“Anne of Green Gables” was published in 1908 by L. M. Montgomery. Although she wrote it for all ages, since the mid-twentieth century it has been known as a children’s book. The story follows the life of an eleven-year-old orphan girl who is adopted into the family of an elderly brother and sister. She moves into their home at Green Gables, a farm in Prince Edward Island in Canada.
Anne Shirley was orphaned as a baby and spent her early years taking care of young children for the families she lived with. Although the Cuthberts had wanted to adopt a boy to help out at the farm, they decided to keep Anne. She is a dreamer but is also intelligent and eager to please. Anne has bright red hair that she is very sensitive about, so when a boy at school teases her about it, she decides he is her nemesis. Their rivalry follows her education throughout the book that takes them through college and into their first jobs.
The book has adventures of Anne’s in the quiet world she grows up in. She accidentally dyes her hair green and gets her best girlfriend drunk when she mistakes raspberry cordial for red currant wine. “Anne of Green Gables” ends with a cliffhanger that feeds into the next book in the series. She takes a job to teach at the Carmody school, and she has lost one of her adoptive family when Matthew passes with a heart attack when he learns the bank they had their money failed, and Marilla’s eyesight is failing. She and her nemesis become friends when he offers the teaching position closer to home to her so she can stay home to help Marilla. She looks forward, “And there was always the bend in the road!”
“Anne of Green Gables” opens with Rachel Lynde sitting on her porch. Since her house has the perfect location to watch everyone’s coming and going into Avonlea, which is a small rural town in Prince Edward Island in Canada, she is the town’s gossip. When she sees Matthew Cuthbert leaving in his buggy wearing his best suit, she runs over to ask his sister, Marilla where he is going. She learns that he is going to the train station to pick up the child they are adopting. Since he is getting older, he needs help with the farm. Mrs. Rachel warns about the dangers of taking a stranger in the house. She tells horror stories about other children that were adopted and all the crimes committed by them. When Mrs. Rachel tells her about a little girl, Marilla wonders why anyone would adopt a girl.
Meanwhile, Matthew is at the train station. He is surprised to see a little girl waiting for him, instead of the little boy he was expecting. She is eleven years old with long red braids and an ill-fitting dress and worn hat. Matthew is very shy and doesn’t want to talk, but Anne starts out the conversation and continues talking. He decides to take her back to Green Gables and let Marilla work it out. Anne tells him that Green Gables feels like home when they arrive.
Marilla is angry to see a little girl instead of a more useful boy. When Anne understands their feelings, she bursts into tears. Marilla gets Anne to give her name and then puts her to bed, where Anne cries herself to sleep. Later, when Marilla is discussing the removal of Anne with Matthew, she is surprised to hear that he wants her to stay. Marilla asks what good a girl will be to a farm; Matthew replies that maybe they could be some good to her. Even though Marilla is sharp with Anne the next morning, Anne sees the kindness under the facade of grumpiness. After breakfast, Anne refuses to go outside, so she won’t fall in love with Green Gables as she expects to be forced to leave. Instead, she explores the house and names a houseplant, Bonny.
While Marilla takes Anne with her to Mrs. Spencer to find out why Anne was sent instead of the boy they expected, Matthew informs her that he has hired a boy to work on the farm so they can keep Anne. Along the road, Marilla prompts Anne to reveal her backstory. Anne’s parents both died of a fever. She was adopted by a Mrs. Thomas who had a drunken husband. Anne was there to help with their children. After eight years pass, Mr. Thomas dies, and Anne is sent to Mrs. Hammond where she cares for the woman’s three sets of twins. Two years later, Mr. Hammond then dies, and Anne is sent to an orphanage. Although she never went to school, Anne compensated by reading a lot. Marilla starts to consider keeping Anne after hearing her sad story. Anne refuses to pity herself; she says both of the women had good intentions. Marilla thinks that Anne is ladylike and can be trained out of her bad habits.
At the orphanage, Mrs. Spencer apologizes for the mix-up and tells her that Mrs. Blewett wants to get a girl to handle her rambunctious children. Marilla doesn’t like that idea, especially when Mrs. Blewett drops by and frightens Anne with her gruff manner. Marilla chooses to take her back to Green Gables to reconsider.
