Originally, I was going to write a post ranking all the Montgomery heroes, I’d become acquainted with thus far (I don’t believe I’ve read even half of her books, by the way) but seeing as I’ve already talked about Barney Snaith in my review of The Blue Castle, and I like Gilbert but don’t really fangirl over him, and I dislike Eric from Kilmeny of the Orchard, I decided to focus this post on the Blythe boys. I was going to talk about Kenneth, too, and the Meredith boys, but this post ended up being ridiculously long, so I gave up that idea. But I still love them lots.
You know, the nice thing about the Anne series is that you can see the characters you love grow up – and all of Anne’s children are adorable when they’re younger, and wonderful when they grow up. I’d read Rilla of Ingleside several times before I went back to the previous books in the series (I have read them all, but it was so long ago that I didn’t remember much of any of the books – that is, until I started re-reading them) and it’s delightful to read Rainbow Valley and Anne of Ingleside and see the incidents and escapades and adventures all the children get into.
ALTHOUGH. Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote Anne of Ingleside (which I’ve read the most recently in prep for this week) several years after Rilla of Ingleside, so there’s a fair bit of foreshadowing that had me tearing up in several places. And foreshadowing aside, it’s hard to read about all the children playing so happily, going through their little heartbreaks and worries and fears, and knowing that in a few years, they’ll be in the middle of a world war. (AND WALTER AS A CHILD IS SO SWEET AND THEN HE DIIIIIIES.) There’s one part that comes after Jem has gone through about five dogs, all of whom die or run away or get claimed by their previous owners, and then there’s this:
“Motherest,” he said in a choked voice, “Why wouldn’t Bruno love me when I loved him so much? Am I . . . do you think I am the kind of boy dogs don’t like?”
“No, darling. Remember how Gyp loved you. It was just that Bruno had only so much love to give . . . and he had given it all. There are dogs like that . . . one-man dogs.”
“Anyhow, Bruno and Roddy are happy,” said Jem with grim satisfaction, as he bent over and kissed the top of Mother’s smooth ripply head. “But I’ll never have another dog.”
Anne thought this would pass; he had felt the same when Gyppy died. But it did not. The iron had bitten deeply into Jem’s soul. Dogs were to come and go at Ingleside . . . dogs that belonged just to the family and were nice dogs, whom Jem petted and played with as the others did. But there was to be no “Jem’s dog” until a certain “Little Dog Monday” was to take possession of his heart and love him with a devotion passing Bruno’s love . . . a devotion that was to make history in the Glen. But that was still many a long year away; and a very lonely boy climbed into Jem’s bed that night.
WHY DO YOU TORTURE US SO, LUCY MAUD MONTGOMERY?
Anyway, now seems as good a time as any to discuss Jem. I haven’t had the pleasure of re-reading Anne’s House of Dreams, so I don’t have that background information, but it doesn’t really matter. (Though I’ll see about reading it ASAP.) First of all, his name. I love how Anne and Gilbert named all their children after important people in their life (not important as in famous, but, you know…) because Jem is named after Captain Jim AND Matthew (that’s his middle name), which I think is lovely. And he’s awesome as a child – buying that string of pearls for Anne (then finding that they’re fake and resolving to tell her right away), his bad luck with dogs, and that time when he wanted to see the guy getting tattooed and everyone thinks he’s run off. LMM had a way of writing about children, didn’t she?
Little details in these books, even Rilla of Ingleside, always slip past me, like the fact that Jem was a prisoner-of-war and he ESCAPED. I want to know the whole story! Actually, I should probably write some fanfiction. When he writes to Rilla (I believe it’s Rilla) and says that he’s scared and then he goes MIA and turns up later…that really reminds me of a Combat! episode, actually. (“Mail Call”) But I digress… Later on, Jem becomes a doctor like Gilbert later on (that’s one good thing about reading The Blythes Are Quoted – you pick up all this stuff) and he and Faith got married (duh) and THEY NAMED ONE OF THEIR SONS WALTER. How perfect is that???
