Did LMM Plagiarize Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm?

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Timothy
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Did LMM Plagiarize Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm?

Post by Timothy » Thu May 10, 2007 10:06 am

On Apr 10, 1999, The National Post carried a front page story on allegations of Montgomery's alleged plagiarism of American writer Kate Douglas Wiggins novel Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. Wiggins novel was published in 1903, around five years before Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables (1908).

Jennifer-Lynn Draper noticed similiarities between the two works in her critical review of Children's Literature:

Thirteen-year-old Rebecca Rowena Randell is sent by her large, single-parent-headed family to live with her old maiden aunts in Riverboro to acquire an education. Her Aunt Miranda is a tyrant and finds fault with everything Rebecca does. Aunt Jane is of a softer nature and gives Rebecca the love that they both crave. The brick house they live in, along with the people Rebecca meets along the way, are transformed by their contact with this imaginative little girl. She brings happiness into the hearts of an old neighboring couple and the local church, and succeeds at whatever she tries, making the town proud of her. Although at first she is a trial to her aunts she learns to accept her fate and becomes a respectable young lady, but never loses her imagination...

This is an excellent novel and the format was often copied after it was published. Anne of Green Gables, Pollyanna and others followed the storyline of a little girl who changed the world around her through her goodness.


In Susan-Ann Cooper and Aïda Hudson's 'A Look at Canadian Children’s Literature in English,' the allegations are examined more closely:

...At some point in this discussion, no matter how gently any claim may be worded, the serious charge of plagiarism is always close at hand, even if it only implied and is not directly stated.

It is interesting, and important, given the implications, to explore this particular comparision at greater length. It does seem that if such a charge is only implied, some attempt at proof, apart from apparent similarities in texts, should be undertaken. For instance, is there in fact proof that Montgomery read Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm? Elizabeth Epperly thinks that there is, in that both Montgomery and Wiggins similarly misquoted Emerson in their books (Epperly 1992, 5, 251-252 note 2). One might wonder, however, whether they both might have had a common source of the version of Emerson they used.
(page 157)


Has anyone read Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm? If so, do you agree or disagree with these allegations?

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Post by AvonLea » Thu May 10, 2007 10:13 am

I haven't read the book, but I saw the Shirley Temple movie. You know, considering that all three books became very popular, I don't think it is necessary to get in a huff over this. Each story is very unique. Pollyanna deals with a grouchy, unwilling-to-love aunt, whereas in AoGG, the characters are more loving and open. I think that alot of these people make these accusations because they are jealous. As for RoSBF and AoGG, I don't think that they were really that much alike. But as I said, those stories were liked and are liked, so two or three of them doesn't hurt.
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Post by Timothy » Thu May 10, 2007 10:28 am

AvonLea, thanks for the post and insight :) . Do you think though that Rachel Lynde might represent the grouchy character that criticizes Anne, similiar to the way Rebecca was treated. Also, originally Marilla was unsympathetic towards Anne because she was expecting a boy; and yet, later, Anne won over everyones favor. Do you think that's kind of similiar to what happened to Rebecca (except without the expecting a boy part)? Just a thought.

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Post by AvonLea » Thu May 10, 2007 11:24 am

No, Rachel was just an old gossip. She was, I think, an individual character only found in AoGG. And Marilla kept Anne of her own free will. She could easily have found another place for her, but she kept her. Pollyanna's Aunt Polly took Pollyanna out of obligation. As for Rebecca...I don't remember the story very well.
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Post by Shinnen » Tue May 15, 2007 2:07 pm

I agree with you AvonLea, I think they have their own uniqueness. Maybe it was a popular theme at the time? Kind of like superhero movies are a lot alike, yet have their own story. :D
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Post by Gwendolene » Thu May 17, 2007 5:07 am

Shinnen wrote:I agree with you AvonLea, I think they have their own uniqueness. Maybe it was a popular theme at the time? Kind of like superhero movies are a lot alike, yet have their own story. :D
Good point. I don't find Pollyanna and AOGG at all similar. I don't know about Sunnybrook.
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Post by Timothy » Sun May 20, 2007 8:13 am

What do you all think of this cover of Rebecca stepping off this buggy... It looks like a familiar scene. :) She's even got the braids and hat thing going.

And doesn't this look like Matthew Cuthberthelping Rebecca from the buggy?

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Post by AvonLea » Sun May 20, 2007 1:14 pm

Hmmm...you are right, Timothy. What a coincidence. ;)
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Post by Wild Roses » Sun May 25, 2008 11:25 am

I wonder what other writings inspired LMM's own. I saw Cranford on PBS, and the adaptation of Elizabeth Glaskell's book, certainly reminded me of LMM's own books. (Glaskell was a Victorian writer though.)
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Post by oldfashionedgirl » Tue May 27, 2008 5:51 am

I love all the classic girl books!
I just finished Rebecca OSF for the ? time.
It's one of my favorites.
This time, the carriage ride home really stood out to me as being VERY similar to Anne's ride home with Matthew but I couldn't remember which story was published first.

I can't imagine LMM would have "copied" it though. :roll:

Rebecca is often portrayed as being a "little miss sunshine" like Pollyanna was but she really wasn't. She was a very sober little girl and her aunt Miranda never did show her any love. :(

One thing Rebecca and Anne had in common was there love of writing and poetry.

Well these are just some scattered thoughts...

I'm actually planning on writing a book review for ROSF :)
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Post by hannikan » Fri Dec 19, 2008 10:04 pm

Well there are also similarities to two other favorites of mine Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess (1905) and the Secret Garden (1911). Those were both about orphans who were mistreated or lonely and misunderstood. I do think this was a common theme for writers of children's books. There is a harsh schoolmistress or governess or aunt usually. I think this is because there was an expectation for a female benefactor to take in children (girls in particular) when they were orphaned or abandoned. Childrens' books were also a way for the strict social code of the time period to be instructed. This was a transitional period in terms of the approach toward children.

This was coming out of the Puritanical time when generally children had been seen as merely smaller adults. Now children were understood to need at least some nurturing care of adults and it was the specific responsibility and obligation (or burden, depending on your particular view of children) of female relatives, teachers and caregivers to steer these children to be productive members of society. People who would not become a burden to society as a whole financially or need to be taken care of by the state as adults either in asylums or jails.

There is a sense of struggle between whether those who took care of them should be simply strict disciplinarians or loving caregivers. I think the dichotomy represented in the two types of characters (or the transformation of a character like Marilla) reflected the fact that society wasn't sure to how feel about and deal with these children at the time. There were a lot of street children in places like London and New York, whose parents had died or had to leave them to fend for themselves so it was a big part of the public consciousness. You either had a heart that bled for them or saw them as the scourge of society. So no, I do not think it is not a coincidence that there are a lot of stories about this at this time. I don't think the authors copied each other. I do think they are all different in enough ways because the characters and plots are different and the perspective of each author is somewhat different.
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Re: Did LMM Plagiarize Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm?

Post by hannikan » Sun May 02, 2010 10:45 am

I haven't actually fully read Emily of New Moon yet but isn't the premise of ROSF more similar to Emily's with the two aunts, one strict and critical, one more loving? This was a common plot device for LMM in her short stories, too. In AoGG, Marilla is almost both those characters in one, first strict and critical later becoming more loving and accepting. I guess Rebecca has more of Anne's personality than Emily's.
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