Back at Green Gables, Marilla tells Matthew that they can keep Anne, as long as he doesn’t interfere with her child rearing methods. Matthew just asks that she be kind to Anne. Marilla decides to wait until the next day to tell Anne. That night, Marilla helps Anne with her prayers, but Anne doesn’t know how. So Marilla tells her to say what she wants to God. Anne thanks God for Green Gables and Bonny, and ends the prayer with, “Yours respectfully, Anne Shirley.” Marilla decides that as soon as she has some new clothes made, she will take Anne to Sunday school.
The next afternoon, Marilla finally tells Anne she can stay. Anne is to call her Marilla. Then, she gives Anne a copy of the Lord’s Prayer and tells her to memorize it. Anne asks Marilla about finding a friend in the neighborhood and is told about Diana Barry. Marilla becomes irritated at Anne’s chatter about imaginary friends and sends her to her room, where she is to memorize the prayer, but instead, spend the time daydreaming. She is glad that she will be known as Anne of Green Gables now.
Two weeks later Mrs. Rachel Lynde visits. She tries to reprimand Marilla for adopting Anne, but Marilla replies that she has come to be fond of the little girl. When Anne comes into the room, Mrs. Rachel rudely announces that she is too skinny and her hair is “red as carrots.” Anne loses her temper and yells at Mrs. Rachel that she hates her, then stomps off to her room. Mrs. Rachel wants Marilla to whip her for her outburst. But, Marilla chastises Mrs. Rachel for being insensitive. After Mrs. Rachel leaves, Marilla finds Anne crying in her room. Marilla knows she must punish her for being rude to an adult and a visitor, but she decides an apology will be sufficient. Anne doesn’t want to apologize because she does not regret anything she said to Mrs. Rachel.
The next day, Anne stays in her room and hardly eats. Matthew is worried, so when Marilla leaves he goes upstairs and convinces Anne to offer the apology. She agrees for Matthew’s sake. Anne tells Marilla she will apologize, so they start their walk to Mrs. Rachel’s house. At first, Anne is dejected, then she changes her continence and becomes cheerful and dreamy. But, when they arrive at Mrs. Rachel’s house Anne takes on a sad face and drops to her knees, clasps her hands and begs the woman’s forgiveness. The act is way over the top, but Mrs. Rachel accepts her apology and even admits that the girl’s hair will improve with age. Then she tells Marilla that although Anne is odd, she likes her.
On the walk home, Marilla knows that Anne went overboard and theatrical in her apology, but can’t fault her on her delivery because it was done too well. Marilla gives Anne her new dresses that she made for her. Although the dresses are plainer than Anne had hoped, she wears one of them to Sunday school and dreams that it is a beautiful dress with ruffles. Along the way she picks some flowers to put in her hat, that causes the people at church to scoff. Anne finds the service and lessons boring and unimaginative. When she reports that to Marilla, she scolds her for not paying attention, although she secretly agrees with Anne.
The next day Mrs. Rachel tells Marilla that Anne had put flowers in her hat. She tells her the congregation laughed at her. Marilla reprimands Anne which causes her to cry. Then she is cheered when Marilla tells her they will visit the Barry’s that afternoon. Anne expects to be close friends with Diana Barry. Marilla warns her that Mrs. Barry is strict, so she should tame her vivaciousness. Anne and Diana become fast friends right away. When they get back to Green Gables, Matthew gives Anne some chocolate he bought for her. She wants to wait so she can share it with Diana. Marilla is pleased with her generosity and tells Matthew that she can’t imagine what life would be like without Anne.
A church picnic is coming up. Anne is very excited. Marilla plans to make some food for it. They begin to talk about diamonds and Marilla shows Anne an amethyst brooch she wears to church. Anne thinks it is beautiful, so when it disappears the day before the picnic, she asks Anne about it. Anne tells her she saw it that day and tried it on for just a minute. Marilla thinks Anne lost it, so she sends her to her room as punishment. Anne is devastated when she learns part of her punishment is not to go to the picnic. On the day of the picnic, Anne tries to confess but is still grounded. Matthew thinks the punishment is too harsh, but Marilla won’t relent until she discovers the brooch stuck to a string on her shawl. She apologizes to Anne and allows her to go to the picnic. When Anne returns, she tells them all about her first time to eat ice cream.
