You know that feeling you get when you identify with a character? It can be many things-not the least of which is comforting. For, as it has been said many times, one of the reasons we read is to know we are not alone.
“Five minutes ago I was so miserable I was wishing I’d never been born and now I wouldn’t change places with an angel!”
…Anne (came) flying in from the yard, eyes shining, cheeks faintly flushed with pink, unbraided hair streaming behind her in a torrent of brightness.
I’m re-reading Anne of Green Gables. Many readers, myself included, have found some kind of kindred spirit within Anne, whether for her fiery temper, orphan’s struggles, luminous imagination, or some mix of those traits.
Yes, it’s a satisfying, often eye-opening experience to identify with a character, and it can be no less so when a character shows the reader someone they know well in a clear light. This time, as I read of Anne’s escapades, her deep lows and soaring highs, I kept thinking to myself, “This is Emmie. Anne reminds me so much of my daughter.”
My daughter is five. She’s a deep feeler and a vivid expresser of thoughts and emotions. She can talk til the cows come home (giving Anne a run for her money sometimes). She can fly off the handle under the right provocation (even though she doesn’t have red hair), but she is one of the most affectionate people I’ve ever met. She has a flair for making up names, gets her mind set on what she wants and is deeply disappointed when she doesn’t get it (if puff sleeves were in fashion today, she’d want them). She can go from the depths of despair to heights of delight in less time than it takes me to finish a sentence, and the other way around. Being her mother means I’ve found myself identifying more with Marilla Cuthbert these days. I get impatient when I call her to do something and her child’s brain wanders in a dozen different directions along the way; I get worn out by her talking and drained dry by her sudden highs and lows. I’ve also heard my own unknown or unvoiced thoughts spoken by this small person with a clarity that astonishes, and often, amuses me.
Re-reading Anne is like a gift of vision from a slightly different angle. I’m reminded to see Emmie more as she is, and less how I wish she would behave at that moment. To remember that she is a person who sees the world differently, and that isn’t something to be overlooked or rushed to fit what’s convenient for me. To remember, too, that we do share so much in common, and how much wonder we both could miss if I tried to hurry her along.
I hope we can read Anne of Green Gables together some day. And I hope it’s every bit as comforting and illuminating for Emmie as it can be-for her highs and lows, strengths and weaknesses- a reminder that she is in good company.