On her way back from Boston in November of 1910, Lucy Maud Montgomery visited Concord, Massachusetts, where Louisa May Alcott lived and wrote Little Women . It’s no secret L.M. Montgomery was influenced by Alcott’s story - it was hard not to be at the turn of the 20th century. Published in the 1860s, Little Women snowballed in popularity as the decades continued. It’s clear Montgomery’s visit had an effect on her, even if she only briefly writes of it in her journal.
“ It gave a strange reality to the books of (hers) which I have read to see those places where (she) once lived and labored. ”- The Selected Journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery Volume II - Nov. 1910
It doesn’t take a history lesson to see the influence Alcott had on the Anne of Green Gables series. In fact, the readership - both at the time and now - remains quite shared between the two stories, with each becoming classics of young womanhood.
With such a similar genre and story of adolescence, family, and romance, the two never seem to come untangled. Both authors famously conjure their hometowns (of Cavendish, Prince Edward Island and Concord, Massachusetts, respectively) with a tangible comfort, even when set nearly fifty years apart.
Two precocious, hair-oriented young writing women for protagonists reaffirm the similarities. Anne and Jo carve very similar life paths because of this, with Anne and Jo both leaving home and pursuing lives as freelance writers. Both are called back home throughout the stories.
“ There's such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I'm such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn't be half so interesting. ” -Anne, Anne of Green Gables
“ You are the gull, Jo, strong and wild, fond of the storm and the wind, flying far out to sea, and happy all alone .” -Beth, Little Women
Alcott’s influence on Montgomery appears in a small scale as well. The most famous similarity is the almost identical proposal and rejection scene, between Jo and Laurie, and Anne and
Gilbert, respectively. Not only do both scenes see the childhood flame confess their love for Jo/Anne and a contested rejection, the actual language of Montgomery’s chapter is an uncanny
mirror to Alcott’s.
"No, Teddy. Please don't!"
"I will, and you must hear me. It's no use, Jo, we've got to have it out, and the sooner the better for both of us [...] I've loved you ever since I've known you, Jo, couldn't help it, you've been so good to me. I've tried to show it, but you wouldn't let me. Now I'm going to make you hear, and give me an answer, for I can't go on so any longer."
"I wanted to save you this. I thought you'd understand..."
"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."
- Anne of the Island Chapter XX
Jo’s rejection of Laurie - in its book and multiple film versions - has become one of the most controversial moments. Some readers have always wished for Jo and Laurie to end up together, frustrated with Jo’s rejection of him, only for her to later marry Professor Bhaer. Anne’s rejection, however, sees her move towards another suiter, only to return to Gilbert and ultimately accept his proposal. It’s almost as if Montgomery is writing a revision of Little Women within her story, creating a romance she and her readers had always hoped for.
As close as the sisterhood between the stories is, and as fun it is to imagine their call-and-response bond, Montgomery certainly saw Anne to be separate from Alcott’s world
entirely. In her journal, she rarely if ever makes reference to Little Women , but when her work is adapted for the first time, the similarity is evoked again.
“ It was a pretty little play well photographed, but I think if I hadn't already known it was from my book, that I would never had recognized it.. ”
-The Selected Journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery Volume II - Feb. 1920
In 1919, the first filmed adaptation of Anne of Green Gables was produced. All copies of the film have since been lost to time, but Montgomery got to see it, remarking in her journal on its many inaccuracies. First and foremost was that it was set in Little Women territory of New England, which insulted her greatly.
“ The landscape and folks were 'New England', never P.E Island. Mary Miles Minter was a sweet, sugary heroine utterly unlike my gingery Anne [...] A skunk and an American flag were introduced-both equally unknown in PE Island. I could have shrieked with rage over the latter. Such crass, blatant Yankeeism! ”
- The Selected Journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery Volume II - Feb. 1920
While Alcott’s influence is certainly welcomed into the warmth and charm of Anne of Green Gables , Montgomery sees the independence of her story very clearly. Whether the similarities
are intentional or otherwise, Green Gables is a PEI story, and Anne is her own woman.
The Selected Journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery Volume II
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