Ode to Gilbert Blythe

{ note: In memoriam of the one year anniversary of Jonathan Crombie’s passing, I revamped my original post dedicated to his most prominent role: the untouchable Gilbert Blythe. }

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Can we put life on pause for five minutes’ time to swoon over the beauty that is Gilbert Blythe? In a modern world where the likes of Christian Grey, Gideon Cross, Edward Cullen, and Travis Maddox are incessantly praised, I like to revert back to a time when simply being a gentleman was enough to hasten a girl’s heartbeat.

Don’t get me wrong – the Greys, Crosses, Cullens, and Maddoxes of the world have some appeal, but there’s just something that tugs on my heartstrings about an Anne of Green Gables setting, the simplistic lifestyle, the motions of courting back in those days. Money wasn’t as blinding, a proposal could be made without ever even having shared a kiss, handwritten letters were (exquisitely) the norm. It was common to marry first and in love (if at all) later. Most lived in comfortable harmony and a fondness for one another formed out of deep respect, admiration, and companionship more than anything else.

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But like a rose that blooms unexpectedly and out of place within a crack in the concrete, somewhere out there in those years of modesty and propriety, are the few and supremely real Annes and Gilberts – a great and true love, not something that just closely resembled something like it.

The Anne books by L. M. Montgomery hold a special place in my heart but I was unprepared for the lifelong love I would harbour for the movies produced and directed by Kevin Sullivan. I was twelve years old and my cousin, the Diana to my Anne, and I were on the phone. We were casually flipping through channels for something we could watch together when we fell upon the scene with Anne smashing her slate down on Gilbert’s head.

We were hooked.

We each fell in love and although I didn’t enjoy the third installment as much as the previous films, one of my fondest memories of my cousin includes the special sleepover we had with our mothers the first time Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story aired for the first time. We are no longer close but when I think of Anne, I think of her.

Just as Megan Follows is the only Anne in the world for me, Jonathan Crombie is the only Gilbert in the world for me. If I could pull a Mary Poppins and enter another realm by leaping into a two-dimensional chalk sketch on the ground, I wouldn’t just dive headfirst into Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables; I’d climb into Anne’s body and merge with her soul.

 

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I would have forgotten Gilbert’s Carrots indiscretion as he pulled me into his rowboat after my failed Lily Maid reenactment attempt and I would have let him escort me to the White Sands recital. I would have realized what an amazing man was always right in front of me when I discovered his sacrifice so that I could remain in the only home I had ever known. I would have poured my heart and soul out to him until I was blue in the face and my voice box went raw as he fought Scarlet Fever for his life and I would have jumped at his proposal long before the loving words left his lips.

I know, I know.
The story is beautiful as it is but, hey, a girl can dream.

I start off every year reading my favourite book, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Last year on my 27th birthday, April 14th, I decided it was about time I make a yearly date with myself to commemorate my top two favourite films, one of my top two fictional couples (the other being Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy). I decided that day would be April 15th, a way to extend my special day, a date with myself that I’d always keep.

 

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That pull to revisit Anne and Gilbert that day was very instinctive on some level. On April 15th, 2015, Jonathan Crombie passed away from a brain hemorrhage. He was 48. It wasn’t until a week late that the news trickled down to me through social media and it devastated me. I sat there feasting on Anne of Green Gables, completely oblivious that a life, this life, was coming to an end. I like to imagine that Jon is smiling at the thought that on that particular day, a role he played was being remembered with love and care.

 

It’s been sixteen years, hundreds of books, and a second and third addition to the list of literary boyfriends …but no one has ever topped this boy-next-door, this utterly beautiful man. Gilbert Blythe set the bar high in the books, Jonathan Crombie raised that bar with the movies. He portrayed this character with heart and grace, forever instilling in me never to settle for anything less. Hearing of Jon’s death was like losing a dear friend, a first love.

I bow down to L. M. M. for dreaming up Gilbert Blythe, and I slow clap for J. C. for bringing him to life so perfectly. Thank you for having a hand in how I would ultimately allow myself to be treated, for paving the way until I found my own Gilbert – my husband, Mark. It warms my heart to imagine the hug and high five Lucy greeted Jonathan with when she welcomed him home. ❤


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1. The mistake he made – and his regret over it.

“Anne, wait! I’m sorry for teasing you about your hair. Don’t be mad at me for keeps.”
He tried taking the blame after Anne broke her slate over his head after a little teasing. Despite his tendency to poke fun at all the girls in the class and having never offered any of them an apology before, he does so with Anne. The poor boy paid for that for years but it’s definitely a great first meeting story for the kids.

~

2. The way he looks at Anne.

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Anne may have interpreted those proud smiles at her back as Gilbert’s way of rubbing it in that she had placed second to his first during examinations, but I agree with Diana on this one – he was proud of her. For the first time, he’s met his match and she would ultimately be the driving force for him to always try to do and be better. Even though Anne held a grudge against him, it pained him not to be close to her and he kept trying to win her over, always competed with her in a friendly, supportive manner.

~

3. He’s always silently cared.

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His concern when Anne was dared to walk the ridgepole of Moody’s roof.
The way he held her arm and tried to persuade her that he’d accompany her home.

~

4. He is a different kind of knight in shining armour.

“We tied for first. You and I. I figured you’d have it for sure. I’m just sorry you had to share it with me.”

