Saturday, July 19, 2008

Dorothy & Anne Shirley

Since Anne of Green Gables turns 100 years old this year, I figured it's about time to compare the popular red-haired heroine with Dorothy Gale.

Other than being girls who live on farms, both are orphans. Dorothy lives on a farm in Kansas with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. Anne lives at Green Gables, a farm in Avonlea (based on Cavendish) in Prince Edward Island in Canada. Her adoptive guardians are Marilla Cuthbert and her brother Matthew.

Matthew and Uncle Henry are a little comparable. Matthew is very shy and talks only to his closest friends. Uncle Henry keeps to himself at the start of Wonderful Wizard, though he seems to open up more to Dorothy (and even to Oz itself) as the series progressed. Likewise, Matthew opens up to Anne, and lets her talk his ear off in chapter 2 of Anne of Green Gables. Also, both are prone to bad health: Uncle Henry must visit Australia for his health in Ozma, while Matthew's health becomes one of the major factors in the climax of the first Anne book.

I once came up with a possible situation for Uncle Henry that paralleled quite surprisingly with Matthew: I thought that maybe while Henry and Dorothy were traveling to get to their ship in Ozma, Uncle Henry indulges Dorothy in a haircut, where she gets the stylish bob that John R. Neill drew her with. Similarly, in Anne of Green Gables, Matthew indulges Anne in many of the simple pleasures other girls enjoy, the most memorable being when he secretly provides a dress for Anne with "puffed sleeves," although Marilla disapproves of using so much material.

Aunt Em and Marilla are also comparable, in that they are matter-of-fact but loving older women. Aunt Em takes Dorothy's stories of Oz with a large grain of salt, while Marilla finds tactful ways to reprove Anne's wistful and whimsical dreams and actions.

Both Dorothy and Anne are kind girls, imaginative, and friendly. The big difference is their tempers: Dorothy is calmer, while Anne is more prone to lose it, though she gets over it as her story progresses.

Another big, and obvious, difference is that Dorothy really does go to fantasy worlds and meet fantastical characters. Anne, on the other hand, just imagines hers.

Yeah, you see, this comparison isn't as obvious as the one I did with Alice in Wonderland not too long ago: Dorothy's adventures are fantasy, Anne's are based in reality. Dorothy faces Wicked Witches, Nome Kings, Phanfasms, all sorts of fantastic enemies. Anne faces real-life hardships, irate neighbors, gossips, later on in the series, suitors, and the foibles of her own children.

So, really, if Anne of Green Gables had turned into a fantasy story mid-way, I guess there'd be some real parlells between Anne and Dorothy, but, such as it went, Lucy Montgomery did not go in that direction and created a successful series.

(Just in case you're wondering, no, I won't be comparing to Dorothy to Laura Ingalls, Pippi Longstocking, or every other young fictional heroine. I'd thought of doing the Anne/Dorothy comparision almost two years ago, and decided to do it now.)

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