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 That's right, reader(s)!  Ev is BACK and up to no good.  In this installment, budding archrival Emily Byrd Starr gets a black crayon moustache of mysterious origin, and straight up walks into exams without even glancing in a shop window on the way to see if she has cambric tea on her face.  Serves her right!  SPOILERS if you are planning to read Emily Climbs and want the crucial Moustache Incident to remain a tantalizing mystery!

Chapter 18: Follies

Oh, and there are MORE SPOILERS under the cut if you're planning to read Emily of New Moon and its sequels, though really the book is self-spoiling if you know anything about LMM's patterns of mate-assignment going in.  

This subject came up again on the kind_spirits mailing list, courtesy of a new poster who felt Dean had been "robbed" by the resolution of Emily's Quest (Emily breaks her engagement with Dean, eventually marries cuddly, indistinct childhood sweetheart Teddy following a giant pile of manufactured drama). Here are my thoughts on the great Teddy-Dean rivalry:

Teddy is a nonentity. If he were an entity, he would have more issues than the New York Times, but all we really know about him is that he's artistically gifted, has a touch of Paul Irvingitis, has a scary, incestuously possessive mother, and thinks Emily is the sweetest girl in the world. He's the Designated Love Interest pretty much from the start, but he never bothers to follow up much on the whole being in love with Emily thing beyond some self-absorbed reflection on The Glorious Future Where He Is A Famous Artist, and dancing with Ilse a lot. Probably it has something to do with his mother, but seriously-- if you need a trans-Atlantic psychic link to save your relationship from total disintegration, you probably didn't have anything all that great to begin with.

But Teddy isn't really a character. He's the placeholder for a character Maud was unable to write, and for everything she had lost or missed: the childhood friend, the lover, the partner who is an equal intellectually and spiritually, the partner who understands and admires her work. He was just what Emily (and Maud) needed-- but he isn't anything in particular on his own. He's far less distinct than Ilse or Perry, so paradoxically, even though he is the sum of all the things Emily deserves, he doesn't really seem like he belongs with her.

Dean, on the other hand, is a brilliantly drawn and completely convincing character, and so his scenes with Emily have a lot more chemistry. He's a creeper and a half, for sure-- he tells twelve-year-old Emily he intends to "wait for her" when she hasn't a clue what that even means, and later more or less single-handedly sends her into a terrifying depression which he then exploits for his own newly-legal but still creepy purposes. Dean is possessive, cynical, manipulative, and condescending. Most of all, he resents her writing-- the most important thing in her life. As presented in the book, he would make Emily's life miserable in ways neither of them could imagine-- and after a while, jealousy would eat his selfish happiness as well. But because Dean is a whole person, as vivid and complete as Emily herself, it can seem as if they belong together anyway.

I think the gulf between safe and unsafe marriages is so strong in the Emily books-- and the "safe" option so incorporeal and unsatisfying-- because Emily, unlike Anne, identifies most strongly as a writer, and not an occassional poet or a composer of pretty verses for friends' children, but someone for whom writing functions as sleep does for everyone. She doesn't feel safe or stable or herself if she doesn't keep a corner of her mind closed to others. In that sense, she can't give herself totally to another person, the way Dean would have her.  She can only love Teddy because there isn't any Teddy.  I am trying to picture him as I write this and I am literally unable to.  I get a kind of ghostly waver, and a pair of big Precious Moments eyes, and maybe some hair on top if I focus really hard.  But his non-existence is what makes him the best choice for Emily. Being a cipher is the whole point.

Good-natured, strong-willed Gil Blythe can exist for Anne because Anne doesn't fear the loss of solitude the way Emily does. Anne is an extraordinary girl who badly wants to be ordinary and eventually succeeds. But Emily depends on her outsiderhood; she cultivates and clings to it, and yet she has to be married off (I might wish a happy spinsterhood on her, but Maud never would).  So she has Dean and Teddy, the devourer and the friendly ghost. 

You can read all about it in my forthcoming dissertation, Every Single L.M. Montgomery Book is Secretly About Herman Leard: An Extended Scholarly Inquiry into My Diseased Imagination.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
linepainter
Mar. 6th, 2011 10:11 pm (UTC)
Your anti-Teddy propaganda makes me sad.
evelyn_b
Mar. 6th, 2011 11:47 pm (UTC)
My anti-Teddy propaganda is the TRUTH and cannot be altered to suit your preferences.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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