Matthew Cuthbert is getting old, so he and his sister, Marilla Cuthbert, decided to adopt a boy who could help around the farm in Green Gables. However, upon arriving at the train station to pick up the boy, he is greeted by a bright, cheerful, red-haired girl who introduces herself as Anne Shirley. Seeing that the girl is set on having her forever home, Matthew couldn’t bring himself to shatter the beaming girl’s hopeful dreams. Little did they know, Anne has a natural knack in winning people over.
This would be the beginning of Anne’s world expanding as she fearlessly explored the heights and depths of forming colorful relationships with the Cuthberts, as well as the people of Avonlea.
The story of Anne as a resident of Green Gables starts as she sets foot on the beautiful island of Prince Edward. Matthew Cuthbert arrived at the train station of Bright River overlooking the rigid and nervous girl sitting at a corner as he hurriedly looked for a boy in an already empty station. The stationmaster explains to him that Mrs. Spencer, the woman tasked to pick up Anne from the Hopetown Asylum in Nova Scotia, dropped off a girl for him. Matthew mutters that they were expecting a boy. However, there were no other children that Mrs. Spencer left under the care of the stationmaster.
When the stationmaster leaves, Matthew has no choice but to confront the girl who has been anticipating the interaction with him. Matthew, being awkward and reserved around people, especially girls and women, feels relieved when the little girl initiates the conversation. Spirited and excited, Anne holds out a hand to Matthew as she expresses how nervous she was thinking that he might not be coming for her, and that she was planning to sleep on the wild cherry blossom tree near the station for the night.
Matthew cannot tell her that she won’t be going home with him because she is not a boy they were expecting. He decides that he would bring her along and let Marilla do the job instead. Besides, he cannot leave a little girl alone at an empty train station. On their way, Anne’s imagination runs wild at the sight of the beautiful island and talks for the majority of their eight-mile journey back to Avonlea, which Matthew admittedly enjoyed himself.
As soon as they reach what she thought would finally be the village she would live in forever, she immediately falls in love with it. Being fond of giving beautiful names to random things, she changes Barry’s Pond into “The Lake of Shining Waters” because of the glimmering surface as it reflected the sunlight, as well as “The Avenue” to the “White Way of Delight” because of the five hundred yards full of blossoming apple trees. She said that beautiful things deserve a beautiful name, so she makes one up for them. Her enthusiasm is shattered once they arrive at the Green Gables, where they are greeted by Marilla’s confused and amazed expression. Anne learns the truth–that they were looking for a boy and that she would be sent back to the orphanage the next day. All the joy in her eyes drained and was replaced by pure sadness and agony. That night, she was unable to eat much and cried herself to sleep.
They made the journey to Mrs. Spencer the next day to clarify the mistake. On their way there, Marilla learns about Anne’s history. She is a child of Walter and Bertha Shirley who were “as poor as church mice.” They died early due to fever when Anne was only three months old. From thereon, she was passed down from one household to another where she constantly had to earn her keep. When they could no longer afford to feed her, she was sent to the orphanage before she was finally taken by Mrs. Spencer. Marilla feels pity surging through her after knowing that the child must’ve lived in loneliness and neglect, not knowing what it’s like to receive the warmth of love and care from a parent or a guardian.
When they arrive, Mrs. Spencer is able to clarify the mistake, explaining that the word sent to her was that the Cuthberts would want to adopt a girl. But Anne doesn’t have to go back to the orphanage since Mrs. Peter Blewett, a stern, icy woman, would want a hardworking girl who can take care of her children. Seeing that Anne looks horrified with the prospect of going back to a life she desperately wanted to leave behind, Marilla decides to take Anne under her care and raise her as a dignified and well-mannered woman.