Anne does well in school and is good friends with Diana. They walk home together every day, and Anne likes her even though she isn’t very imaginative. Other girls at the school include her in their potluck lunches. Even though she doesn’t like boys, and doesn’t want to flirt with them, she is humiliated with the thought that boys are unlikely to flirt with her. Every day she learns more about the gossip in Avonlea. She relates the news to Marilla after school. Their teacher lets the children run amok while he flirts with the oldest girl who is sixteen and heading off to college. She knows she is the smartest girl in the class even though she is reading a level below where she should be because she hasn’t attended classes before. She is happy to be considered smart, but would rather be pretty.
One day, the popular, smart and handsome Gilbert Blythe returns to school. Since she shows no interest in him, Gilbert decides to tease her. He grabs her braid and calls it carrots. Anne becomes so angry; she hits him over the head with her slate. The teacher missed the exchange but punishes Anne for hitting Gilbert. When Gilbert tries to explain, the teacher won’t hear of it. Anne spends the day standing in front of the class. Whenever Gilbert tries to apologize to her, she ignores him.
The next day, Mr. Phillips, the teacher, plans to make an example of the children who return from lunch late. Anne is busy daydreaming, so she is late, as well as the boys. Instead of punishing all of them, he punishes Anne by making her sit next to Gilbert. She tells Diana the punishment was excruciating, and she will not return to school again. Anne tells Marilla she won’t go back to school, and with the advice of Mrs. Rachel, Marilla agrees to let her stay home until she wants to go back. In October, Marilla tells Anne she is in charge of the house, and she can have Diana over for tea. They have a little tea party; then they go out to play for awhile. Anne gives Diana some of the raspberry cordials that Marilla told them they could have. While Diana drinks cup after cup, Anne entertains her with stories of her ineptness in the kitchen. Diana drinks too much and then wobbles home, after complaining about not feeling well.
Two days later they learn from Mrs. Rachel that Diana was drunk and not just sick. Anne had innocently given her wine instead of cordial. Mrs. Barry is furious at Anne and refuses to let Diana talk to Anne. Nothing Anne or Marilla says changes the woman’s mind. Anne is devastated. Anne returns to school, so she can see Diana even if they can’t talk or play with each other. When she returns the children welcome her back. Two boys offer her gifts. She accepts Charlie’s but not Gilbert’s. Anne learns that she and Gilbert are tied as a top student.
One evening Mrs. Rachel and Marilla go to see an address given by a Canadian premier. Anne is at home studying while Matthew is reading. Suddenly, Diana rushes into the house and cries that her baby sister has croup and neither she nor the babysitter know what to do. Anne follows her home to help while Matthew goes for the doctor. By the time the doctor arrives, the baby is better and sleeping peacefully. Since Anne had so much experience with babies, she was able to tend to the baby’s croup. The doctor tells the Barry’s that Anne saved the baby’s life.
The next day, Mrs. Barry comes over to thank Anne for the next day and apologizes for blaming her for Diana’s drunkenness. She invites Anne over for tea and encourages her friendship with Diana. Anne and Diana are both thrilled. For Diana’s birthday, her mother invites Anne over to go to a Debating Club concert and to spend an overnight in their spare room. At first, Marilla is against it, but Matthew convinces her to allow it. Anne and Diana have a wonderful time at the concert, and afterward the two girls dress into their nightgowns and run to jump into the bed. They land on Diana’s old aunt, Miss Josephine Barry, who is visiting early. Anne spends the night sleeping with the baby instead of the guest room.
The next day Anne has gone home and is happy until she hears that Diana’s Aunt Josephine woke in a bad mood at being woken in the middle of the night. She leaves early and refuses to pay for Diana’s music lessons. Anne tries to remedy the situation. She goes to the Barry’s and sees the aunt in the spare bedroom. Josephine finds Anne entertaining and agrees to pay for the lessons. She plans to stay a month and wants Anne to visit every day and talk to her. She also wants her to visit in town.
