I continue my journey across Canada with a short story from Prince Edward Island. When I was stuck for a short story related to PEI, John @The Book Mine Set suggested Montgomery. I know very little about Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942) who is best known for writing Anne of Green Gables, a story for young adolescents. In fact, she was a prolific writer who published twenty novels and five hundred short stories and poems. Her short stories can be found on the Gutenberg Project website. There are so many I did not know which to choose and then “Emily’s Husband” caught my eye; a story with my name? sure, that will do!
Emily is described as an inflexible woman with “a very distinctive voice . . . very sweet always and very cold generally . . . Nobody had ever heard Emily Fair’s voice tremble.” As the story goes, we discover Emily’s past: how she was raised by her brother and sister and married a man her family despised. Their hatred of Stephen is most likely due to “a feud between the families” and Stephen’s mother also dislike Emily and makes Emily’s life difficult, thus creating a breach between the married couple. However, it is made clear that had not Emily been so proud, the rupture with her husband, after two years of marriage, would not have happened since she loved him.
Emily is an ambiguous character. Her pride, her stubbornness and her repulsion of weakness are something readers would not identify with; however, we are made aware that “beneath that surface reserve was a passionate nature”. Indeed, when she learns that her husband is ill and nearing his death, her love for him wins over her pride and she braves the stormy night to ask for his forgiveness.
Margaret Atwood in a review of Anne of Green Gables notes that “Marilla is, more likely, what she [Montgomery] feared she might become: joyless, bereft, trapped, hopeless, unloved” (Curious Pursuits). The same could be said of Emily and the story seems to tell us that we might waste our lives by being too proud and should instead let our emotions and feelings speak.
This story reminds me of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, another story in which love is unfulfilled. The stormy atmosphere on Prince Edward Island recalls that of the Moors and the main character, who is significantly named Emily, shares many characteristics with Cathy Earnshaw. However, class and status do not seem to be part of this story. The characters live a plain life, which is something that struck me when reading the story. As I began the story, I was expecting to enter a house with servants and was surprised when I discovered that Amelia and John are Emily’s sibblings. I am not sufficiently familiar with literature from the Maritimes to make a definite judgement, but, from what I have read, it seems to me that people at the beginning of the twentieth century there had other concerns that those of class. It might just be because of the nature of the literary samples I have read, yet, it is the impression I get.
Although the beginning of the story slightly annoyed me in its construction of Emily’s character, I found myself led by the prose and enjoyed reading it.
Short Story Monday is held by John at The Book Mine Set.