Most fans of literature will be able to choose a favorite character without much difficulty, but ask someone what character they are the most like, and that will bring them to a slight pause. My pause is not that slight; it’s hardly even a blink. There was one character who defined my childhood and, now that I’m older, became a huge part of my personality.
Her name is Anne Shirley, and she was a spunky, redheaded orphan who went to live with Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert on Prince Edward Island. Anne had a big imagination (and I mean BIG — deciding the local pond was not glamorous enough, she named it “the lake of shining waters”). Anne often became indignant with criticism (once, she belted a boy over the head with a basket of flowers for daring to critique her “romantic mumbo-jumbo”). Anne knew how to apologize while insulting someone (“What you said about me was true; what I said about you was true too, only I shouldn’t have said it!”). Anne had a flaming temper to match her hair, which she was painfully self-conscious about. (Once, she tried dying it “raven black,” and it turned out green. Oops.) Anne also knew she was imperfect and made a lot of mistakes, and did her best to overcome them. In her heart, Anne was a good person who meant well, but sometimes let her opinions get the better of her.
I am not an orphan, and I am not a redhead. Well, not a natural one anyway, although you will often see me sporting red hair. I am not sure if the biting sarcasm came naturally or if I “learned” it from watching Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea ten thousand times as a child, but we have that in common. We also have the same reaction when our writing is critiqued. I am pretty good at insulting people, too, although I do my best to keep my mouth shut. My imagination can often get me into trouble, and I’m the first person to admit that I’m not perfect. (And, I will also remind you, neither are you!)
Like Anne, I like puffed sleeves. I write mostly melodramatic material, full of dark villains and independent females. I am fairly opinionated. Unlike Anne, I have never accidentally gotten a friend soused on currant wine, broken a slate over a boy’s head for calling me “Carrots,” pretended to be the Lady of Shallot (give me time!), or found a snake in my desk.
Even though it has been years since I watched the movies at least once a week and did my hair in pigtails while quoting morbid poets, I can still put the movie into my player and know every line, every grin, every sarcastic comment or tearful moment. Some people are influenced by great authors, by poets or playwrights, and some of them might even be able to boast that they consider themselves to be like some of their favorite esteemed literary figures. I, of course, can also see aspects of my personality in other characters throughout literature, from the wittiness of Elizabeth Bennett to the determination of Jane Eyre, but I must confess that inevitably it all comes down to a redheaded teenager clutching a well-worn carpetbag in front of her bland apron, and waiting at the train station for someone to come pick her up.
Anne wasn’t even supposed to be there. They had asked the orphanage for a boy. But what they got was Anne Shirley, and their lives—and mine—would never be the same.