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Literature / Emily of New Moon

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A trilogy of young-adult novels by L. M. Montgomery, her most popular books after the much more famous Anne of Green Gables series. These are also among the most autobiographical of her works.

Little Emily Byrd Starr has everything she needs: her loving father, her wild imagination, her cats, and her constant friend the Wind Woman. But upon the death of her father, Emily must live with her mother's folk, the Murrays, a clan known for being old-fashioned and proud. Emily comes of age under the care of stern Aunt Elizabeth, gentle Aunt Laura, and peculiar Cousin Jimmy in the Murray homestead of New Moon, making friends, enemies, and a few beaux along the way. Most significantly, she develops her talents as a writer, which sets her at odds against the more traditional ways of The Clan. However, Emily can be dissuaded from that path no more than can the Wind Woman from her course. Maturity ensues.

There are two sequels, Emily Climbs, which covers Emily studying away from home and beginning to expand her writing career, and Emily's Quest, which covers her career's launch, the changing dynamics of Emily's circle of friends, and romantic complications.


Emily of New Moon has been adapted into two TV series: a live-action series in 1998 that ran for four seasons, and a 2007 anime series by TMS, the latter of which is notable for cutting Dean out entirely and giving Teddy much more focus and development, making his getting together with Emily in the end come off less like they were Strangled by the Red String.

This series provides examples of:

  • Age-Gap Romance: Dean is 24 years older than Emily, but still pursues her romantically.
    • Dr. Burnley and his wife, which serves for most of people to further assume that she had left him for her young, charismatic cousin.
  • Alpha Bitch: Rhoda. Emily is at first drawn to her for her pretty and sweet appearance, but soon learns better. Evelyn Blake in the second book is a more classic example, engaging in Sugary Malice as well, but not putting it in sheep's clothing like Rhoda does.
  • Aloof Dark-Haired Girl: Emily, of course. Aunt Elizabeth is an aged example, with hair turning gray, but double on aloofness.
  • Bathroom Stall of Overheard Insults: Two examples:
    • When the Murrays are discussing which one of them should adopt Emily, she hides under the dining room table to hear their conversation. She ends up hearing several insulting comments about herself and her father.
    • In Emily Climbs, two of the Murrays' neighbours come to the house and Emily is the only one home. She is wearing a rather old and ugly dress that she had put on to do housework. She is embarrassed to let the neighbours see her dressed like this, so instead of answering the door, she panics and hides in a closet. The neighbours come into the house anyway because the door is unlocked. Then they sit down in the parlour and have a conversation that contains several unflattering comments about Emily and Ilse.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Ilse and Perry. Oh, boy, Ilse and Perry. When she rushes to his bedside after his accident, though, we get a fantastic Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other moment.
  • Beta Couple: Ilse and Perry serve this role to Emily and Teddy.
  • Better as Friends: Emily tries to explain to Perry that they are that case; it takes years, though he moves on pretty quickly when he discovers he could have a chance with Ilse. Ilse and Teddy are also an example, though they were aware of it from the start of their engagement.
    • This is what eventually happens to Dean and Emily much to the eternal horror of shippers.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Rhoda Stuart.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Ilse in her early years. What with practically being a Wild Child, she doesn't have much control over her temper.
  • Broken Bird: Mrs. Kent. Later Emily and Ilse.
  • Broken Treasure: Emily breaks a priceless vase when visiting her Great Aunt Nancy and is afraid to tell her for a long time. When she finally confesses, her aunt is actually amused because of how disappointed her heirs will be.
  • Giftedly Bad: Perry writes horrible poetry as a way of competing with Emily.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Murrays may be seen (and see themselves) as the Chosen People, but they're really more this. The Priests as well.
  • Brutal Honesty: Mr. Carpenter is unsparing when it comes to critiquing Emily's work. The trope is subverted with Dean when he savages Emily's first novel not because he actually thinks it's bad as because he resents anything that takes her attention from him - he apologizes for this later.