And thennnn there’s Walter. *freaks out* As you may or may not have guessed by now, I love Walter. No, make that ‘I adore Walter’. (Yes, I over-use italics and all-caps the way fifteen-year-old Rilla tends to do.) He’s such an amazing character that I can’t help but fangirl over him (although it’s a shame that any character that I love usually dies).
Now, it’s come to my attention that some people think that Walter’s a coward (how DARE they) just like all so many people do in Anne of Ingleside and Rainbow Valley and Rilla of Ingleside), and I know everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but that’s just wrong, guys. I wouldn’t call the little boy with the over-active imagination who walked six miles in the dead of night to see his mother one last time before she died a coward. Would you? Or the slightly older boy who didn’t want to fight anyone but who soundly trounced a bully for insulting his (Walter’s, that is) mother and Faith Meredith. Would you?
Walter did not stay for any conqueror’s meed. He sprang over the fence and rushed down the spruce hill to Rainbow Valley. He felt none of the victor’s joy, but he felt a certain calm satisfaction in duty done and honour avenged–mingled with a sickish qualm when he thought of Dan’s gory nose. It had been so ugly, and Walter hated ugliness.
Also, he began to realize that he himself was somewhat sore and battered up. His lip was cut and swollen and one eye felt very strange. In Rainbow Valley he encountered Mr. Meredith, who was coming home from an afternoon call on the Miss Wests. That reverend gentleman looked gravely at him.
“It seems to me that you have been fighting, Walter?”
“Yes, sir,” said Walter, expecting a scolding.
“What was it about?”
“Dan Reese said my mother wrote lies and that that Faith was a pig-girl,” answered Walter bluntly.
“Oh–h! Then you were certainly justified, Walter.”
“Do you think it’s right to fight, sir?” asked Walter curiously.
“Not always–and not often–but sometimes–yes, sometimes,” said John Meredith. “When womenkind are insulted for instance–as in your case. My motto, Walter, is, don’t fight till you’re sure you ought to, and then put every ounce of you into it. In spite of sundry discolorations I infer that you came off best.”
“Yes. I made him take it all back.”
“Very good–very good, indeed. I didn’t think you were such a fighter, Walter.”
“I never fought before–and I didn’t want to right up to the last–and then,” said Walter, determined to make a clean breast of it, “I liked it while I was at it.”
The Rev. John’s eyes twinkled.
“You were–a little frightened–at first?”
“I was a whole lot frightened,” said honest Walter. “But I’m not going to be frightened any more, sir. Being frightened of things is worse than the things themselves.”
WALTER, I LOVE YOU.
And what about the time he ran out into No-Man’s Land to bring out a wounded comrade? He’s not a coward. Definitely not. (Anyway, Jem substantiates that when he writes to Rilla and says that, while he’s often scared, Walter never is.) Walter’s death is one of the saddest character deaths I’ve ever had the dubious privilege of reading about and the letter he writes is GORGEOUS (though the italics sometimes get on my nerves – the last time I read RoI, I read it on my Kindle which doesn’t have the capacity for italics, and I actually liked The Letter better). By the way, Walter/Una is just about number one of my list of ‘could have been ships’. *sob*
Third, and last of the Blythe boys is Shirley. He’s the one that Lucy Maud Montgomery never gave a focus/spotlight story to in any of her books, and I so wish she had. I want to know Shirley just as well as I do Walter and Jem. *sigh* I think the closest we ever get to any real character stuff on his part is when he enlists and goes off and he’s soooo brave and heroic there so even though I don’t know too much about him, I still think he’s awesome. (Ohhhh and Susan’s reaction to seeing him in his uniform and all that always makes me tear up.)
“So Shirley went—not radiantly, as to a high adventure, like Jem, not in a white flame of sacrifice, like Walter, but in a cool, business-like mood, as of one doing something, rather dirty and disagreeable, that had just got to be done.”
Isn’t he great?
Well, that about wraps it up (and in time, too – the length of this post got away from me about three hundred words ago). This posts was lots of fun (and very feelsy) to write, and if you’ve made it this far, I salute you. Thanks soooo much for putting up with all my fangirly comments and verbosity. 🙂
Which Blythe boy is your favorite? (Or do you favor Kenneth or one of the Meredith boys?)