I recently read Lorilee Craker’s new memoir Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter, & Me. Craker’s story began with a simple question from her daughter while reading Anne of Green Gables: “What’s an orphan?” This question kicked off a poignant exploration of grace, adoption, and belonging—and a glimpse into the orphan in each of us.
One of my favorite chapters was where Craker explored her literary crush on Gilbert Blythe, drawing parallels to her own life. When she offered to post about the relative merits of Gilbert Blythe vs. Mr. Darcy, I couldn’t say no (even if I wasn’t exactly sure who I wanted to win this particular celebrity match).
I’m delighted to welcome Lorilee Craker to the blog:
Mr. Darcy vs. Gilbert Blythe
A friend of mine, who, with her carroty hair, sparkling eyes, and huge scope for the imagination reminds me of Anne of Green Gables, told me about the time Gilbert Blythe came up in her English Lit college class. Apparently, whatever was being discussed in English Lit was completely blown off for the entirety of the class.
As the Gil Fangirls fanned themselves, sighed, and clasped their bosoms rapturously, the guy’s eyes widened with alarm.
“What is happening right now?” he asked, confused. “What is going on here?”
He had never heard of Gilbert Blythe, and here his fourteen classmates were practically losing consciousness over the man.
“But … he’s fictional, right?”
Right, and wrong. To legions of Gilbert fans, the character may be fictional, but the way he makes us feel—like he’s somehow our first love, or our fish that got away—is pure non-fiction.
It reminds me of the way Mr. Darcy elicits similar emotions in women globe-wide: Devotion, awe, and swooning at a moment’s notice. I also quite fancy Mr. Darcy, as my husband can attest.
Darcy and Gilbert: How are these two Lit Crushes different and how are they the same? I’m glad you asked, because what could be more fun than comparing and contrasting the two leading men to end all leading men?
Fitzwilliam Darcy or Gilbert Blythe? Who smolders more? 9 Comparisons:
Darcy vs. Gilbert
Aloof Romantic Hero vs. Boy Next Do.or
Pemberley vs. Avonlea
Exceeding £10,000 a year, with a mansion thrown in. vs. $575 per year, CDN (that is, when he became a doctor. Before that, peanuts).
Darcy: At a neighborhood ball, Darcy insults Lizzie by refusing to dance with her, and worse, by making condescending remarks about her.
Gilbert: On Anne’s first day at Avonlea School, Gilbert insults Anne by tugging on her braids, and worse, by making the disparaging comparison of her hair color to carrots. (Uh oh!)
Where he goes seriously wrong:
Darcy: Lizzie discovers that Darcy interfered in Bingley and Jane’s budding relationship (Note to Darcy: Telling your best friend that the girl he fancies isn’t good enough for him will probably come back to bite you, especially if the girl’s sister is someone you fancy, deep, deep down.) Plus, Mr. Wickham makes up a bunch of junk about Darcy, all of which causes Lizzie to dislike Darcy intensely.
Gilbert: He already went seriously wrong when he called her Carrots; however, Gilbert’s feeble attempt at flirting just moments later by handing Anne a candy heart with the words “You are sweet” only fuels her intense dislike of him.
Where he proposes prematurely:
Darcy: gets over himself long enough to declare his love for Lizzie and propose marriage, although he is compelled to remind her of their huge gap in social standing. The answer: When hell freezes over, and let’s not really be friends.
Gilbert: gets up the courage to ask the girl he’s loved for YEARS to marry him, which does not go well. Answer: Let’s just be friends.
Filmed pond scene:
Darcy: Colin Firth as Darcy emerges from a swim in the pond at Pemberley, fully dressed and simmering with repressed feelings, as he comes upon a flummoxed Lizzie unexpectedly. (Not in the book!)
Gilbert: Jonathan Crombie (may he rest in peace) as Gilbert rows his dory on Barry’s Pond, fully dressed and simmering with repressed feelings, as he comes upon a flummoxed Anne, clinging to the underside of a bridge, unexpectedly. (It’s in the book!)
Act of swoon-worthy gallantry:
Darcy: On discovering that Lizzie’s sister Lydia had run off with vile Wickham, Darcy tracks them down and persuades Wickham (to the tune of 10,000 pounds?) to marry Lydia, thus saving Lizzie’s family from social disgrace.
Gilbert: On discovering that Matthew Cuthbert, Anne’s adoptive father, had died, and therefore leaving Marilla Cuthbert all alone, Gilbert tracks down the Avonlea school board to persuade them to let Anne have the local school teaching post while he takes a far away, inconvenient teaching post, thus allowing Anne to remain at Green Gables.
What he says when he can’t bear to suppress his yearnings a moment more:
Darcy: “In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
Gilbert: “I have a dream…I persist in dreaming it, although it has often seemed to me that it could never come true. I dream of a home with a hearth-fire in it, a cat and dog, the footsteps of friends – and you!”
In the final analysis, both Lit Crushes smolder like a camp fire—no wonder we love ’em! Both got off on the wrong foot with their ladies, both proposed before it was time, and both displayed endearing gallantry and yearning.
Darcy is fairly irresistible, tis true, but it comes down to this: Even F. Darcy, Gentleman, can’t hold a candle to the constancy, the steadfastness, the inextinguishable flame of yearning that burned in Gilbert’s heart for Anne of Green Gables. And therefore for me, it will always be Gilbert for the win.
Do you have a fictional favorite? Tell us all about it in comments.