Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Anne (of Green Gables) had fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)? Such is the conjecture of academic Helen Hoy, as reported in Maclean’s June 21st issue. She interprets Anne’s “challenging behaviours” as symptoms because she sees some of these in her adopted daughter, who suffers from FAS.
As readers, we all bring to stories and characters aspects of our own experiences, prejudices, and desires. If Hoy chooses to see pathological behaviour in Anne, then that is her personal reaction to the character. There is no evidence in the book that Anne’s mother drank to excess, or even at all, or that Anne actually fits the true profile of a child with FAS. And is her behaviour pathological?
Anne is a spunky, outspoken, imaginative girl that so many of us admire, especially as children. She holds her own with adults in an era and society where children were to be seen when required, but not heard, and manages to endear herself to them without giving up those qualities that we love in her. I expect that generations of young readers have looked to her as a role model of how to endure and triumph in difficult situations, as well as being entertained by her antics.
Scholars are not only grasping at straws when they try to recast and even exploit popular fictional characters, but also doing a disservice to the author and the fans. Professor Laura Robinson conjectures that Anne had “lesbian urges”. Hoy claims that seeing Anne “as developmentally challenged, with her impairments the source of some of her charm” will help to see FAS in a new light. The fact that Anne not only looks after Marilla, but also marries and raises her own children may actually put unreasonable expectations upon children with FAS and their caregivers, who often have to support them for life.
I heartily agree with the author of the Maclean’s article, Anne Kingston - “Leave Anne alone!”