Three books into L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series, all I have been able to think about since is the scene wherein Anne and Phil decide to chloroform a cat so they can kill it. I’ve been at this nearly every day for a year. I set out reading this series because I wanted to read it all, as an adult, especially since I didn’t really get to in my childhood. I was enjoying it, even though my grandmother’s books have that old book look-and-feel to them, crisp yellowed pages of fragility and all. She’s got almost the whole series, so it seemed like a great opportunity.
However, this scene—and those following in the same regard, pertaining to the cat in question—is what haunts me above all else that happened within the pages of all the books. I’ve read this, and now I can’t stop wondering whether Montgomery hated cats. I looked to Google, searching for all I could find. I learned more deal breakers—I finally understand the saying “don’t meet your heroes”. Even though she’s not a hero, I see her differently now. She had a blatantly obvious favorite son and alienated the remainder of her children, including a son who never quite got over it.
A cached page claims Montgomery wrote in her journals that she loved cats, calling it a “little known fact”.
Still, it haunts me. A year before I finished Anne of the Island, my own cat died; maybe I was feeling sensitive to it all. Either way, my perception of L.M. Montgomery is tainted. I imagined her living a life along the lines of Lois Duncan, a woman who wrote books about “bad things happening to young girls” and could continue no further after her own daughter was murdered. I think the little girl in me hoped that Montgomery was more like Lois Duncan, because my mother wasn’t motherly. I think it’s the little girl in me, who grew up into the person I am today, who is disappointed because L.M. Montgomery’s treatment of her kids, from what I’ve gathered from research I’ve conducted over the last year, is eerily similar to the way my mom treats her children—living in fantasy land when reality is inconvenient and allowing it to affect the lives of her children.
I know a cached page claims Montgomery loved cats, but that is the only page I have found claiming she felt anything positive for cats. No one else seems to say anything. Maybe it’s a scene created for the nature study movement. Maybe I’m sour because the author of one of my favorite childhood characters lived a life teetering on the same edge as that of my mother’s and it’s a little too real for me. Maybe it’s just because my cat died.
Either way, I’m not sure if I’ll continue. I don’t feel anything pulling at me to continue anymore. I have interest in other books I’d rather read, wherein I don’t expect anyone to be chloroforming any cats anytime soon. I am also totally judging cat murderers of the early 1900s.
Has your perception of an author ever been tainted after a research conduction?
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If you read any of her other work you’ll notice that most of her protagonists have an affinity for cats. I think any negativity or cruelty directed at the felines in her novels just reflects the period the story is set in. I still have elderly relatives that think it’s perfectly fine to drown kittens. They’re all old folks that live out on farms in the middle of no where. She usually portrays the anti-cat characters in a negative light lol
“A house isn’t a home without the ineffable contentment of a cat with its tail folded about its feet. A cat gives mystery, charm, suggestion.” -Emily’s Quest
“People who don’t like cats always seem to think there is some peculiar virtue in not liking them.” -The Blue Castle
I’d read three of her AoG books, but only started on the fourth and ultimately did not finish it because the book was too fragile. I’m glad, too, because I found the premise of the whole series problematic and learned more about L. M. Montgomery’s treatment of her children (favoritism, neglect). While I find the “role model” thing annoying, redundant and ridiculous on its own, her personal history is sadder than her books’. She dumped her so-called love of her life for a pastor because the former’s credentials didn’t have clout. She was horribly depressed, and her children suffered as a result. This isn’t to say depressed people can’t have children — rather, her critical husband despised it and she essentially mourned the life she could have had with her one true love.
Respectfully, she was strong and resilient. Personally, I could not, and still cannot, read more books she authored because of my own personal history. I do it more out of respect for her legacy, as she was essentially a woman ahead of her time in a society who lacked toleration, and I do not wish to romanticize that time period.
This post was written three and a half years ago.
I find the attitude to animals generally puzzling in these books. Usually they’re adored sentimentally, but in one of the early ones a farmer tried unsuccessfully to hang his dog. No reason is given, but the dog escapes & runs straight to its master….who promptly strings it up again. This is related to Anne in a semi-humorous fashion.
There are numerous instances in Montgomery’s books of cats & dogs being poisoned, & in “Rilla of Ingleside” the Blythes allow their eldest son’s dog to wait at the station for his master’s return from the War for FOUR YEARS in all weathers. People comment casually on how cold & rheumatic the plot dog is, but that’s as far as their concern.
The worst incident……frankly appalling…..is the same book, where a child DROWNS a kitten he adores as a sacrifice to God. The adults seem to be touched by this act of faith!
I can only think that in a rural community over a century ago, attitudes were different. Every book about Montgomery claims she loved cats & kept care all her life.
I too find this trait very worrying.
Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction
I think I would have a major issue with cat murdering as well. How horrible! I’ve never read this series, but this certainly doesn’t make me want to pick it up.
Heh, my favorite author is J.D. Salinger. Who was quite controlling of his most long-term wife and quite the pedophile in many of his other choices for romantic partners. So yeah, I feel ya.