When I was younger, my Mom introduced me to one of her favorite books: Anne of Green Gables. She always talked about Anne with an "E." Being a dreamy child who, more often than naught, lived in my own little world, I instantly connected with Anne Shirley because she did the same. Not being a boy who saw books as being a girl's or boy's book, I devoured the entire series (I love series books, probably starting with those about Narnia. It was C.S. Lewis' fault that I spent so much time in my closet hoping it would open up to another, more magical world. My closet never did and I always put that down to being something that worked only with wardrobes). Anne and I were kindred spirits (just as I was with Jo March, Peter Pan, Meg Murray, Alice in Wonderland, Stuart Little, and so many others).
One of my favorite Anne Shirley quotes (and there are many) is, "Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive--it's such an interesting world. It wouldn't be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There'd be no scope for imagination then, would there?"
I loved any literary character with imagination. Whenever I read a book, I entered that world and inhabited it. My reluctance to leave these worlds is probably why I've loved series books for so long and continue to read them (The Hunger Games trilogy being the last one). Books have also played a large part in shaping how I see the world.
One of my favorite writers is Charles Dickens. He has written about the plight of the orphan in numerous books, Oliver Twist being the most obvious. Dickens is an amazing author who knows how to bring a reader into his complex and lively novels filled with characters who have the most wonderful names (and is the one who J.K. Rowling owes a great debt for that in her own work). He is a master of creating the worlds he writes about so much so that one can feel the misty damp or smell the plum pudding or see The Old Curiosity Shop. And he had a heart for the poor, the neglected, and the oppressed in his society. Is it any wonder, then, that so many of his novels are populated with orphans? Because of his concern for them, it should not be a surprise that I grew up with a concern for orphans.
It wasn't long after I discovered Dickens that I stumbled upon Charlotte Brontë and her most famous novel, Jane Eyre. Like Anne Shirley, Jane Eyre is an orphan but, unlike Anne, she grows up in cruelty and neglect. Despite this, Jane develops a real moral center and a definite sense of self that is more than her background.
Just as I loved Anne Shirley for her pluck and imagination, I loved Jane Eyre for her dignity in a society that did not recognize her worth. This is seen in my favorite quote from this novel. It comes when Jane responds to Mr. Rochester, who she believes is toying with her and belittling her feelings, "Do you think I am an automaton? - a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! - and I have as much soul as you - and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh: it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God's feet, equal - as we are!"
How can a reader not love her for saying this?
So much of the literature I have read over the years has been filled with orphans. Each one of them has made an imprint not only on my imagination, but on my heart as well. In so many ways, it was these novels that have led to my desire to adopt a child.
Since it all started with Anne Shirley, I bought a 100th anniversary edition of Anne of Green Gables to give to our adopted child. And I'm sure that, deep down, I hope to adopt an Anne with an "E" of my own.