Anne of Green Gables and Tom Sawyer Term Paper

Pages: 6 (1865 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Biology

Anne of Green Gables, Tom Sawyer

Nature plays an integral role in the coming-of-age of the title characters in Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables. For Tom and Anne, nature represents a playground for the imagination, a magical realm in which children can escape from regimented adult ways of life. The natural world embraces Tom and Anne's passionate personalities and permits their natural uninhibited characters to shine. As a result, both Tom and Anne develop relationships with their natural surroundings. For Tom, the swampy, buggy world of the banks of the Mississippi offers a lush semi-tropical foundation for the flourishing of his mind. From tiny pinch-bugs to labyrinthine caverns, nature becomes instrumental for Tom's self-development. Likewise, Anne's maturation evolves through her relationship with the natural surroundings of Avonlea. Anne watches the dramatic changes of seasons and scenery in Canada, and especially delights in the coming of spring. Anne's impressions of nature differ from Tom's on the surface, probably related to their genders. For example, for Anne nature is aesthetically meaningful and pleasing, whereas Tom doesn't seem sensitive to the physical beauty in the natural world. Tom is like a typical boy, fascinated more by bugs and death than by a colorful array of flowers. However, both adolescents revel in their respective natural surroundings, which offer thematically significant counterpoints for the regimented, clean, and stark world of grownups. In both Anne of Green Gables and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, nature symbolizes the uncivilized world, a pagan world that threatens mainstream Christian sensibilities. Both Tom and Anne respond more to the world of nature than to the world of the Church and therefore both characters find their personal identities more through nature than through organized religion. In fact, especially for Anne, nature becomes religion. Moreover, for both Anne and Tom nature represents wealth: monetary and spiritual wealth. Although nature is interpreted differently by Anne and Tom due to differences in gender and setting, the natural world serves similar functions in the two novels: to stimulate maturity through instinctual rebellion against the civilized world.

One of the primary functions of nature for Tom and Anne is to stimulate the imagination and escape from reality. Both Tom and Anne have wild and vivid fantasy lives. Tom is seduced by the idea of being a pirate and chases after his dream by running off to an island in the Mississippi. Anne has imaginary playmates and also names places as if she were a poet: names like Violet Vale and Lover's Lane. Both Mark Twain and L.M. Montgomery propose that the stimulation of the imagination through nature is a desirable, healthy form of rebellion. The four walls of Churches, schools, and houses seem confining in contrast to the unlimited expanse of the wilderness. The wilderness is therefore an optimal setting for the flowering of young minds. The limitless boundaries of the natural world, and the wonders of nature and its cycles of seasons, death, and birth can stimulate thought and creativity like no preacher or teacher can. Tom and Anne sense the contrast between nature and civilization instinctively; for them, playing outdoors is natural, not something they do to anger adults. Nevertheless, the adults in the two novels lament the unbridled imaginations of Tom and Anne. Although the adults in both novels disapprove of some of the title characters' antics and imaginary games, Tom and Anne's eventual maturity and growth suggest that their rebellion serves a positive function in character development. Furthermore, readers sympathize with the title characters: their imaginations are the main reasons why Tom and Anne are such compelling protagonists. If Tom and Anne preferred to remain indoors and not tempted by nature, they would be completely different people. Their imaginations help formulate their self-identities as well; Tom's dreams of being a "pirate" come true through is discovery of real treasure in the cave. Similarly, Anne's dream of being beautiful like nature come true, as by the end of the novel she has overcome her childlike awkwardness, wears fancier clothes, and seems more attractive and self-confident.

Nature, although it is pitted against civilization in the two novels, signifies wealth and abundance to both Tom and Anne. For example, Tom discovers a real hidden treasure buried in a cave, making him and his companions relatively rich. Similarly, Avonlea offers Anne a life filled with more material comforts than she ever could have imagined at the orphanage. At Avonlea Anne also flourishes in school, which paves the way for her to enjoy a successful career as a teacher. The semi-tropical surroundings in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer signify lush overgrowth, a visual reminder of the abundance of the natural world. For Anne, the abundance of nature is not as apparent. The temperate climate of Prince Edward Island is more changeable and less overtly abundant than the swampy world of the Mississippi River. However, Anne constantly sees visions of wealth in nature. When she first arrives in Avonlea, Anne compares the plump, luscious trees of her new home with the barren, scrawny trees that flanked the orphanage. Her new home signifies wealth and upwardly mobile social action.

The actual physical treasure that Tom encounters during the course of his adventures suggests that Twain supports the notion of nature being a healthy alternative to the civilized world, and that nature can bring wealth. Likewise, Anne's appreciation of flowers and lovely surroundings corresponds with her budding vanity and taste for finery. Yet for Anne, nature signifies a level of beauty that humans can never attain. For example, although she dreams of being wealthy she is sorely disappointed by the artifice demonstrated by Aunt Josephine's mansion. Therefore, the type of abundance that nature signifies is different than the trappings of money. Similarly, in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, material wealth such as that of Widow Douglas is depicted as less valuable than the type of wealth that nature offers. In fact, Tom rejects a life defined by luxury, as does Anne. Both Tom and Anne reject materialism while at the same time rejoicing in the limitless abundance of the natural worlds in which they live.

Nature takes on a scary, almost sinister tone occasionally in both novels. The storm that descends on the island while Tom and his friends are playing pirate shows that nature will always be more powerful than civilization. Tom is aware of the potentially deadly forces of nature, especially after he witnesses the extensive damage brought about by the lightening storm. Nature subsequently brings out Tom's survival instincts, as he and his friends are forced to forage for their food. In fact, through the island experience, Tom learns to appreciate his "civilized" world: the love of his family and the material comforts of home. Furthermore, Tom notices McDougal's Cave swallow up Injun Joe. Nature can kill, as well as inspire, human beings. Survivalist instincts are more prominent in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer than in Anne of Green Gables. However, Anne's struggle against the river in Chapter 28 elucidates the theme of survival against the forces of nature. For Anne, nature is primarily beautiful and is rarely threatening. Tom's relationship with nature is more realistic, less romantic, than Anne's. Tom came far nearer to death through his experiences on the island than Anne ever came through her frolicking in the woods. Anne rarely contemplates nature's destructive capabilities, except for the one incident on the boat. Unlike Tom, Anne does not rely on her instinctual survival capabilities in that situation, but rather, must get rescued by a boy. Differences in the perception of nature on the part of Tom and Anne may reflect the authors' portrayal of gender.

Nevertheless, nature is ripe with potential for myth and superstition, especially in contrast to the predictable world of civilization. In Chapter 20, Anne imagines that the woods between her and Diane's house are haunted, adding a darker dimension to nature's beauty and allure. Similarly, the woods seem "haunted" to Tom and his friends, who hunt for buried treasure in the dead limbs of trees while fearing retribution from witches. However, except for a few instances, nature does not become sinister for Anne. Nature's dark side is more constantly apparent for Tom, who frequently frightens himself and friends while playing outdoors and in cemeteries. Death, one of nature's functions, plays a stronger role in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer than in Anne of Green Gables. From the dead cat in Chapter 9 to the death of Injun Joe at the end of the novel, Tom can contemplate the natural cycles of life and death within the context of the natural world. Anne's sole confrontation with death comes with Matthew's heart attack, which is portrayed by Montgomery as fully human death: one that stemmed from shock. Nature does not claim the life of Matthew, yet nature does directly claim the life of Injun Joe.

For both Twain and Montgomery, nature represents a pre-Christian, pre-modern society that coexists and contrasts the "civilized"… [END OF PREVIEW]

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