After a failed attempt at reenacting The Lady of Shalot, the dory carrying Anne begins to sink, prompting her to wrap herself around a post beneath the bridge that Gilbert is coincidentally passing beneath. He pulls her into his boat and rows her to shore where he shares with her the standings for the Queens’ examination they both

~

5. He has always clapped the loudest and the longest.

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Gilbert had worked up the courage to ask Anne to accompany him to the White Sands recital and advises her to have a second selection ready to perform because he will encore her, no matter what. Then when the damn girl backs out of their date through a note (a note) passed between them via Diana, he still gives her performance a standing ovation and encores her.

I love that Gilbert is Anne’s biggest fan. He outwardly shows how proud he is of her, especially during the times she presents a timid uncertainty when speaking of her efforts. It’s a beautiful thing to see the encouragement between them, the constant support that has carried over from their friendship to their marriage.

~

6. He is as selfless as he is kind.


After Anne’s adoptive father, Matthew, has a heart attack that claims his life, Gilbert took the liberty of speaking to the trustees about an exchange for he and Anne. She would teach at the Avonlea Public School so as to remain at Green Gables, and Gilbert would take her original post at Carmody. Never mind that he’s giving up his job and that saving money to return to college would take longer seeing as he’d have to pay for his board. LOVE HIM ALREADY.

~

7. The way he says the word, “Sorry.”

~

8. He makes it so Anne can be herself around him.
And he never forgets how special she is.

Anne: He loves me? I can’t know why.
Marilla: Because you made Josie Pye and Ruby Gillis
and all of those wishy-washy young ladies who waltzed by him
look like spineless nothings.

 ~

9. He makes even the smallest act of kindness into something romantic.

Marilla: “Anne, you have tricked something out of that imagination of yours that you call romance. Have you forgotten how he gave up the Avonlea school for you so that you could stay here with me? He picked you up every day in his carriage so that you could study your courses together. Don’t toss it away for some ridiculous ideal that doesn’t exist.”

~

10. You can tell he means every word of love.
11. He always strives to be what she wants and needs.

“I won’t change; that’s the least I can promise you. There’s something I want to ask you.”

“Now maybe you don’t think I’m good enough for you now but I will be someday.”

~

12. He doesn’t walk away without a fight.
13. That sucker punch one-liner.

Since day one, Gilbert has chased after Anne’s love and affections, waiting and waiting for her to see that she needn’t look far for someone who will love her forever.

“Anne, I’ll wait. Even if I thought you cared just a little.”

“You’ll marry alright. Some fool who sits and reads Tennyson by firelight, no doubt. He’ll build you castles in the sky. I know you. You haven’t hurt me, really. It’s just that I fooled yourself into thinking that you loved me.
I hope he breaks your heart, whoever he is.
Then maybe you’ll come to your senses.”

We never see Gilbert angry or anything less than cool and calm; even this line was delivered with just a pinch of coldness. It still makes me wince whenever I watch this scene.

~

14. How you can tell how much he misses her.

 It’s been months since that heart-wrenching scene above but when they meet again, it’s difficult to deny how affected Gilbert still is by Anne, how although he is now promised to another, his heart lies with Anne. This is the scene where it is finally evident that Anne realizes the mistake she’s made in walking away from Gilbert in search for a man who would never make her half as happy.

~

15. The way Carrots has turned into a term of endearment.

 Oh, how far we’ve come, how sentimental that dreaded nickname has come to be.

~

16. He stayed true to himself.

When you’re on the brink of death, it takes a whole lot of courage to admit to a good woman that in order for her to be happy, he needs to walk away from her. I don’t know many men who could take that leap, to risk not having someone by your side as you deteriorate into dust.

~

17. He always encouraged her, always believed in her.


Gilbert: “Well, I hope you keep on dreaming. It will be three years before I finish medical school. Even then there won’t be any diamond sunbursts or marble halls.”

until finally…

Anne: “I don’t want sunbursts or marble halls. I just want you.”

 

And now I close with my favourite book quote.
I got chills the first time I read it;
if there was ever a single quote out there
to describe this love story,
it’s this one.

 

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screen-shot-2016-04-04-at-10-58-29-pmfrom the AoGG Series

 

  • “If Gilbert had been asked to describe his ideal woman the description would have answered point for point to Anne, even to those seven tiny freckles whose obnoxious presence still continued to vex her soul. Gilbert was as yet little more than a boy; but a boy has his dreams as have others, and in Gilbert’s future there was always a girl with big, limpid gray eyes, and a face as fine and delicate as a flower.
    He had made up his mind, also, that his future must be worthy of its goddess …but he meant to keep himself worthy of Anne’s friendship and perhaps some distant day her love; and he watched over every word and thought and deed as jealously as if her clear eyes were to pass in judgment on it.”
  • “Every day I would pick a different memory of you and play it over and over and over again in my mind, until every hair, every freckle, every part of you was exactly as I remembered.”
  • “Yes, it’s beautiful,” said Gilbert, looking steadily down into Anne’s uplifted face, “but wouldn’t it have been more beautiful still, Anne, if there had been no separation or misunderstanding …if they had come hand in hand all the way through life, with no memories behind them but those which belonged to each other?”

{ note: all photos/gifs taken from http://anneandgilbert.tumblr.com/ }

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