  • Byronic Hero: Dean Priest, one of the best examples of this character type. He comes from an old, moneyed family that hates him on account of his disability. He's traveled the world restlessly, and this gives him a cynical regard for the petty concerns of Prince Edward Islanders. He's sometimes bitter, and definitely has issues relating to people, but he is capable of real goodness and selflessness.
  • The Charmer: For some reason, Teddy ends up as one of these; Ilse tells Emily he's become a Chick Magnet and is a wee bit too happily conscious of it.
  • Chick Magnet: As stated above, Teddy. From as early, as his school years (he's even first mentioned when Rhoda Stuart claims he's her 'fiance').
    • Dude Magnet: Both Emily and Ilse when they grow up, though the latter mostly off-screen.
  • Childhood Marriage Promise: Both defied and played straight. Perry's aunt tries to bribe Emily into making a promise to marry Perry (at the age of about ten) by saying that she (the aunt) will only pay for Perry's education if he can marry up into the Murray clan. Both Emily and Perry are embarrassed by the incident and don't take it seriously. But Emily and Teddy do agree that, if they reach a certain age and they're both unmarried, they'll wed each other. It comes to pass.
  • Children Are Cruel: Several girls tease Emily on her first day of school at Blair Water. They are less nasty the next day however, and Emily ends up befriending most of them.
  • The Clan: As screwed up as the Murrays may be, God help you if you snub or try to bring down anyone with Murray blood.
  • Clingy Jealous Mother: Mrs. Kent. She's cold and unfriendly to almost everyone, but passionately jealous of her son. Teddy even thinks that she poisoned his dog because she thought he loved it more than he loved her.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Dean Priest, engaging in Manipulative Bastardry. Over a book. He gets better though and loses the jealous streak.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Cousin Jimmy. Which freaks people out when he starts to talk very seriously and clearly.
  • Control Freak: Aunt Elizabeth certainly means well, as she only tells family members what to do as a means to keep her loved ones out of trouble, but she is too proud to accept the idea that she may not always know what's best.
  • Cool Teacher: Mr Carpenter ends up as one of these, from top to toe. He recognizes and encourages talent in all forms, especially Emily's, and his lessons are unusual and very interactive but extremely effective.
  • Cool Old Lady: Aunt Nancy, even a bit too cool for Emily's taste. Aunt Elizabeth also displays this trope from time to time after the first book, and truthfully every Murray-born old lady gets a chance to shine, even Aunt Ruth.
  • Comically Missing the Point: When Emily is trying to teach Perry about good manners, she tells him that he shouldn't call his Aunt Tom an old beast. Perry says he has to call her that because she isn't a young beast.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: The whole trilogy is one of these for Emily's character.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Emily considers her imprecise and very rare psychic manifestations as awful, never-to-be-spoken-of incidents, when these powers only ever are shown as helping people. However, justified when one considers Values Dissonance — psychic powers were classified under "insanity" in the Victorian era.
  • Curtains Match the Window: in Ilse Burnley, who has yellow eyes and blonde hair.
  • Defrosting the Ice Queen: Aunt Elizabeth, very gradually. It helps that she and Emily aren't so different in their deep feeling and stubborn pride.
    • Aunt Ruth in Emily Climbs, to a lesser extent. She doesn't come to understand Emily the way that Elizabeth does, but she eventually learns to take pride in her as a fellow member of the Murray clan, and sticks up for her against others.
  • Due to the Dead: The residents of Blair Water, and especially the Murrays, are very particular about giving the dead what's owed to them.
  • Embarrassing Nick Name: Dean is widely known as Jarback Priest on account of his disability. One reason why he respects the memory of Emily's father so much is that he never called him this. And neither does Emily.
  • Emotions vs. Stoicism: Emily careens back and forth across this scale; she's naturally very high-strung and emotional, but the Murray pride in her means that when she's really hurt she'll make damned sure you don't know it.
  • Evil Matriarch: Aunt Elizabeth's really not, you know. But try telling Emily that a few times during the first book.
  • Fashion Hurts: Aunt Elizabeth makes Emily wear stockings and boots even on hot summer days. Emily would prefer to go barefoot, but Aunt Elizabeth considers this immodest.
  • Fatal Flaw: Dean's jealousy, Emily's (and the rest of the Murrays' as well, really) pride.