After Anne’s first anniversary had passed, the community got a new minister since the old one retired. The new one is Mr. Allan, and his wife is the new Sunday School teacher. Anne and the children love her. They will also get a new teacher at school as Mr. Phillips is leaving. Marilla invites the Allan’s over for tea and allows Anne to bake a cake. When the cake looks beautiful but tastes terrible, they discover that Anne used liniment in the cake instead of vanilla. Anne is mortified and runs upstairs to throw herself in her bed and cry. Mrs. Allan consoles her by reminding her that she never makes the same mistake twice. Anne is comforted by thinking that she will someday make all the possible mistakes and be done making them.
One Sunday after church, Diana invites all the girls over to a party at her house. They girls play outside and dare each other to do small feats. A mean girl dares Anne to walk on the beam at the peak of the roof Barry’s kitchen roof. Anne takes the dare, but after a few steps, she falls, breaking her ankle. She spends seven weeks on bed rest and is visited by a lot of people. Her friends from school tell her all about the new teacher, Miss Stacy, who wears beautiful clothes and takes them on nature walks, promotes physical exercise, and forms recitations. Anne thinks “Miss Stacy is a kindred spirit.”
The children love their new teacher, but the mother’s question her new methods. Miss Stacy announces that the children will put on a Christmas concert to raise money for a new Canadian flag for the school. Since Marilla thinks the concert is foolishness, Anne discusses it with Matthew. He is glad that he isn’t in charge of raising her since he gets to spoil her. Matthew comes home one afternoon and sees Anne rehearsing with her friends. He notices that Anne’s clothes aren’t as pretty as the other girls, so he plans a trip into town to buy her a new dress.
Matthew goes to a store that he assumes will only have men since he is afraid of women. But, Mr. Lawson has hired a new female clerk, Miss Lucilla Harris. He is too afraid of her to ask Miss Harris for fashion advice. He buys a rake and sugar and leaves in embarrassment. He finally gathers enough courage to ask Mrs. Rachel for help. Mrs. Rachel is happy to help, and Matthew gives Anne the new dress on Christmas Day. Diana gives Anne a gift from Aunt Josephine, some delicate slippers. Anne wears her new clothes to the Christmas concert. Matthew tells Anne how proud he is of her, but even though Marilla is also very proud of her, she doesn’t tell her.
After the concert, life returns to normal. Anne is almost thirteen and decides to improve herself by imitating Mrs. Allan. She wants to be more charitable and tries to be good. Miss Stacy assigns the class a writing assignment. They must write a fictional work about a walk in the winter. Anne loves the assignment, but Diana moans about it. Anne decides that forming Story Club will help her develop her imagination. Two other girls join, and the girls spend their time inventing stories.
In late April, Marilla returns to find that Anne didn’t make tea or start dinner. She complains to Matthew that Anne disobeyed since she was told to do these things. But, when dinner goes by, she begins to worry. She finds Anne in her room on her bed. Anne has tried to die her hair black, and it is green. The only thing Marilla can do to rectify the problem is cut her hair. Anne is devastated and forces herself to look at her reflection to remind herself of the follies of vanity.
The Story Club act out a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson. Anne plays the part of a corpse in Barry’s boat floating downstream. But, the boat has a leak. When the girls see the boat sink they run off to get help; terrified Anne has drowned. When help arrives, they see Anne hanging onto a bridge pile. Gilbert rows out to rescue her. He tries to apologize for calling her carrots and wants to make amends. She almost relents but decides not to forgive him. He storms off angrily. The girls return unable to find help and are relieved to see Anne is fine and think her rescue to be romantic. She disagrees on the romantic aspect of her rescue.
In September Aunt Josephine invites Anne and Diana to stay with her in town and see an exhibition. Anne has long desired to see the riches of Aunt Josephine’s house but sees that the riches don’t seem as wonderful as they did in her imagination. After the exhibition, Aunt Josephine takes them to a fancy restaurant for ice cream. Although Anne enjoyed her time in town, she is glad to be back in her bed at Green Gables.
