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Volume 36, Number 1 (2011)

Mobilizing the Power of the Unseen: Imagining Self / Imagining Others in L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables

September 14, 2011


L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables (1908), in detailing the maturation of the precocious adolescent Anne Shirley, explores the psychological insight that the most important element of growing up is expanding one’s primary concern from just oneself to oneself and others – i.e., developing empathy. Although Anne understands in theory the ethics of empathy, her juvenile egocentricity is initially a barrier to her truly attaining it. Montgomery illustrates this process of maturation through metaphors of sight and vision. Throughout the novel, Anne is exposed to different ways of seeing that influence her own perspective and, consequently, her potential to develop empathic relationships with Avonlea’s community members, particularly her neighbour Rachel Lynde and her adoptive parents, Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert. The novel suggests that by being aware of the unseen and attaining multiple perspectives, readers can develop an empathic imagination that recognizes the value of both the seen and unseen.