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Lessons on Love from Anne and Gilbert

Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe- a classic literary couple from the beloved series Anne of Green Gables. Last week, I shared why these books hold a special place in my heart. Today, I want to explore some things we learn about love from the story of Anne and Gilbert. Granted, there is much more to the Anne of Green Gables story than just the romance between Anne and Gilbert, but to me, their slowly budding and blossoming relationship is one of the most romantic of all.

The Story of Anne and Gilbert

**SPOILER ALERT! I am going to write out the details of Anne and Gilbert's story. If you want to find out for yourself how it happens, you probably shouldn't read my summary of it. :)

Let me first give a run-down of their love story. There is much more that happens in these first four books, but I am only going to share what happens between Anne and Gilbert:

Anne of Green Gables

This book takes place during Anne and Gilbert's years in grade school. Anne is adopted by Matthew and Marilla of Avonlea at age 11. Gilbert who lives in the same town is 13. When Gibert first meets the red-haired, starry-eyed orphan, he is intrigued by her, and decides to get her attention the way a 13-year-old would think is best, pulling one of her red braids and calling her "carrots". Little does he know that he struck a sensitive nerve in Anne. She is terribly offended, and with that dramatic temper of hers, she breaks her school slate over Gilbert's head and vows to hate him for the rest of her existence. Gilbert tries again and again to apologize, but Anne stubbornly refuses to forgive him or even acknowledge his presence. Through the rest of the book, as Anne and her other schoolmates are getting themselves into trouble and having adventures, Gilbert continues to be kind to her, and it's obvious that he genuinely likes Anne. Finally, after Marilla shares a hard-learned lesson about not holding a grudge from her own life, Anne decides to forgive Gilbert, and realizes that he and she have the potential to get along well and become very dear friends.

Anne of Avonlea

This book takes place during the 2 years that Anne and Gilbert are both teaching school in and near Avonlea. During these two years, Anne and Gilbert become quite good friends and spend much time together with their other friends in Avonlea. During these two years they see other couples starting to pair off, including Anne's bosom friend Diana, who becomes engaged to Fred Wright, one of Gilbert's chums. Gilbert, who has harbored a crush on Anne since their childhood, is of course hoping that he and Anne will pair off, but Anne doesn't seem to have any romantic interests for herself.

During the course of this book, Anne and Diana become acquainted with a Miss Lavendar Lewis, who is a sweet and lovely old maid in her forties who never married. They come to find out that Miss Lavendar was once engaged to her sweetheart, Stephen Irving, but after a terrible disagreement, Mr. Irving left Avonlea and the couple never reconciled. Anne, Diana, and Gilbert play a part in reuniting Mr. Irving (now a widower) and Lavendar Lewis, and at the end of the book, they marry. Anne delights in the romantic reunion of the long-parted lovers. Gibert reminds her: “Yes, it's beautiful,' said Gilbert, looking steadily down into Anne's uplifted face, 'but wouldn't it have been more beautiful still, Anne, if there had been no separation or misunderstanding . . . if they had come hand in hand all the way through life, with no memories behind them but those which belonged to each other?”

Then, Anne experiences a brief glimpse into the special something that has developed between herself and Gilbert. “For a moment Anne's heart fluttered queerly and for the first time her eyes faltered under Gilbert's gaze and a rosy flush stained the paleness of her face. It was as if a veil that had hung before her inner consciousness had been lifted, giving to her view a revelation of unsuspected feelings and realities. Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one's life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one's side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart its pages betrayed the rhythm and the music, perhaps. . . perhaps. . .love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath.” It is only a brief glimpse, however, because as you'll see in book three, Anne is still very blind to her true feelings towards Gilbert.

Anne of the Island

In this book, Anne and Gilbert are both off to college at Redmond University in Nova Scotia. Anne and Gilbert are both diving into their studies and enjoying new friendships with their fellow college students. At first, Gilbert makes frequent calls on Anne, and Anne notices more and more that Gilbert is hinting at becoming her beau and expressing romantic feelings for her, which she is quick to deflect. She regards him dearly as a good friend and doesn't want to him to spoil their friendship with his romantic notions. Finally, Gilbert can hold back no longer, and proposes to her. "Never mind Phil and the violets just now, Anne," said Gilbert quietly, taking her hand in a clasp from which she could not free it. "There is something I want to say to you." "Oh, don't say it," cried Anne, pleadingly. "Don't - PLEASE, Gilbert." "I must. Things can't go on like this any longer. Anne, I love you. You know I do. I - I can't tell you how much. Will you promise me that some day you'll be my wife?" "I - I can't," said Anne miserably. "Oh, Gilbert - you - you've spoiled everything." "Don't you care for me at all?" Gilbert asked after a very dreadful pause, during which Anne had not dared to look up. "Not - not in that way. I do care a great deal for you as a friend. But I don't love you, Gilbert." "But can't you give me some hope that you will - yet?" "No, I can't," exclaimed Anne desperately. "I never, never can love you - in that way - Gilbert. You must never speak of this to me again."

