Gilbert Blythe has always been under-appreciated by me simply because he seemed to over-appreciated by everyone else (and also because I read the Anne series for the first time when I was only 7-8 years old so I did not fully appreciate him...I thought Anne was quite right in hating him; after all, he was a boy!). He was always in the "I like him, of course, but he's pretty average as far as fictional men go, and I like Jingle Gordon a lot better" category. I never thought he was anything very special. He just was. He liked Anne, she hated him for years, then they were friends, and then they got married and lived happily ever after with their 6 kids. I didn't see anything particularly special about him.
But this post, as you can see, is titled, "In Which I Admire Gilbert Blythe" so let me come to the point:
I now admire Gilbert Blythe greatly as one of the most true examples of manhood in literature. My mind was changed when I read the following in Anne of Avonlea:
"If Gilbert had been asked to describe his ideal woman the description would have answered point for point to Anne even down 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.
Now for the part that really got me:
"He had made up his mind, also, that his future must be worthy of his goddess. Even in quiet Avonlea there were temptations to be met and faced. White Sands youth were a rather "fast" set, and Gilbert was popular wherever he went. But he meant to keep himself worthy of Anne's friendship and perhaps some distant day her love; and he watched over word and thought and deed as jealously as if her clear eyes were to pass in judgement on it. She held over him the unconscious influence that every girl, whose ideals are high and pure, wields over her friends; an influence which would endure as long as she was faithful to those ideals and which she would certainly lose if she were ever false to them. In Gilbert's eyes Anne's greatest charm was the fact that she never stooped to the petty practices of so many of the Avonlea girls--the small jealousies, the little deceits and rivalries, the palpable bids for favor. Anne held herself apart from all this, not consciously or of design, but simply because anything of the sort was utterly foreign to her transparent, impulsive nature, crystal clear in its motives and aspirations."
(Now, of course this says enough about Anne to make up a post of praise of her virtues, but for now let's look at Gilbert.)
He admired her for her goodness!
He wanted to stay worthy of her!
These things L. M. Montgomery tells us about Gilbert are truly magnificent indeed!
In literature, too much is placed upon looks, intelligence, and such things. Too many men find themselves falling for a girl simply because she's beautiful. We know that Gilbert (most highly likely) did not originally admire Anne for her looks, for she was not considered pretty, especially when she was younger. Gilbert probably first admired Anne for what it says here in Anne of Avonlea: "She never stopped to the petty practices of so many of the Avonlea girls". He noticed that early on, I'm sure, and admired her for it, especially when Josie Pye was there for such contrast.
Okay, so can we get how absolutely wonderful Gilbert is? He strove to make himself the very best he could be and he kept his ideals high because her ideals were high.
I find this to be one of the most beautiful relationships in literature. Is this not just a glorious description of a righteous young man?
I have always kind of scoffed at the people who say, "I want to marry a Gilbert Blythe" because I knew most of them were really just referring to Jonathan Crombie and hadn't read the books. But having read that paragraph, I now think that if I had any inclination to marry (which, being still young, I haven't) I would want to marry someone who felt about me as Gilbert did about Anne. Someone who wanted to keep themselves worthy of me. It's just beautiful. Gilbert has been raised considerably in my eyes.
And as we know, Gilbert was well rewarded for his faithful waiting--actually that brings me to another point:
Gilbert was faithful even without any sort of promise. He never looked seriously at another girl, and yet he was careful not to single Anne out too much for Anne's sake (she would have snubbed him if he made his attentions too clear). But he didn't court anyone else--
((And in case anyone is still labouring under the delusion that Gilbert got engaged to Christine Stuart let me tell you: HE DID NOT. That was one of Kevin Sullivan's scandalous lies. (Okay, but this makes me very angry. DID HE (Mister Sullivan) NOT KNOW WHAT HE WAS DOING???!!!) L. M. Montgomery made it quite clear: "Christine was engaged to someone in her home town. I [Gilbert] knew it, and she knew I knew it." Christine was the sister of one of Gilbert's friends, and he befriended (please, he did NOT "date" her!) her at her brother's request. They never got engaged and how DARE anyone say they did! Why did they even put that in there? It makes no sense and it takes away from Gilbert's beautiful character. All right, rant over. Sorry.))
Anyway, he did not court anyone else and he just stayed true to his heart, waiting patiently for the right time to profess his love as he sought to win Anne's. Even after he proposed and was rejected, he still stayed her friend--he didn't want to lose her friendship even though she said she could never return his love!--and by-and-by he won it, even though he had to almost die for her to realise it.
And now let me just share the reward Gilbert got for his faithful-, righteous-, and glorious-ness in L. M. Montgomery's own words (In Anne's House of Dreams):
"Gilbert, waiting for her in the hall below, looked up at her with adoring eyes. She was his at last, this evasive, long-sought Anne, won after years of patient waiting. It was to him she was coming in the sweet surrender of the bride. Was he worthy of her? Could he make her as happy as he hoped? If he failed her--if he could not measure up to her standard of manhood--then, as she held out her hand, there eyes met and all doubt was swept away in a glad certainty. They belonged to each other; and no matter what life might hold for them, it could never alter that. Their happiness was in each other's keeping and both were unafraid."
Okay, so she has finally agreed to marry him, they have waited three years since their engagement, and they are about to get married. And what is Gilbert thinking? He is doubting his worthiness and manhood! He still finds Anne so perfect he doubts he can be good enough for her. But then, of course, "all doubt was swept away in a glad certainty" and thank goodness, because of course he was worthy of her! He certainly measured up to her "standard of manhood"! How could he not, after working so hard? I am so happy for Gilbert that he was able to get his heart's desire at last!
There. I simply had to get all that out.
Gilbert, you have earned my earnest admiration in your stalwart and heartfelt feelings toward Anne and your desire to remain worthy of her. You will forever be one of my favourite heroes in literature. Thank you.