  • Final Speech: Mr. Carpenter gives a lengthy one, mostly composed of writing and life advice, to Emily as he lies dying of old age.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Emily is melancholic, Teddy is phlegmatic, Ilse is choleric, and Perry is sanguine.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Aunt Elizabeth, who is painfully no-nonsense, but very reliable.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Mrs. Kent has a long scar running down her face, which she considers a disfigurement.
  • Good Shepherd: Father Cassidy, Catholic and Irish. He impresses the Protestant Emily by talking to her like an adult and taking her writing seriously — one of the first adults she's met to do so.
  • Gossipy Hens: These characters tend to populate all of L.M. Montgomery's novels, and Blair Water's filled with them. Fairly appropriate, as anyone who's familiar with small-town life in the Maritimes can tell you.
  • Handicapped Bad Ass: Dean Priest. Comes close to Evil Cripple territory when he tells Emily her first novel is trash because he is jealous she cares so much about her writing - overall subverted though, as he gets much better.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: every time someone calls Emily "pussy". "Small pussy", as a child. *shudders*
  • Heartwarming Orphan: One of the fundamental underpinnings of the series.
  • He's Just Hiding!: This is Mad Mr. Morrison's backstory, In-Universe, in Emily Climbs. When he was young, he married a beautiful girl named Annie, but she died shortly after their wedding. This seriously affected his mind and he came to believe that she was not dead, only lost. Decades later, he still spends all his time wandering around looking for her.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Great Aunt Nancy and her companion Caroline Priest, who have a rather unsettling love-hate relationship.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Great-Aunt Nancy is 90 years old, wrinkled, and suffering from rheumatism. However, she was very beautiful as a young woman and she enjoys bragging about how many hearts she broke in those days.
  • Imaginary Friend: The Wind Woman. She has different guises depending on which direction the wind is coming from, and Emily never quite lets go of her.
  • In the Blood: The Murray family believes very strongly in this. Emily comes in for some snide comments, as any of her less-than-stellar personality traits are pinned on the fickle Starr blood from her father's side.
  • Jail Bait Wait: Dean is explicit about this on their first meeting and the trope becomes increasingly obvious as the series progresses.
    • Dean does make the comment about Emily's life belonging to him after he saves her when she's a child - but he most certainly isn't interested in pre-pubescent Emily at all. He's interested in the Emily that might be one day and becomes her friend. He only shows romantic interest in her when she's a teenager and considering the time period of the books, this isn't unusual at all.
  • Kind Hearted Cat Lover: Emily is very close to her cats Mike and Saucy Sal. Part of what makes the death of her father doubly tragic is that she has to leave one of the cats behind when she moves.
  • Kissing Cousins: Emily stands against the idea.
  • Kubrick Stare: The Murray look. Like her grandfather Archibald Murray, Emily looks really scary when she's angry and can even intimidate Miss Brownwell and Aunt Elizabeth with this expression.
  • Last-Minute Hookup: Emily and Teddy in literally the last handful of pages of the entire trilogy. Presumably, they live Happily Ever After - much to the eternal anger and disgust of Dean/Emily fans.
    • Even Teddy/Emily fans dislike how vaguely and (very, very) late Emily and Teddy came together with no description and with Teddy lacking major character development.
  • Loon with a Heart of Gold: Cousin Jimmy, who hasn't been "all there" since a childhood accident, is unfailingly kind and respectful to Emily and her friends. He does have his peculiar moods, but he never falls to cruelty.
  • Lovable Rogue: Emily calls Perry this almost by name.
  • Manchild: Cousin Jimmy. He's never been quite "all there" since the accident when he was a child — but Emily knows that whatever part of him is not "there," it certainly isn't his heart.
  • Men Can't Keep House: The Burnley home, inhabited only by a busy doctor and a tomboy, is regularly messy, with rotten food and piles of forgotten laundry.
  • Mirror Character: Emily and Aunt Elizabeth share much more similarities than they would care to admit: both are very proud Aloof Dark-Haired Girls who can act strict and intimidating — in fact every time Emily does so, someone compares her to Aunt Elizabeth. They are also both fairly stubborn and tend to resent it in each other when faced with the other one's stubbornness in times of disagreement.
