Lately, I have been thinking about misunderstanding and communication and the “noise” that gets in the way of understanding what another person is trying to convey. Gilbert Blythe is a perfect example of this.
There is a communication theory, developed in the 1940’s by theorists Shannon and Weaver, which states that every interaction follows a certain channel: You have the sender (who is the person speaking or writing or communicating in whichever way), who transmits the message, which then goes through whichever “channel” they are using (again, however they are communicating) and ends up being received and “decoded” by the recipient who then has to take meaning from whatever is being communicated and responds accordingly. This is where “noise” comes in and can lead to misunderstanding. Noise is anything which can alter or cause a miscommunication in a message. So just because you know what you are trying to convey, does not mean the other person will!
The iconic scene where Gilbert pulls Anne’s hair and calls her “Carrots” is full of “noise”. As viewers of the film and readers of the book, we know that Gilbert wasn’t trying to be mean to Anne or hurt her feelings. We know that he likes her and this was his way of getting her attention. He even says later that he only did it because he wanted to meet her so much. But, this interaction is what colours Anne’s opinion of him for years until they actually are able to communicate effectively with each other and realize that they could be good friends.
So, we know that the message Gilbert was sending, or at least trying to send, was that he liked Anne and wanted her attention. The means or channel by which he sent this message was to pull her braid and call her “Carrots”, thinking that it would gain him the attention he wanted. This however, was not the meaning that Anne “decoded” from what Gilbert did; she thought that he was trying to hurt her feelings and that he was being horrible to her just because he wanted to. This leads to the infamous moment of the slate being broken over Gilbert’s head and years of misunderstanding.
This is all too often the case in a lot of people’s everyday interactions and it can lead to some very interesting situations. Hopefully, though, nothing as violent as a slate being broke over someone’s head! Luckily, in later years, Anne and Gilbert learn how to communicate wonderfully with each other and there is very little “noise” to get in the way of their interactions.
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