Hello everyone! It’s been quite some time since my last review and trust me, I wanted to post one after every episode. But you know me, always busy. I was wondering if I should write my reviews in the right order – I wanted to share my thoughts after episodes 5 and 6 so badly. Now I decided that I should use the opportunity and write down my thoughts right after episode 7. Coincidentally, it explores the themes that are currently present in my personal life and which made me upset / angry / frustrated only a few days ago. So yeah, I am basically doing the same thing as Anne did in this episode – writing it down immediately, so it could have an impact. Or in my case, so I could let out my emotions.
I believe there is no need to cover the plot of this episode. Eikakou does that brilliantly in her reviews. Let’s start with the themes and plotlines present in "A Strong Effort of the Spirit of Good".
1. Journalism and freedom of speech – All of us will probably agree that Anne did an impulsive thing which she hadn’t thought through. We know she is very emotional and acts without thinking. I’d say that sometimes she even realizes the consequences but is overwhelmed by her emotions, so she does it anyway. (Speaking from my own experience.) Seeing the end of the previous episode, I was worried that she would write a detailed article in defence of Josie and that she would name both parties involved. She surprised me with some sort of maturity in her decision. Anne decided to write a defence of the whole gender, not just Josie. I can’t say she was wrong with her ideas. What indeed was wrong that she didn’t discuss it with her classmates nor Miss Stacy who should have had the final say. Muriel, coming from a more liberal environment, fully understands the content of Anne’s work. But like she said – Avonlea was not ready for it. These radical ideas need to be well-thought and brilliantly executed. Anne’s attempt was not successful. It is only fair (funny, how this word appears a lot in this episode) that Anne is punished for her actions and is put in charge of a farming column.
On the other hand, it is not fair what the town council (or whoever the annoying gentlemen were) came up with. Their instructions limit the topics the youth is allowed to write about, enforcing censorship upon Avonlea Gazette. Of course, it angers everyone. Rachel who has to deliver the news as a mere secretary of the council. Miss Stacy who disagrees with censorship. And (after Gilbert’s agitation) the Avonlea youth as well. Anne comes up with a creative idea and gains support of Marilla and Matthew (bless their hearts), Prissy (love that girl!) and some other members of the Avonlea community. Their march on the town hall and a demonstration of their right of freedom of speech end up being a success.
Watching the very last scene of this episode, one must wonder. What happens next? Sure, taking the printing press away is a symbol of limiting the children’s rights and the power they have in the community. But what will happen with the schoolhouse? Will it burn down? I’ve read some theories saying that the behind the scenes photos from Season 3 show the children studying in some other building, most likely Miss Stacy’s house.
2. What is Fair? Or On the Women’s Role in Society – Alright, folks. Now my rant begins. :D
- As you might remember from my earlier reviews, I often share something from my personal life. And I believe I might have mentioned having troubles finding a boyfriend. Well, nothing has changed, I just have two years’ worth of almost- love stories and plenty of drama. A week ago, we visited our high school male friends and we were talking about relationships and stuff. 4 out of 5 people who were present there are currently single – and always have been. We decided to share our honest reasons for why we wouldn’t date each other – as to know what the other sex might think of us. Two of my male friends had quite a good explanation. One said that for him, it must “click”. In other words, you need to know it’s the right one or that there is a certain amount of attraction between you. (We’ll get to it in the third point of this review.) The other said that we have been friends for too long so no, he cannot imagine it. I get it, we met when we were 8. The last one… oh, boy, how that guy p****d me off. His reason was that I am not humble. (Now, we might get lost in a translation, but I’ll try anyway.) I asked what he meant by that. If he perhaps implied that I usually spend too much or that I show off with the money. He struggled to find the right words and then he said: “You know, I want a humble wife. And you are not humble. Because you are goal-oriented, determined, ambitious. And... you have an opinion on everything. Sometimes, I am afraid of you.”
- I know that this guy is a bit traditional but I never imagined that these boys still exist – among my well-educated friends. I was upset that these rather clever young men could ever have troubles with me having an opinion and being determined. And that they want the exact opposite of me. I went home last weekend and I mentioned this to my family. My mom got p****d off too and she told my dad: “That’s just like you, men. You want us just to fully support you, not having any opinion. Just 'shut up and keep up'.” You see, I was raised in a family full of determined, no-nonsense, sharp-tongued women. My mom and both grandmothers are just like Mrs. Lynde and Marilla combined. They are not afraid to speak up and object to their husbands. My aunt is like Anne and Miss Stacy – independent, stubborn, well-travelled, cosmopolitan. Seeing these female role models, I became like them. And now I am being told by some men that I should not be like that. That the behaviour and qualities of my family members are just wrong. That in order to find a partner I should probably do what my mom suggested – shut up and keep up.
