She Reads & Writes

Women • Fiction • Life

Kindle Paperwhite showing the cover of the novel Anne of the Island by Lucy Maud Montgomery

“It was very dark. The rain was beating down over the shivering fields. The Haunted Woods was full of the growns of mighty trees wrung in the tempest, and the air throbbed with the thunderous crash of billows on the distant shore. And Gilbert was dying!” – In Anne of the Island by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Spoiler alert: Anne with an “E” and Gilbert Blythe are made for each other – just in case anyone out there hasn’t read the books, seen the 1985 drama, or watched the current series on Netflix.

While it’s obvious to readers and everyone in Avonlea alike, it takes our beloved Anne quite some time to realize she is in love with Gilbert. In fact, it takes until Chapter 40 of the third book in the Anne series, Anne of the Island. She finds out that Gilbert is dying of typhoid fever and is devastated to realize it may be too late to confess her love to him.

It struck me while reading that this fortieth chapter is a great example of the pathetic fallacy at work. What do I mean by pathetic fallacy? It’s a device where an author or director attributes human emotions to inanimate objects or nature. For instance, weather is often used to portray or reflect the mood of a human character.

What do I mean by pathetic fallacy? It’s a device where an author or director attributes human emotions to inanimate objects or nature.

When Anne first learns Gilbert is dying, she spends the night in despair and the weather matches her turmoil and sorrow:

“It was very dark. The rain was beating down over the shivering fields. The Haunted Woods was full of the growns of mighty trees wrung in the tempest, and the air throbbed with the thunderous crash of billows on the distant shore. And Gilbert was dying!” – In Anne of the Island by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Then in the morning, Anne wakes with hope and anticipation of news about Gilbert and the weather again matches her mood:

“The storm raged all night, but when the dawn came it was spent. Anne saw a fairy fringe of light on the skirts of darkness. Soon the eastern hilltops had a fire-shot ruby rim. The clouds rolled themselves away into great, soft, white masses on the horizon; the sky gleamed blue and silvery. A hush fell over the world.” – In Anne of the Island by Lucy Maud Montgomery

And finally, when Anne hears that Gilbert will live after all, the weather and all of nature rejoices along with her:

“Anne stood under the willows, tasting the poignant sweetness of life when some great dread has been removed from it. The morning was a cup filled with mist and glamor. In the corner near her was a rich surprise of new-blown, crystal-dewed roses. The trills and trickles of song from the birds in the big tree above her seemed in perfect accord with her mood.” – In Anne of the Island by Lucy Maud Montgomery

This device works especially well in the Anne series because Anne is so melodramatic; it’s part of why the world has fallen in love with the character since Lucy Maud Montgomery published Anne of Green Gables in 1908.

This device works especially well in the Anne series because Anne is so melodramatic.

Anne is so melodramatic and full of romance that when she is going through a rough patch she, humorously, finds romance in a world seemingly lacking romance:

“‘I’ve tried the world – it wears no more / The coloring of romance it wore,’ sighed Anne – and was straightaway much comforted by the romance in the idea of the world being denuded of romance!” – In Anne of the Island by Lucy Maud Montgomery

With a passionate soul like that, no wonder the weather meets her moods!

Have you ever noticed the pathetic fallacy being used in books and movies? Do you think this device works well? Can it be overdone? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


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