After Anne rejects him, Gilbert leaves her alone. He doesn't call on her anymore, or even talk to her. She broke his heart, and he finally gives up. Some time after this, Anne is out walking in a park near the college and is caught in a sudden rain storm, only to be rescued by Roy Gardner, a fellow college student who seems to have walked right out of Anne's romantic visions--the embodiment of her perfect tall, handsome, and distinguished hero. They date for the remaining two years of college, during which Anne is swept up completely by Roy's romantic courtship--bouquets of red roses, poetic love letters, fancy carriage rides. Yet, she misses Gilbert and the wonderful friendship they had and finds herself comparing Roy to Gilbert often, though she will not admit it to herself. "Gilbert would never have dreamed of writing a sonnet to her eyebrows. But then, Gilbert could see a joke. She had once told Roy a funny story--and he had not seen the point of it. She recalled the chummy laugh she and Gilbert had had together over it, and wondered uneasily if life with a man who had no sense of humor might not be somewhat uninteresting in the long run. But who could expect a melancholy, inscrutable hero to see the humorous side of things?"

At the end of the school year, Anne is getting ready for a formal dance, and all her friends are excited for her as there are hints that Roy will propose to her. But when Roy does propose to her that evening, she suddenly realizes that she cannot marry him. She has been in love with only the idea of him and becomes aware of how superficial her girlish fantasies of love have been. She returns home that summer, and after some time hears the news that Gilbert is very sick and near death. She keeps a vigil through the night at her window as she realizes she has always loved Gilbert. As the author puts it, "The is a book of Revelation in every one's life, as there is in the Bible. . . . She loved Gilbert—had always loved him! She knew that now. She knew that she could no more cast him out of her life without agony than she could have cut off her right hand and cast it from her. And the knowledge had come too late—too late even for the bitter solace of being with him at the last. If she had not been so blind—so foolish—she would have had the right to go to him now. But he would never know that she loved him—he would go away from this life thinking that she did not care.”

But as you can imagine, Gilbert makes it through the night, and starts to recover from the illness. After awhile, he is well enough to receive visitors and Anne visits him often, and they start to rekindle their friendship. Gilbert must sense something new in Anne, because one afternoon as they are out walking, he asks her: “Have you any unfulfilled dreams, Anne?” asked Gilbert. Something in his tone—something she had not heard since that miserable evening in the orchard at Patty’s Place—made Anne’s heart beat wildly. “I have a dream,” he said slowly. “I persist in dreaming it, although it has often seemed to me that it could never come true. I dream of a home with a hearth-fire in it, a cat and dog, the footsteps of friends— and YOU!” Anne wanted to speak but she could find no words. Happiness was breaking over her like a wave. It almost frightened her. “I asked you a question over two years ago, Anne. If I ask it again today will you give me a different answer?” Still Anne could not speak. But she lifted her eyes, shining with all the love-rapture of countless generations, and looked into his for a moment. He wanted no other answer.” "I'll have to ask you to wait a long time, Anne," said Gilbert sadly. "It will be three years before I'll finish my medical course. And even then there will be no diamond sunbursts and marble halls." Anne laughed. "I don't want sunbursts and marble halls. I just want YOU." Gilbert drew her close to him and kissed her. Then they walked home together in the dusk, crowned king and queen in the bridal realm of love, along winding paths fringed with the sweetest flowers that ever bloomed, and over haunted meadows where winds of hope and memory blew.”

They finally made it! They are on the same page, both in love with each other as ever, and engaged to be married. And the rest of series goes to tell of their engagement, wedding, and married life with their children, with of course, many more characters and adventures to be had.

Some Thoughts on Love from Anne and Gilbert

What can we learn of love from this classic friends-to-lovers romance trope of Anne and Gilbert?

1. Passion and feelings, even on the negative spectrum, mean you care. Even when Anne so passionately hated Gilbert in her youth, that was evidence of her feelings for him. He touched a nerve in her, and she felt the offense deeply. And as she determinedly avoided him and held her grudge against him, she noticed him- how he was equal to her in her wits and school studies, how he was quite a gentleman, and enjoyable to be around, and how he seemed to be quite interested in her. As Anne reflects in one of her letters to Gilbert during their engagement: "Comedy and tragedy are so mixed up in life, Gilbert. The only thing that haunts me is that tale of the two who lived together fifty years and hated each other all that time. I can't believe they really did. Somebody has said that 'hate is only love that has missed its way.' I feel sure that under the hatred they really loved each other ... just as I really loved you all those years I thought I hated you ... and I think death would show it to them. I'm glad I found out in life." When you really have strong feelings for someone, it means you care, even if those feelings may sometimes be negative feelings, That's why the "enemies-to-lovers" trope works so well. The couple starts out hating each other because of whatever the situation is, but they feel such a fire towards each other because deep down there is a draw towards one another. Usually the supposed "hate" is really just a superficial misunderstanding or unfortunate circumstance, and as its resolved, those passionate emotions of hate evolve into passionate feelings of love.