  • Missing Mom: Juliet Murray was dead long before the first book started; the suspicious disappearance of Ilse's mother also ends up being an important plot point.
  • Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: Emily's father, before his death. Emily herself, possibly, later in the books. Dean Priest is an outcast in his own family for his deformity, and has developed a deep cynical streak as a result of this, but nonetheless he becomes one of Emily's best friends, a kindred spirit for her. Subverted when he reveals how much he wants to control and possess Emily. Double Subverted when he redeems himself by breaking their engagement and sending the key to the Disappointed House.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: There are some strong autobiographical ties between L.M. Montgomery herself and Emily, much more than the Anne books.
  • Mouthy Kid: Ilse. And how. A side-effect of her Spoiled Brat (and Wild Child) upbringing due to her own Missing Mom.
  • My Beloved Smother: Teddy Kent's mother is scarily possessive. He suspects at the age of ten that she's poisoned his pet dog because she couldn't stand sharing his love with anyone else.
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut: Dr. Burnley finds this out when he discovers that his wife did not leave him for another man but rather fell into a well and died years ago.
  • My Greatest Failure: When they were children, Aunt Elizabeth pushed Cousin Jimmy into a well in a fit of temper, leaving Jimmy slightly brain damaged. He pities rather than resents Elizabeth for this because he realizes she was sick with guilt afterwards. Her allowing Jimmy to live at New Moon and acting as his caregiver may be her way of atoning.
  • Naked People Are Funny: In the first book, Perry sticks his head out of the kitchen loft and interrupts a conversation. Aunt Elizabeth orders him to come down from the loft immediately. At first Perry says he can't, but when Aunt Elizabeth keeps insisting that he come down, he climbs down the ladder completely naked. He cheerfully explains that he fell into a brook earlier and was just about to change into dry clothes. Needless to say, Aunt Elizabeth does not find this amusing.
  • Neat Freak: Aunt Ruth. Women in this era are expected to be concerned about keeping their homes clean and tidy, but she takes it to ridiculous extremes, doing things like barging into Emily's room to interrogate her about why an antimacassar on the sofa is crooked.
  • Nephewism: Rather, Nieceism.
  • Noble Male, Roguish Male: Ted is the Noble Male, while both Perry and Dean can count as a Roguish Male, in different ways.
  • Old Maid:
    • Both of the aunts remained unmarried.
    • Aunt Elizabeth isn't too happy when Emily stays unmarried at 24...
  • Outdated Outfit: Emily is mortified when she is made to wear an old fashioned sun bonnet and apron with sleeves (or "baby apron") to school
  • Orphan's Ordeal: The whole point of the books.
  • Pointy Ears: Emily has slightly pointed ears, which some characters comment on as "elfin." Oddly, the Verse of the stories is almost entirely mundane.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The entirety of love complications between the core four. Emily's Pride causes Ted to believe she doesn't care about him, causing him to seek comfort in marriage with Ilse; Emily in turn is convinced that he was toying with her feelings and just likes the lively and beautiful Ilse better. Ilse is marrying Ted for similar reasons he is marrying her: she thinks she has no chance with Perry who thinks he is in love with Emily and also thinks that Ilse hates him anyway — to his defense, thanks to Ilse's personality everyone else thinks so too. Also, Ilse and Emily, close friends as they are, barely talk to one another about their feelings for the boys, and so inadvertently foil one another's happiness. If Perry hadn't gotten into that car accident, Ilse and Ted would have married, Emily probably would have become a bitter spinster, and we wouldn't have a Happy Ending.
  • Pride: A distinguishing trait of the Murrays. Even Emily has her fair share of it.
  • The Promise: Quite a few of these, but Emily's deal not to write fiction as long as she's at Shrewsbury is one of the more significant ones.
  • Raised by Grandparents: Or, at least, much-older aunts and uncles.
  • Releasing from the Promise: Emily's Aunt Elizabeth informs her, two years into college, that since a rich relative took up the costs, and the promise to not write fiction had been made in return for the tuition, the aunt feels obliged to release her.
