The books Little Men, A Little Princess, and Anne of Green Gables really influenced me a lot as a young adult. All three of them were favorite books of mine, which means that they were each read at least ten times. Suddenly this morning I can see that they really had great influences on my life, and in fact, are an ingrained part of my personality today.
All three of them are about orphans, or lost children. All three of them are about children who have very sad lives, but choose to make life better for others despite everything they themselves had been through. All three books were about children who were not bad children, who were not selfish, and whose greatest gifts were to love others, despite not always being loved themselves. All three children end up with the reward of being wonderfully loved because they are such good-hearted souls.
Anne of Green Gables is an orphan heroine, who says, “I’m Anne with an ‘e.’” And as a child I was “Rose, not Rosie (although now I love Rosie – which is funny how times change).” Anne of Green Gables also introduced the idea to me of kindred spirits, and the passages about kindred spirits really struck a chord deep inside me – that there are people that you meet sometimes, that you just know, and that you just like. You don’t know how you know them, and couldn’t explain it if you tried. But the idea of kindred spirits in Anne of Green Gables became a reality for me – you really do find others that just feel like missing puzzle pieces that were there all along. The most amazing relationships in my life have been with what I consider kindred spirits, although they are few and far between.
Little Women never influenced me as much as Little Men, probably because Little Women had a strong mother figure, and a missing, but somehow always there father figure. Little Men, which is read less often, is about a group of boy orphans that are being taken care of by Jo, one of the main heroines of Little Women. Jo’s endless compassion and love for her charges showed me exactly what I, as a child, wanted to be as an adult woman. If I had an adult role model, it was in this work of fiction, not in real life.
A Little Princess is about an orphaned girl who is left in dismal circumstances by her father’s death, but despite being hungry and tired all the time, manages to still bring light to the world by telling her stories. Little Sara is a born storyteller, whose life ends up being miraculously changed by meeting one of her father’s friends who adopts her and makes her rich, happy and comfortable again. Although I identified with Sara quite a bit, it was her little chambermaid friend, Becky, and this lost little soul in the soul that I identified with as well – true orphans with no one to care for them, except for the kindness of this one little girl named Sara.
I never saw the relationship between these three books, and now others too that I’m remembering as I write this. We find echoes of ourselves, and possible of our innermost fears and desires in our most favorite books, movies and games. No wonder as an adult, I fell so in love with the Harry Potter books – another orphan, another childhood survivor. It’s funny how transparently naked we can be under all of our subconscious clothes.
It was never just that I loved to read, but even as a child, I was searching for a way to make sense of the person I am today, and of what people need and most dearly desire in the world around me. These stories taught me how to take care of myself, what kind of person I could be if I tried, and what I was capable of doing to provide for those around me.
These stories taught me how not to be a victim, and how to see the true beauty in others.
Have you had a similar journey? I would love to hear about it!