This is Mental Health Awareness Week, and this year’s theme is kindness, something of which many people (although not all) have been showing an awful lot during these very difficult times – very much appreciated. I nicked the idea of listing ten kind characters, and particular acts of kindness which they show towards others, in fiction from someone else, but I thought it was a really nice one.
- Matthew Cuthbert in Anne of Green Gables … and the dress with the puffed sleeves. In most Girls’ Own type books, Anne would have been firmly reprimanded for her obsession with wanting a dress with puffed sleeves. Look at the grief which poor Meg March gets just for borrowing a pretty frock from a friend for one evening! And you certainly wouldn’t expect a middle-aged man to understand how much a dress in the latest fashion would mean to a young girl. But Matthew does. So he gets Anne a dress with puffed sleeves. It is just so sweet and kind of him!
2. Madge Bettany in The School at the Chalet … when she takes on responsibility for Juliet Carrick, who’s been abandoned by her cruel parents. Madge is a young single woman who hasn’t got much money, hasn’t even got a home other than the school, and is already responsible for her sister, but she doesn’t even hesitate about taking on Juliet. Until this point, Juliet’s been a troublemaker, but the kindness which Madge shows towards her helps her to become a much nicer person.
3. Lucy Pevensie in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe … and her concern for Mr Tumnus and the Beavers. She’s only a very young child, but she really cares about others.
4. Martha Sowerby in The Secret Garden … and her kindness towards Mary Lennox, who’s been a complete pain in the backside towards her. It’s Martha who first tells Mary about the garden.
5. Melanie Wilkes in Gone With The Wind … and her kindness towards Belle Watling, who runs the local brothel. The other society ladies in Atlanta look down their noses at Belle, but, when Belle comes to make a financial donation to the hospital, Melanie just speaks to her as one woman to another.
6. Paddington Brown in the Paddington Bear books … and his kindness towards everyone! Paddington is such a lovely, sweet character!
7. Nancy in Oliver Twist … and her attempts to protect Oliver. Nancy’s had a very tough life, and ends up meeting a horrible life, yet she can still show such kindness towards a young boy, even at the risk of her own safety.
8. Miss Temple in Jane Eyre … the kind teacher who takes an interest in Jane’s educational and emotional development, and also cares for the dying Helen Burns. One kind adult can do so much for a child living in difficult circumstances, and Miss Temple plays a crucial role in Jane’s life.
9. Jane Bennet in Pride and Prejudice … and her understanding attitude towards Charlotte’s decision to marry Mr Collins. Jane’s the “good” one of the Bennet sisters, and she’s always nice, but her reaction to Charlotte Lucas deciding to marry a man who’s a complete idiot always particularly strikes me. Elizabeth, even though she’s Charlotte’s best friend, can only see that Charlotte has agreed to marry a man whom she doesn’t love or respect. Jane is able to understand Charlotte’s reasons – as a woman who’s plain-looking and has no money, she’s going to struggle to find a husband, and the prospects for an unmarried woman of her time and class aren’t very appealing. Marrying Mr Collins is her best option. At the moment, a lot of people are busy yelling and shrieking and judging others for decisions that they’re making over the loosening of lockdown of restrictions. We need to accept that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. What is right for you may not be right for someone whose medical, financial and domestic circumstances are different. That doesn’t mean that either of you are wrong, and it doesn’t give you the right to judge or criticise them – any more than Elizabeth has the right to judge or criticise Charlotte’s choice. Jane can see that.
10. Almanzo Wilder in The Long Winter and These Happy Golden Years … and his kindness to Laura and, alongside Cap Garland, his kind and courageous decision to go and get supplies for the entire town during the very severe winter which leaves everyone struggling. OK, he fancies Laura and is hoping to win her affections, but it was still very nice of him to drive all that way to bring her home at weekends when she was teaching at the Brewster Settlement, especially as she kept telling him that it wasn’t going to get him anywhere! And, yes, someone had to go and get supplies, but it was Almanzo, along with Cap, who actually did. He’s not presented as a romantic hero in the books, even though he’s the author’s husband, but he is one!
#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek. Please be kind xxx.