Or what Josie’s mom told her – be pretty. Yes, Josie’s reputation might be ruined or at least slightly corrupted, but what matters is that she still looks nice – at least to her parents. They do not care about how she felt after Billy’s inappropriate behaviour. Nor about what she went through when he spread the nasty rumour. Not to mention her feelings after Anne’s article. Josie’s parents are obsessed with securing her wedding with Billy. They think of it as a business proposal, a transaction. Josie is just a part of it.
I think that due to her own emotions she didn’t know how to react when Anne showed up. Her worse self woke up again, but I guess that she hardened herself to protect herself from more pain. And when you do that… well, with your walls up you hurt more people. In this case, literally. Luckily, Anne’s second attempt goes well and she reminds Josie that it is us who decide our own’s worth. By the end of this episode, Josie gets up on her feet. She takes off the ribbons – a symbol of her mom’s influence on her – and doesn’t accept Billy’s apology. I can’t say if his action was sincere and if he was truly aware of what he did. For now, it is good that she sent him away.
Speaking of the Andrewses, just like many people have said, Prissy Andrews is the only decent Andrews. The college broadened her horizons and she sees herself as a future owner of the family business – we all know Billy’s not too bright. However, their father is either oblivious or traditional and wouldn’t listen to Prissy. What’s important for him at that moment is that she doesn’t serve him his tea properly and he, poor thing, must do it himself. As Prissy rightfully points out, two years before, she was in a similar situation like Josie. Forced into a wedding by the expectations of her family and society. And facing gossip after she ran from the altar. Fortunately, she got a chance to pursue her career, just like her mother had wanted for her in Season 1. Interestingly, Mrs. Andrews doesn’t seem so progressive 3 years later.
I cannot say I am a fan of Jane – in any adaptation. I am mostly indifferent to her, she is not really special to me. I don’t blame any of the actresses, it’s just her character. In this episode, I wanted to slap her. She had her good moments when she was not accepting Billy and Josie’s relationship in episode 301. But even though she’s friends with Josie and Anne, she knows Billy, and she wants to study at Queen’s, she is just OK with the status quo and doesn’t want to change it. She puts herself into the position of daddy’s girl, the one who’s not causing the trouble and who will accept his money when she gets married.
Luckily, Marilla doesn’t have to go through any unpleasant experience with men. She had her rebellious moment in episode 104 when Minister told Anne that there are only two options for her – to be a housewife or to study. Marilla realized she had spent her whole life taking care of Matthew and sacrificing everything for him. She has come to terms with it by this episode. And Matthew himself is a sweetheart. When asked for an opinion, he refuses to say anything – they have heard enough by men.
Poor Rachel. She is usually the one to organize everything and have the final say. (Remember the town meeting in episode 201?) Watching her being completely ignored and interrupted by those annoying men was just too painful. As I said, she reminds me of my family members. She is a gossipy busybody and does anything the way she likes because Thomas does not contradict her. This must have been an unpleasant experience for her, and I guess she must have realized that Anne’s article was to some extent right.
3. Diana and Her Relationships – I don’t think I can discuss Diana without adding another story from my own life.
- During the last two years, I found myself stuck between two men. Two potential relationships with people I like, respect and care for. One of them is my schoolmate. Our dynamic is really similar to the one Anne and Gilbert have in their AoA years. The other one is my co-worker, in the job I work every summer. (Which happens to be our family business.) However, despite the mutual attraction (which itself is rather irrational), there is no future for this as he is… well, slightly older than me. Our lives are in different places (metaphorically and for now literally, as I am back at school), our friends are of our respective ages and would not get along. And then… then there is the social status thing. You see, he is someone who works for my family – even though at work, he is officially my superior. But he treats me as his equal – due to my family ties I am not just a regular employee. He is not someone who had the opportunity to study at the university. And yes, there might be a certain class difference.
- When my BFF asked me, what might be my reasons for refusing any relationship with him, I mentioned all of this and I added one last thing. We usually joke a lot and have interesting conversations at our workplace. But I don’t think we can do the same in the outside world. The casual domestic life, dating, travelling… all of that seems impossible in the real world. Due to our differences in age, experience, class, education, friend groups, interests. What I realized later was that I like him as a person and we are attracted to each other. But that is just not enough to start a serious relationship.
