Since my non-profit job only takes up about one day a week, I spent a good amount of time last week doing some small home-improvement projects. Several doorways and window sidings needed to be recaulked and painted, and, as everyone in my household knows, that is a job for Hailey. In order to make the work less tedious (and to cross a couple books off of my summer reading list) I downloaded Anne of Anvonlea and Anne of the Island off of librivox and got through both books in a matter of days. First of all, this was VERY satisfying because I think the last time I read a book for pleasure was in January. Secondly, I found myself gaining not only enjoyment from the narrative of Anne Shirley’s life, but also gaining inspiration and insight to the kind of person I want to be. Now, that may sound a little silly, but for as long as I can remember I have had book character role models (Sara Crewe, Leslie Burke, Harriet the Spy, Lizzie Bennett, and Stargirl to name a few). I have had so many book character role models that for my 18th birthday my mom made a banner of all of them, one for each year of my life. However, I think Anne Shirley may just trump all of the rest and here are some reasons why:
1. Anne Shirley is passionate. She does nothing by halves and throws her whole heart into the things she cares about even when they aren’t easy.
2. She has an imagination (as she is quick to inform anyone who will listen) and a knack for picturing people complexly and understands that there’s more to them than what meets the eye. Her imagination also allows her to form a creative vision for her own future that is outside of people’s expectations and, in many cases, outside of the social norm.
3. She sees beauty everywhere– in old houses, in new forests, in spring, in snow, in all kinds of relationships, in animals, in youth, in age, in flowers, in graves, in people’s lives, in her friends, in the people that those around her write off as odd and not worth their time. She truly has a gift for seeing beauty and drawing it out of people.
4. Anne’s spiritual views and beliefs are the sort I would like to emulate. She sees God everywhere that she sees beauty, especially in nature. One of my favorite things Anne says is,
If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do. I’d go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep, deep woods and I’d look up into the sky—up—up—up—into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I’d just feel a prayer.
She feels the connection between herself, other people, nature and God in a way that I find particularly beautiful. As she grows older and begins to teach her adopted siblings and children about God, she teaches them compassion, mercy, forgiveness, trust, honesty and above all, love. She recognizes from a very young age that love is the most important teaching of Christianity, something that even the adults around her sometimes forget.
5. She grows. Anne is not a stagnant character who is stuck in her ways. She learns from her mistakes, grows even in difficult situations and matures out of the faults of her younger years. She recognizes that she is not perfect, but strives to always be improving herself.
6. She is a true and loyal friend. Hopelessly devoted to the people she loves, she sticks by them through think and thin, however, she is also honest with them and never loses herself in anyone else. She finds the difficult balance between serving and loving others and nurturing herself and her passions.
7. She is stubborn. I know that stubbornness is often seen as a fault, and indeed it is a double edged sword, but in Anne’s case, her stubbornness allows to her work with great determination towards what she wants. (Of course, the exception here lies in anything to do with Gilbert Blythe; somehow that boy is the one area where Anne’s stubbornness is more of a curse than a blessing. :P)
As you can tell, the affection I have for this character means that I could go on and on with this list, however I will spare you and stop for now. Suffice to say, Anne Shirley represents the kind of person I strive to be– someone who sees beauty everywhere, who is determined to keep growing as a person even when that process is painful, someone who loves passionately and puts their heart into everything they do, someone who attempts to view others complexly, with respect and honor for their stories and their uniqueness, and someone who recognizes their connection to the world and those around them. To me, her story captures the trials and joys of someone attempting to make the transition from childhood to adulthood and successfully bringing with her the child-like imagination that empowers her to live life with grace and love.