This begins the series of Anne’s adventures and shenanigans, where one trouble after another takes place and varying relationships have formed throughout the years. After successfully winning over Matthew’s affection and slowly forming her bond with Marilla, she met other people outside of Green Gables. She first met Mrs. Lynde who mercilessly scrutinized her looks. Then she met the Barry family in which she became best friends with the household’s eldest daughter, Diana. They chose to spend time together every chance they got. Anne also started going to school where she met other friends–but not one who can compare to Diana–and her soon-to-be long-standing academic rival, Gilbert Blythe, who got a taste of Anne’s temper when he called her “carrots,” referring to her red hair. With one hit of Anne’s slate on Gilbert’s head, they were bitterly acquainted from then on.
Throughout her years as a resident of Green Gables, Anne was able to experience many wonderful things, such as having the opportunity to go to school, reciting poems on stage, receiving dresses with ruffles and puffed sleeves, as well as being guided and loved by good people. Her days of neglect and being unwanted were over in the community of Avonlea as she finally found people who stood by her side, even in the most bizarre troubles she got herself into.
Black, white, and gray areas of Anne
Anne’s character was written to be cheerful, imaginative, optimistic, and chaotic. She is a straightforward and transparent character that the readers would easily understand or even relate to. Just like other children, she makes the adults worry if she would turn out “alright,” because one moment she would be diligent in her chores and mindful of her actions, and in a snap, she would be caught in shambles. The young girl is undeniably comical and marvelous at the same time. With her well-spoken nature and fondness of using big words, adults and children alike may find her funny and admirable. Marilla may wonder why Anne does things the way she does and why. But it is safe to say the reason is that she’s just an adventurous and reckless child who has a lot of learning to do as she journeys through life.
One of the many strengths that Anne possesses is her emotional intelligence. For a young child, she’s highly in tune with her emotions and understands why she is feeling a certain emotion. However, she feels her emotions intensely and is definitely not shy in expressing them strongly, sometimes at the wrong place and at the wrong time. It makes her easily misunderstood and branded as overly reactive and highly emotional. This can be observed through the polar opposite relationships she has with Diana and Gilbert, where she proudly expresses an immense love and admiration for her dearest Diana while she’s constantly out for blood in her academic rivalry with Gilbert. This reflects how rigid and stubborn Anne was in the first half of the book.
As the book is nearing its end, we can see the evolution in Anne’s character where she’s slowly learning to balance her black-and-white perspective of the world and walk through the gray areas of life. When she was still an 11-year-old girl, a large chunk of her identity was devoted to her friendship with Diana, and the idea of marriage would drive her to tears as it may cause distance between them. Later, when she went to the Academy in Queens while Diana stayed back home, she learned to establish her own identity with an individualistic ambition. She acknowledges that it hurts to be so far away from her beloved Cuthberts and best friend, but understands that it is necessary to be there in order to fulfill her dream of becoming an educator. Her rivalry with Gilbert also grew from pure spite and vengeance into a noble competition with a worthy opponent. Gilbert even went as far as giving up his teaching position in Avonlea and requested that Anne take it instead later in the story. From swearing that she would never become friends with Gilbert Blythe until the end of her life, she shook his hand for the first time by the end of the book. Gilbert told her, “We are going to be the best of friends,” hinting at a blossoming friendship between the two for the next book. With the right influences, Anne is slowly cultivating habits and life practices that would make her a kind and well-established woman.
Thin line between imagining for pleasure and coping
The most notable quality of Anne’s character is her wide and creative imagination. It is without a doubt that she has great potential in the field of literature as a writer of complex fantasy and romance novels. However, she led a lonely life growing up, experiencing isolation and neglect in the hands of unfeeling foster parents. Determined to survive, the poor little girl used her ability to imagine her life differently in order to survive. “It was a very lonesome place. I’m sure I could never have lived there if I hadn’t had an imagination,” she said during the time she shared her old life with Marilla. Imagination is Anne’s greatest weapon in battling negativity, helping her to develop a positive outlook in life. It brings her comfort to imagine that things are different. In this day and age, she could be the biggest role model for Gen Z who developed a brand new motto, “May your delulu come trululu.”