Anne tells Marilla about her day at school. She tells her that Miss Stacy told them that the must work at cultivating their characters now, because when they reach their twenties, their characters will be set. Marilla tells Anne that Miss Stacy is forming a group of advanced students to study so they can enter Queen’s Academy in a year and a half. She wants Anne to participate. Marilla tells Anne that every woman needs an education so she can support herself and a job as a teacher is a good profession. Anne is unsure because of the costs of college, but Marilla assures her that it would be worth the cost, so Anne is thrilled.
Six other children besides Anne attend the study sessions, but Diana doesn’t because her parents don’t plan to send her to college. But, Gilbert is attending as well as the other two girls in their Story Club, Ruby, and Jane. Also, Charlie and Moody. Gilbert decides to treat Anne as coldly as she treats him, but now, she is no longer angry and regrets being too cold to him.
After a worry free summer, Anne returns to school a more serious and quiet fifteen-year-old. Marilla thinks how she will miss Anne when she leaves for college leaving Green Gables as quiet and lonely as it was before her arrival. She and the Avonlea Scholars attend outings together and worry about the upcoming entrance exams.
In June they take their exams in Charlottetown and then return home to await the results. Anne just hopes that she doesn’t get a lower score than Gilbert. But, they tie for first place. Everyone is enormously proud of Anne. Although Diana helps Anne dress into her best dress and she is wearing the pearls Matthew gave her, Anne is very nervous at the speech she is due to deliver at the White Sands Hotel. She feels out of place among the richly dressed girls but gathers her courage when she sees Gilbert in the audience. She refuses to fail in front of him. Her speech goes over well. On the way home, Diana tells her that she overheard a rich American man say that he would like to paint her. When Jane sighs wistfully for the riches they saw, Anne says that she feels very rich with her imagination and the pearls Matthew gave her.
After a tearful goodbye, Anne arrives at Queen’s Academy and is comforted to find Gilbert in her class. Anne finds out about the Avery Scholarship and thinks about how proud Matthew would be if she won it and continued her education.
As the year progresses, the Avonlea scholars settle into life at the academy. Anne’s desire to beat Gilbert academically has eased off, and she competes against him only because he is a worthy opponent, not just because she wants to beat him. She wants to be friends with him. When she sees him with Ruby, she wonders what he sees in her. After the exams, Anne learns that she won the Avery Scholarship and Gilbert won the Gold medal. When she goes home, she learns that she will go onto Redmond College in the fall, Jane and Ruby will begin to teach, and so will Gilbert since his parents can’t afford to send him to college. Anne is disappointed.
During the summer Anne worries about Marilla and Matthew’s health, and the shaky ground their bank is on. Matthew has a heart attack while reading a letter about the failure of their bank and dies. Marilla and Anne grieve for Matthew. They grow closer and spend time talking. Marilla tells Anne that she had been courted by Gilbert’s father when they were young, but after an argument, she was too stubborn to forgive him and has lived to regret it.
Anne decides to give up her scholarship and stay at Green Gables. Gilbert asks the Avonlea trustees to give the Avonlea post to her so she can stay closer to Marilla and he takes the post at White Sands even though he will have to pay for boarding. The two meet later, and she thanks him for his generosity and shakes his hand. They can finally become friends.
Anne Shirley – Anne is a daydreamer. She tries to see the romance in everything. Trees are majestic; flowers are breathtaking. She adores Green Gables. When she loves, she loves largely. When she hates, she despises. Anne loses both parents when she is a baby. The families she is given to want her for help with their young children. She gets a lot of experience at childcare but doesn’t get an education. Her gregarious nature leads to lots of friendships. When she is adopted by Marilla and Matthew, she is sent to school and quickly excels. Because Anne loves so deeply, she is easy for others to love. She is also stubborn and passionate. Anne is a great lover of beauty and fantasy, with an easy nature at making up stories to entertain herself and others. Although Anne often makes blunders, her kind and apologetic nature makes people forgive her quickly.