  • The Resenter: Teddy Kent's mother.
  • Runaway Bride: Ilse pulls this off in pretty impressive fashion when she hears (mistakenly) that Perry's been fatally injured in a car crash just before her wedding with Teddy is about to start. She also cheerfully admits that she would do the same ten minutes later — when she would already been married to Ted. Emily is not sympathetic to this at all.
  • Sadist Teacher: Ms Brownell. Oh, Ms Brownell.
  • Secret Diary: Emily has bad luck keeping her secret diaries secret. Before Emily leaves for New Moon Aunt Elizabeth finds an old account book Emily uses as a diary. Emily manages to burn it before Aunt Elizabeth reads it, but later Aunt Elizabeth does read the secret letters Emily writes to her deceased father, and is angered and hurt by what Emily has written about her. Emily accidentally gives Mr. Carpenter a book of her character sketches of people she knows, but Mr. Carpenter is merely amused and impressed by her writing ability.
  • Self-Made Man: Perry Miller.
  • Second Love: Subverted in case of Ilse and Ted, when they get engaged. Ilse describes it as 'second-hand love'.
  • Sins of Our Fathers: So, so deeply ingrained in the society of the books. Saying these people hold grudges is putting it mildly. Ilse, especially, suffers from it in the first book, thanks to what everyone thinks her mother did when she was a baby. Emily also faces contempt from the other Murrys, because her mother, Juliet, was beloved by her family but then married a poor man that the clan didn't approve of.
  • Stepford Smiler: Both Emily and Ilse become this for a good part of the last book, when both they grow up to be rather unhappy young women. Okay, Emily stops smiling after breaking her engagement with Dean and it becomes more of a case of Stepford Pride.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Emily, and she pays for it dearly, as the ice layer almost freezes her beloved off.
  • Taking the Veil: Emily has the heroine of her poem do this when she thinks her love is dead. She has to consult a priest to figure out a happy ending, and discovers, to her dismay, that she needs to work "special dispensation" into a poem to pull it off.
  • Talking in Your Sleep: Emily, in the midst of a fever dream, reveals what really happened to Ilse's mother, even though there's no way she could have known.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Ilse is the wild child and Emily is much better at domestic tasks when they're children. Later in life Ilse becomes quite concerned with fashion and a social butterfly, while Emily becomes more of a reclusive eccentric.
  • Tranquil Fury: How Emily gets mad, contrasted with Ilse's much more violent displays of anger.
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Perry thinks he's one of these to Emily. And, for a good part of the last book, everyone toward some of the other ones in the pack, until things get fixed. Like when Ilse leaves Ted at the altar.
  • Victorian Novel Disease: Emily's father died of consumption and several of the Murrays think she'll suffer the same fate. As a result, she has to do unpleasant things like sleep with the bedroom windows closed (Emily loves the outdoors and fresh air) because night air is believed to be unhealthy.
  • Victorious Childhood Friend: Ultimately the fate for Ilse and Perry and Teddy and Emily, the latter of which is a major source of Broken Base, what with Dean/Emily fans and also because of Teddy himself (even among Teddy/Emily shippers!) who considered the most boring, dull and undeveloped character in the entire series - and especially compared to Dean.
  • Well, Excuse Me, Princess!: Ilse cannot stand the sight of Perry making an idiot of himself (fairly often), because she knows he can do better. Perry in turn just thinks she hates him and considers Emily to be this trope (she isn't), causing him to try to improve and finally be worthy of her.
  • When She Smiles: Emily is not supposed to be beautiful, but everyone forgets about that when she smiles.
  • Wife Husbandry: It's unclear how much of Dean's relationship with Emily falls under this trope. Suffice it to say that he was her father's best friend, and he's known Emily since she was very young. Dean also consistently implies that he has a claim on her life, having saved it the day they met - yet he only romantically begins to pursue her when she's a teenager and then very seriously when she's a bit older.
  • Wrong Side of the Tracks: Perry Miller, who works as a hired boy for the Murrays when young, comes from a impoverished low class community called Stovepipe Town. He is determined to make good for himself and becomes a politician.