The strict mother figure and the soft father figure
Anne certainly has faced and overcame many differences that stood between her and others, and so did Marilla and Matthew. Marilla is known to be stern and rigid, while Matthew is quiet and shy. In raising Anne, they definitely have their own ways as well. Difficulty in expressing her genuine feelings has always been a part of Marilla’s personality, and along with her spiritual belief that it is sinful to devote so much love to a mortal being, she appears to be strict and unfeeling in her methods of raising the little girl. But deep down, she is aware that her love for Anne is more tremendous than she wants to admit. In fact, if not for her attachment and immense love for the child, she would have been more cold, distant, and careless about Anne’s upbringing.
Matthew, on the other hand, is her kindred spirit. She sees Matthew as a sympathetic and patient man who listens to every story she tells. He listens and observes Anne very carefully, and that also means seeing her needs and wants as a little kid. He may be silent but his fondness towards Anne is highly evident. It is safe to say that Matthew is a sucker for his dear little Anne, and he would go out of his way to get him new dresses and push Marilla to permit Anne in attending worthwhile social events. Marilla, who prefers Anne to be modest, simple, and humble, would always thwart Matthew by saying that he is spoiling the child and making her vain. But at the end of the day, they share a common goal and that is guiding Anne to the right path and providing the long-deprived warmth in her life.
In all honesty, Marilla and Matthew don’t have to worry as Anne is growing into a humble and loving teen, with utmost contentment in everything they provided her. Other Avonlea children realized how dull their lives were in Avonlea and wanted to cultivate a city life. But Anne took pleasure in the company of trees and flowers, an unbeatable offer Green Gables gave her, so her heart is set on building a life in Avonlea with her most beloved people in the world.
Adulthood vs. childhood
The book also portrays the vast difference between childhood and adulthood in the characters of Marilla and Anne. Marilla is realistic. She takes things seriously and always does things with purpose. Everything has to be productive, and done in a swift and objective manner. She’s also covert with her intentions and feelings, not letting her genuine self slip through her “responsible and tough adult” facade. Throughout the years of living in survival mode, Marilla had forgotten the joys in life she once had during her childhood. Meanwhile, Anne is often caught daydreaming. Unlike Marilla, she does things for the sole purpose of amusing herself and being immersed in her surroundings. Still having a lot to learn, she often makes mistakes and stirs troubles wherever she goes.
As the two progressively bond, they end up influencing one another. Anne’s unfiltered thoughts made Marilla internally admit that she resonates with the child’s honest opinions about Mrs. Lynde, their church’s minister, and many other things. Ever since Anne stepped foot in Green Gables, Marilla found herself amused and indulged in Anne’s mind-whirling antics, saying that their home would never feel the same in the little girl’s absence. On the other hand, Marilla’s strictness taught Anne to be attentive to her duties, balancing her tendency to get lost in daydreaming and preventing accidents from occurring. Anne learned the necessary skills for survival and taking care of herself, which established her as an independent and dependable young woman. Later in the book, they eventually find balance and comfort in each other’s presence.
A children’s book full of morals for adults
Anne of Green Gables is marked as a suitable book for all ages, but it carries a lot of lessons meant to be learned by adults. Reading this book can remind grown-up readers to pause and notice the little things around them. Maybe these little things can make them feel alive from their repetitive days, just as how Octobers, a wild cherry tree, a glimmering pond, or a beautifully written poem gives Anne the thrill and satisfaction in life.
We age and the world starts to feel small, as if it has nothing new to offer, because we have gone through countless experiences that made us grow accustomed to the life we’re leading. Anne’s story can remind us of the little kid we once were, amazed by the simplest things life has to offer. Just like Anne, we may face disagreeable circumstances that may lead us to fall into the “depths of despair.” The fictional existence of Anne can teach us that we are capable of bouncing back not by having grandiose ways to cope with it, but by holding on to the simplest and smallest things we already have in life.
Narration of the book
Similar to many classic novels, Anne of Green Gables’ narrative style is highly descriptive in a comedic and sometimes sarcastic manner. It is composed of long paragraphs describing a character’s surroundings, observations, as well as their thoughts and feelings. The sequence of the story shows how Anne’s horizons slowly widen as she gets to know the people of Avonlea. In the second half of the book, a lot of time skips occur, representing Anne’s rapid approach to puberty and her teenage years. It would also seem like there are two narrators in the story. One is the main narrator in the third person point of view, and of course, Anne who has heaps of dialogue recounting her experiences to either Marilla, Matthew, Diana, or Mrs. Allan (the minister’s wife).
When reading this book, get your plant and landscape vocabulary ready as it involves a ton of description about various trees, flowers, infrastructures, and nature landscapes. If you are not a plant enthusiast, buckle up because you are in for a nature trip in the small village of Avonlea. In addition, considering that the English language has evolved so much since the 1900s, it would be quite a challenge to comprehend some words and slang used in the novel. But it doesn’t make the book any less enjoyable and entertaining to read.
I would also like to add that since the story is set in the early 1900s, it reflects the perception of the people who lived during this time. Several characters and their community have expressed their prejudice towards orphans and foreigners, as well as a hint of normalized body shaming and misogyny. Worry not because Anne’s compassion and empathy transcends race, religion, and gender. The book definitely hinted at addressing women’s right to vote, their right to attain the highest form of education, and to be professionally paid in various fields, especially in education. The novel was remade into a series entitled, “Anne with an E,” and the creators definitely did justice in expanding these topics.
What other readers think about Anne of Green Gables
The characters are written like real people
Their thoughts and feelings are described so deeply that it allows readers to empathize with them. Each character has a unique set of traits with their own flaws, antics, quirks, and complex thought processes. The readers are able to relate with the characters, especially Anne, because of their imperfect human traits that we encounter in ourselves every day.
It has a special place in their heart
Many readers of this novel seemed like they grew up with Anne’s story and stumbled upon it years later when they were much older. Anne’s astounding existence definitely left a permanent mark in their hearts. When describing how much this story means to them, the word “comfort” is usually uttered as it reminds them how Anne’s story brought warmth to their life. Many readers have at least read the book twice and have developed more appreciation for the country life that the little girl had in Green Gables.
There is a need to adjust one’s mindset
In reading this book, you have to adjust your mindset in order to be fully immersed in the story. Some readers noted that the target audience for this book may be Canadian teenagers in the early 1900s. It is true that the majority of the imposed morals in the story are meant for people who resonate with the beliefs of the characters of the story. It would take a little task to open one’s mind in order to understand the context behind the story. Besides being an entertaining read, it can also serve as a little history lesson for the people of the 21st century.
The paragraphs were too long
Anne is indeed a talkative little girl. That point was made several times in the book and it has been one of her trademarks. However, some readers find the paragraphs lengthy. It is probably to prove the point that Anne has a huge tendency to keep talking, but this one was overdone by the author. The descriptive narrative was quite exhausting, making the book a slow read.
In audible, Anne of Green Gables was narrated by Rachel McAdams which garnered a review of 4.6 out of 5. The length of the audiobook is 9 hours and 22 minutes. According to the listeners, McAdams did a great job at representing Anne’s sun-like radiance and optimism. It is said that her delivery of the narration is breathy but light, and Anne’s line is just as bright and speedy, yet eloquent and clear as how they had imagined.
Should I read Anne of Green Gables?
If you are looking for a slow-paced and wholesome storyline, this book would be perfect for you.
You can expect it to be funny, and entertaining, and it would probably bring you second-hand embarrassment from Anne’s trouble-making quests (in a good way). It is all about the warmth, joy, and sparks of childhood that may take you back to your own good old days.
However, if you are not fond of descriptive, long paragraphs explaining the story’s setting and events, you may find it exhausting and time-consuming. In addition, it doesn’t contain major dramatic turns that other novels have, except for the ending. If you’re looking for an intense, fast-paced, and easy-to-read book, you may want to skip this one.
All in all, Anne of Green Gables is a book that would bring you the comfort of life in the countryside. May it be for children, adults, or old age, Anne’s positive outlook in life may help you appreciate life a little bit better before you turn the final page of this classic novel.