Everything came back to me when I saw Diana and Jerry in the last few episodes. They remind me of my own love drama way too much. I think it is natural for some of us to ship the couples with chemistry – who work well together on screen or in the books. With Diana and Jerry, I realized that you cannot ship everyone. Some couples will not work together despite their chemistry and cuteness. It might be just like Mr. Darcy says in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.
- "You can't deny it, social classes are a real thing. People who think otherwise live in a fantasy."
Yes, you can overcome your differences as long as you can find a compromise in your lifestyles or one of you can adjust to the social class of their partner. I didn’t think Jerry could do that while watching the previous episodes. After watching this one, it is clear as day to me. Sure, he learned to read and is better-educated than his family. He might be successful with Tillie or Ruby, the girls who are known for not being too… reflective. But Diana is a young woman of fine manners, well-read, thinking, clever, bright. She doesn’t read Frankenstein just because monsters are cool. She wants to dig deeper, to discuss the meaning of the text – like she probably does with Anne and at school. Poor Jerry hasn’t had a formal education. He doesn’t know how to analyse the story – and that it’s even possible. Diana realizes that even though she likes his affection and attention (most importantly the kissing part), she cannot have a meaningful conversation with him.
Then there are the class differences. Yes, Anne might be an orphan and the Cuthberts are not as wealthy as the Barrys or the Andrewses. But Anne is not a servant. Jerry is. It would’ve been easier for him to be accepted if he lived on his own farm as a poor farmer.
So why does she care for him? I believe, the answer is the same like in my story. She likes him as a person, they are attracted to each other. But attraction is never enough. I curse nature every summer or whenever I find myself in a similar situation. Your body / biology / chemistry / whatever tries to tell you that you should have a child and this guy is the right one to do the job. Nature doesn’t care if the two of you have anything in common or if you can imagine spending the rest of your lives together. You are just drawn to someone who is biologically compatible. There is a nice description I found in Outlander last year and it helped me with answering my own dilemma.
- Infatuation. It was common, among the nurses and the doctors, the nurses and the patients, among any gathering of people thrown for long periods into one another’s company. Some acted on it, and brief, intense affairs were frequent. If they were lucky, the affair flamed out within a few months and nothing resulted from it. If they were not … well. Pregnancy, divorce, here and there the odd case of venereal disease. Dangerous thing, infatuation.
I believe this is just a short affair with no real future unless Jerry gets a better education and is her equal. Right now, everything is against them and I hope they realize it sooner or later.
Diana’s relationship with Anne is another thing. Anne hasn’t changed and this is her characteristic personality trait – victimizing herself, making everything about herself. I believe it has roots in her unhappy childhood. You can understand why she jumps into these sorts of conclusions. If Diana was mean to Jerry, she cannot think highly of Anne, can she? The advice for Anne is obvious – don’t listen to your impulses, stop, think about it. Don’t be the victim. Try to walk in Diana’s shoes. Be there for her as she is there for you and your problems.
I feel a bit sorry for Diana because I think she is mostly confused about her whole life right now. She rebels against her family, fears to leave Avonlea for Paris, and starts a secret and forbidden romance based mostly on the mutual attraction. The hormones are raging. And nothing is clear to her anymore, she cannot make sense of it. I don’t think she could tell Anne about it – Anne is not really a listener. It’s always been the other way round. Diana has always been there to support Anne and hear her out. Anne… not really. Everything is also complicated by the fact that Jerry works for Anne who is known for not being especially close to him. Diana is aware of all of it and with her own confusion… no wonder she didn’t tell Anne. I didn’t expect the two of them to quarrel so bitterly in the time when their mutual support was important and needed. I thought Diana would show up at the demonstration anyway. Well, we’ll see how things go for her.
4. Gilbert – Gilbert – I’ll try to keep this one brief. I am glad the old Gilbert is back. The one who values his friendship with Anne and who fights for what is right. Who tells everyone that Anne would be there to support all of them. I liked how he comforted Anne when she thought no one would show up. And I loved their final scenes at Miss Stacy’s house. Gilbert needs to figure out how he truly feels about Anne and Winifred. It is only good Anne reminded him of it.
No last thoughts. I might come up with something later. I guess this was too long for everyone to read and it certainly took me a long time to write. Don't worry, I'll take a break from my reviews. At least for now. :D