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Master of Arts (MA) in English
There is a pervasive cultural conception of what it is to be a woman, and in literary criticism that preconceived notion of womanhood becomes the basis for a majority of feminist critique; however, because of the particularities of human experience, gender is a highly variable aspect of identity that is reliant on both internal and external factors. According to Judith Butler, among these factors is the means by which a given individual performs their gender. Performances that portray gender are not consistent from one individual to the next; rather, various masculinities and femininities can simultaneously exist as accurate representations of a given gender identity. Butler’s theory of gender performance provides a unique lens through which L.M. Montgomery’s Anne books can be examined; due to their place in history, Montgomery’s books help pave the way for children’s literature as we know it today. Prior to coming to Avonlea, books were all Anne had to instruct her on how best to fulfill the expectations of society; every new challenge was an opportunity for her to mythologize the mundane as a method for working through the problems she faced outside of a community that she could call her own. Throughout Anne of Green Gables Anne’s interaction with the prescribed roles of womanhood is largely influenced by the imaginary; although she longs for the beauty of womanhood she feels anxiety over the unknown aspects of transitioning away from her childhood in order to take on the role of woman. This anxiety continues throughout the next two books, and though Anne is treated like an adult by the community she inhabits in Anne of Avonlea, her continued rejection of marriage – despite her desire for romance – demonstrates her position more clearly: she is not yet ready to give up the imaginary of childhood in favor of the real represented in becoming someone’s wife. By accepting Gilbert Blythe as her suitor in Anne of the Island Anne demonstrates that she has chosen to accept that particular aspect of performance into her own gender identity, and thus transition from girl to woman on her own terms.
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Hinshaw, Lauren M., "The acceptance of womanhood: gender performance and self-actualization in L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, and Anne of the island" (2023). EWU Masters Thesis Collection. 860.