Marilla Cuthbert – she is unmarried and lives in Green Gables with her brother, Matthew. She has an austere face and hair up into a tight knot. Marilla has exact ideas on how a young lady should act but is often flexible with Anne. Anne can see her warm heart under the gruff exterior Marilla shows. She dearly loves Anne and is very proud of her. By the end of the story, Marilla is softer than she is at the beginning.
Matthew Cuthbert – Matthew is Marilla’s sixty-year-old brother. They own Green Gables, a large farm in Canada in the late 1800’s. Matthew has always been uncomfortable with females to the point of terror, but he is comfortable with Anne almost from the start. He urges his sister to allow the adoption of Anne to go through instead of returning her for a boy to help out on the farm. He even hires a local boy so Marilla will keep her and agrees to allow Marilla to be in charge of her upbringing. He is then allowed to spoil Anne and becomes her confidant.
Diana Barry – a pretty little girl that lives next door and becomes Anne’s best friend. She and Anne are the same age, but she is plumper and has dark hair, while Anne’s is red and wild. Agreeable and cheerful, she complements Anne’s character and is usually her sidekick. Although Diana lacks Anne’s imagination, she is quick to follow along with her ideas, and romantic notions of melodrama.
Gilbert Blythe – he is a handsome little boy that is smart and popular when he meets Anne, but he starts out badly by comparing her red-orange braid to a carrot. She hits him with her slate and then is punished by the teacher. When he tries to apologize, she refuses to accept. She swears never to speak to him again, and even when he saves her after the boat she is in sinks, she barely gives him a thank you. He is her nemesis in the academic world. Their rivalry keeps them both striving to achieve their best, and they run neck in neck for the top grades. By the end of the novel, they become friends.
L. M. Montgomery Biography
L. M. Montgomery is the pen name of Lucy Maud Montgomery. She was born in 1874 in Clifton, Prince Edward Island, Canada. Her mother died shortly after her birth and her father were so devastated that he was unable to care for her. He left her with her grandparents. They were very strict with her. Since her childhood was so lonely, Montgomery had a lot of imaginary friends who helped her become very creative.
Except for one year that she spent with her father and stepmother, Montgomery completed her early school years in Cavendish where she lived with her grandparents. In 1893 she attended the Prince Wales College where she earned her teacher’s license. Afterward she finished a two-year program in one year at the Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia in literature.
After leaving University, Montgomery worked as a teacher. Although she didn’t like the job very much, she was given lots of time to write. From the years 1897 to 1907 she had over one hundred short stories published. In her mid-twenties, Montgomery lived with her widowed grandmother and began to earn a good income as a writer. Although she was earning her way, she realized that she still needed to get married because she felt it was a necessary choice for women.
In 1908 she published her first book, “Anne of Green Gables” and continued writing for the rest of her life. She married a Presbyterian minister, Ewen McDonald in 1911 and moved to Ontario. They had three children; the second child was stillborn. Her husband suffered from a depressive disorder, and she was very unhappy. She found her solace in writing. In 1920 Montgomery quit writing about Anne and began to create other characters such as Emily and Pat. These weren’t as popular as the Anne books, so she went back to writing them fifteen years later.
Montgomery suffered from depression after the many years tending to her husband and died of coronary thrombosis in 1942. Because of hr depression, her family thought she might have died of a drug overdose. She left a note near her bed that covered her spells of forgetfulness and the untenable sadness she felt. Some think the note may have been a journal entry while others believe that it might have been a suicide note.
During her lifetime she published twenty novels, over five hundred short stories, and autobiography and also a book of poems. Realizing her fame would make her journals interesting to further generations, Montgomery edited and copied her journals so her legacy would be interpreted the way she wanted. She took out anything that would make her seem unhappy so that she would be remembered well.
Although her characters, especially Anne, have been loved by generations, Montgomery never felt she had written the “one great book.” Montgomery was the first Canadian female to be named a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in England, and she was given the Order of the British Empire in 1935. She became a worldwide celebrity and every year thousands of tourists from all over the world visit her Green Gabled Victorian farmhouse in Cavendish on Prince Edward Island.