This is true in romantic love, but also in all types of relationships and endeavors. If you are feeling frustrated about how a project is going and you can't let it go until you figure it out and get it right, it means you care about the endeavor, even if it's driving you crazy at the moment. Often our loved ones and family members are the ones that can evoke the strongest reactions from us, but it's because we care about them and they care about us. If we didn't care about their happiness and what happens to them, we wouldn't invest time or feelings into them and vice versa. Passion shows a level of commitment and caring for someone. Ideally that passion is shown in a positive way, but even negative passion, which should be resolved and turned to positive attention, is an indication of where our heart is.

2. Don't let your ideals blind you to even more beautiful realities. Even when we as readers feel exasperated with Anne and her inability to see the love between her and Gilbert when it's right in front of her face, we identify with her because we each have some of that idealistic fantasy of what love is "supposed" to look like. Anne gets along splendidly with Gilbert and enjoys being with him. She admires who he is and feels comfortable with him. Beyond that, she desires his companionship and feels drawn to him. Gilbert recognizes his feelings for her right away, but Anne has a much harder time seeing her feelings for Gilbert as love. She sees Gilbert as a chum, a friend, but she can't see him as her love because she is blinded by her girlish romantic ideals.

I love this quote from a time during Anne's courtship with Roy Gardner: "Anne had wandered down to the Dryad's Bubble and was curled up among the ferns at the root of the big white birch where she and Gilbert had so often sat on summers gone by. He had gone into the newspaper office again when college closed, and Avonlea seemed very dull without him. He never wrote to her, and Anne missed the letters that never came. To be sure, Roy wrote twice a week; his letters were exquisite compositions which would have read beautifully in a memoir or biography. Anne felt herself more deeply in love with him than ever when she read them, but her heart never gave that queer, quick painful bound at the sight of his letters which had given one day when Mrs. Hiram Sloane had handed her an envelope addressed in Gilbert's black, upright handwriting. Anne had hurried home to the east gable and opened it eagerly--to find a typewritten copy of some college society report--only that and nothing more. Anne flung the harmless screed across her room and sat down to write an especially nice epistle to Roy."

Anne is in love with the idea of her perfect man, Roy, but deep down, she longs for Gilbert, who is in actuality a perfect match for her. But Gilbert, "the boy next door" doesn't fit the tall, dark, and austere man that Anne has envisioned since childhood, and it takes her a long time to finally realize that her girlish fantasy of love was really just a fantasy, and not what she wants in real life. Thankfully, she realizes this in the nick of time, and is able to recover her relationship with Gilbert and embrace the beautiful romance she has found with him.

Isn't this true of all of us? We all have ideals of what love, and frankly life, should be like and look like, and sometimes it's hard to accept when love and life go along a different path than we have envisioned for ourselves. But if the unexpected path holds goodness and fulfillment, we need to learn to let go of our fantasies and embrace what is before us, and be careful not to blind ourselves to beautiful possibilities like Anne did for so long.

3. Love is patient, but sometimes needs to let go. Gilbert is a model for patience. He has loved Anne from the beginning and knows it. And he patiently waits and waits for her. He is one of her closest friends and confidants and manages such self-control to not push her to go faster in their friendship than she wants. But eventually, after she rips his heart out and tells him there is no hope for any possibility that their friendship could turn into romance, he leaves her alone. And I think that is what was needed. She needed his patience at first to allow their friendship to blossom and deepen. But if he would have hung around forever, and not given her space and a bit of a cold shoulder, I don't think Anne would have ever realized how much she needed--and missed him. She has those memories of their sweet moments together to draw upon, and deeply feels the lack of them when they are gone. Love is patient, but also needs to recognize when distance is needed. I think this is true in the department of romantic love, but also can be true in friendships and family relationships. We need to be able discern when to push through and when to give space, all in the name of our love and desire for our loved one's well-being. Sometimes a steady, patience presence is needed. Sometimes some space and distance is needed. And sometimes a gentle push into uncomfortable territory is needed. Gilbert was able to discern those needs for himself and Anne, and we need to learn how to recognize those needs and boundaries in our relationships.


There you have it! I hope you were able to glean something from my musings. :) Now that I have given away every bit of Anne and Gilbert's love story.... there's nothing left for you to read! JUST KIDDING! Of course, if you haven't yet read their full story, go and read it for yourself. I did give away all the plot points of their romance, but I don't have the gift that L. M. Montgomery does with words. She paints their pictures more deeply and fully than I ever hope to. And there are so many other loveable characters and adventures that it is well worth the read!

So whether it's picking up a copy of Anne of Green Gables, or another delightful romance, happy reading this week!

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