The Characters (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
The novel is densely peopled by a rural community about its everyday business. Although there is a pastoral quality to the writing, Montgomery’s characterization does not idealize. Characters have faults and virtues; many have icy exteriors with softer hearts. Only Anne’s two role models are idealized: They are presented as Anne would see them, on pedestals, rather than as rounded personalities. The contrasting presentations of Mr. Phillips and Miss Stacy exemplify this characterization dichotomy; however poor a teacher Phillips is, he can be imagined in real-life terms. It is difficult to do this with Miss Stacy.
The novel is dominated by Anne’s strong, willful, and brilliant character, which is revealed through a series of episodes that usually fit a pattern. Anne typically experiences a situation, reconstructs its reality imaginatively, goes through a catastrophe, then experiences contrition, punishment, and insight; finally, she becomes reconciled to reality. However, several episodes depart from this pattern significantly. In one, Anne has to nurse a sick child through the night. Her bravery and initiative are shown here as constructive rather than as compensatory fantasy. The episode demonstrates both the degree to which Anne has grown up and also the community’s gradual recognition of her real qualities. As she grows into mid-adolescence, Anne’s successes outweigh her failures; her characterization perhaps becomes sentimentalized at times...
(The entire section is 554 words.)
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