The Wisdom of Marilla Cuthbert: Quotes From Green Gables' Matriarch
“She looked like a woman of narrow experience and rigid conscience, which she was; but there was a saving something about her mouth which, if it had been ever so slightly developed, might have been considered indicative of a sense of humor.”-Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery
Marilla Cuthbert may be strict and have a rigid conscience, but despite her “narrow experience”, she is full of wisdom that may surprise some and this is abundantly clear throughout both the Anne of Green Gables films and Road To Avonlea.
Here is some of the best wisdom from Marilla Cuthbert.
"No I cannot. To despair is to turn your back on God."
This is one of Anne and Marilla’s first interactions, and it’s clear that Marilla is exasperated when Anne asks if she can imagine being in the depths of despair. This moment gives a glimpse into the type of person Marilla is, but her response also holds a lot of wisdom. When she tells Anne that to despair is to turn your back on God, it can be taken to mean that you cannot give in to despair. That you need to persevere through life’s challenges with your head up and a steady gaze ahead.
"Good behaviour in the first place is more important than theatrical apologies afterward."
Marilla is amused by Anne’s theatrical apology to Rachel Lynde- it’s obvious just from the expression on her face. But, when she tells Anne that good behaviour is more important than apologizing after the fact, she imparts an important life lesson. Rachel was undoubtedly too harsh to Anne and very unkind in her criticisms and she deserved to be told off. But this moment serves as a building stone for Anne. It’s better to be kind, to keep your criticisms or unsought after negative opinions to yourself. To not be reactionary, but to think before you act. Marilla knows this and she wants Anne to start thinking about these things too.
"I think you may be a kindred spirit after all."
By telling Anne this, and using her moniker for those who are truly of the same ilk, Marilla is showing her that she is accepted and welcome at Green Gables. At this moment, Anne has done something spectacularly reckless by trying to dye her hair, right on the heels of smacking Gilbert over the head with her slate. Marilla starts out angry, but realizes that what Anne actually needs at that moment is not to be reprimanded, but embraced. She has the wisdom to move past her anger and extend Anne an olive branch.
"You mustn’t think that I don’t love you as much as Matthew did. It’s never been easy for me to say the things from my heart but you’re like my own flesh and blood now."
When Matthew passes away, Marilla is finally able to bridge the final emotional gap between her and Anne. When she admits to a tearful Anne, that it’s never been easy for her to share her deepest emotions, it's very relatable. Marilla has the wisdom to see that she can no longer hold her tongue; that she must speak up to show Anne that while she feels lonely and bereft, she is loved and not alone.
"I always felt rather sorry. I sort of wished that I’d forgiven him when I had a chance."
When Marilla admits that she wishes she had forgiven John Blythe, she is not just highlighting a life regret, but also imparting an important truth. Forgiveness is not easy; it is far easier to hold on to anger and hurt. Perhaps you don’t always need to verbalize that forgiveness to others, maybe that is just something that you internalize. But you should allow yourself to be open to it, to not harden against it. You’ll save yourself a lot of regrets and thoughts of “what if”.
"Well, maybe it does. But I'd rather walk calmly along and do without both flying and thud."
Like many things that Marilla says, to help keep the people around her grounded, there is a practical lesson to be taken from this quotation. There is nothing wrong with having high hopes, but you perhaps shouldn’t allow yourself to get too carried away. If you keep yourself grounded in reality, then you are less likely to falter when things don’t go as you wanted them to.
What are your favourite words of wisdom that Marilla has imparted?
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