Elizabeth Waterston, didn’t include that lovely March 15th journal entry about Point Pleasant, which is part of why it’s so great that Rubio and Waterston are now editing The Complete Journals of L.M. Montgomery. If I hadn’t read the second volume of The Complete Journals – The PEI Years, 1901-1911, I wouldn’t have seen the connection between the novel and the journal. Rubio and Waterston don’t footnote the examples of Montgomery drawing on her journals in her fiction, likely because it happens so often. I’d be interested to read more about this topic, so if any of you have suggestions for books or essays on links between the journals and the novels – or on the role of Halifax in Montgomery’s fiction – please send them my way.
You can read my review of The Complete Journals – The PEI Years, 1901-1911 in the Fall 2013 issue of Atlantic Books Today on page 33.
This is Part One of three posts on “Anne of Green Gables in Point Pleasant Park.” I’ll post Part Two, “Gilbert Would Never Compose a Sonnet to My Eyes,” tomorrow and Part Three, “A ‘blinding flash of illumination’” on Friday.
Previous posts on L.M. Montgomery and Halifax: