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Anne of Green Gables

L. M. Montgomery

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Plot Overview

Lucy Maud Montgomery, known as Maud, was born in Clifton, Prince Edward Island, Canada, in November 1874. Her mother died when Montgomery was almost two years old. Her father remarried, and Montgomery spent her childhood with her grandparents in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island. In 1911, she married Reverend Ewen Macdonald and moved to Leaskdale, Ontario, where she raised three children before moving with her family to Norval, Ontario, in 1926. Montgomery died in Toronto in 1942 and is buried in Cavendish.

As a child, Montgomery read as much as she could. At that time, novels were considered inappropriate reading material for children. In an article titled “The Story of My Career,” Montgomery wrote that the only novels kept in her grandparents’ house were Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott, The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, and Zanoni by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. She had unrestricted access to poetry, however, and reveled in the works of such English poets as John Milton and Lord Byron. This early immersion in poetry likely influenced Montgomery’s writing style, which is poetic and descriptive. Montgomery recalls the day she wrote her first poem, at age nine. Her father happened to visit her that day, and when she read the poem to him, he said unenthusiastically that the unrhymed lines did not sound much like poetry. Montgomery persevered despite his lukewarm reception; a few years later she published a poem in a local newspaper.

By the time she married at age thirty-seven, Montgomery had already established herself as an author. She kept a notebook in which she jotted down plots as they occurred to her, and while looking through this notebook, she found the following idea: “Elderly couple apply to orphan asylum for a boy. By mistake a girl is sent them.” From these fragments, Montgomery concocted her first novel, Anne of Green Gables, which was published in 1908.

Historical and geographical setting plays a significant role in Anne of Green Gables. Several times, characters voice their Canadian pride, often in ways that modern audiences might find old-fashioned or even offensive. Mrs. Rachel Lynde, the most politically inclined character, espouses the ideas of the Liberal Party, which argued for a decentralized Canadian government that would preserve autonomy in the Canadian provinces. She and Marilla Cuthbert voice their distrust of foreigners and Catholics. Apart from politics, geography influences the pastoral world in which Anne lives. Many of the places in the fictional town of Avonlea come from Montgomery’s childhood in Cavendish. Montgomery loved the beauty of Prince Edward Island, and Anne, like her creator, has a passionate attachment to nature and finds comfort in the outdoors when her family life torments her.

Anne of Green Gables marked the beginning of Montgomery’s prolific writing career and the first in a succession of novels centered on young, adventurous female protagonists. After the success of Anne of Green Gables, Montgomery went on to write seven more novels about Anne, following the protagonist through adulthood and motherhood. Several novels in the Anne series have been adapted and made into a successful television miniseries. Montgomery’s work has been translated into several languages, and Montgomery museums, plays, and houses on Prince Edward Island draw international visitors.

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