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Anne of Green Gables

L. M. Montgomery

Chapters 17–20

Chapters 13–16

Chapters 21–24

Summary—Chapter 17: A New Interest in Life

One afternoon, Anne spies Diana outside beckoning to her. Anne rushes out, and Diana tells her she is still forbidden to play with Anne so she has come to say goodbye. The two have a sentimental, melodramatic parting. When Diana cries that she loves her bosom friend, Anne says, “Nobody ever has loved me since I can remember. Oh, this is . . . a ray of light which will forever shine on the darkness of a path severed from thee, Diana.” Anne asks for a lock of Diana’s black hair to keep as a memento. To combat her despair over losing Diana, Anne decides to return to school. There, she can look at Diana even though the two are forbidden to talk or play together. Anne’s classmates welcome her back with open arms and little gifts. Some of the girls send her plums, bottles, or copied poems, and two admiring boys, Charlie Sloane and Gilbert Blythe, pass her a slate pencil and an apple, respectively. Anne graciously accepts Charlie’s gift but ostentatiously ignores Gilbert’s offering. One day, to Anne’s dismay, she and Gilbert are tied as top student, and Mr. Phillips writes both of their names on the board.

Summary—Chapter 18: Anne to the Rescue

A Canadian premier comes to Prince Edward Island to address a mass meeting in Charlottetown, about thirty miles from Avonlea. Mrs. Rachel loves political events, so she goes with her husband and Marilla. At home, Anne is studying, and Matthew is reading the Farmers’ Advocate when Diana rushes into the house and cries that her three-year-old sister Minnie May is sick with the croup, and neither she nor the babysitter know what to do. Matthew quickly harnesses the horse and goes for the doctor, while Anne and Diana rush back to the Barry house, Orchard Slope. Having cared for three sets of twins at Mrs. Hammond’s home who all got croup regularly, Anne knows how to care for Minnie May. Matthew arrives with the doctor at three A.M., by which time Minnie May is sleeping peacefully.

Later, the doctor tells Mr. and Mrs. Barry that Anne saved their daughter’s life. Mrs. Barry comes to Green Gables the following day and apologizes for blaming Anne for the currant wine incident. She invites Anne to tea and encourages her to be friends with Diana once again. Anne is thrilled by the news and pleased that the Barrys treat her like special company at tea.

Summary—Chapter 19: A Concert, a Catastrophe, and a Confession

Anne explains to Marilla that in celebration of Diana’s birthday, Mrs. Barry has agreed to let Diana invite Anne to a Debating Club concert and spend the night in the Barrys’ spare bedroom. Anne can hardly contain her excitement, but Marilla declares that she cannot go because little girls have no business at late-night concerts. Matthew disagrees with Marilla’s decision and tells her so until she relents and gives Anne permission to go. On the day of the concert, Anne and Diana take pleasure in everything from getting dressed to riding Diana’s cousins’ pung sleigh to listening to scholars recite poetry and sing at the concert. After the concert, they return to the Barrys’ house. They change into their nightgowns, and Anne proposes that they race to the spare bedroom. The girls charge in and leap onto the bed, landing right on Diana’s crotchety aunt, Miss Josephine Barry, who arrived for her visit unexpectedly early.

Anne is disappointed at having to sleep with the toddler, Minnie May, rather than in the spare bedroom, but the following day returns to Green Gables happy and satisfied. Later, Mrs. Rachel reports that the Barry house has been in an uproar all afternoon. Aunt Josephine, angered at being awoken in the middle of the night, has decided to cut short her visit and rescind her offer to pay for Diana’s music lessons. She is a rich old lady, used to being treated decorously, and will not listen to Diana’s pleas. Anne wants to remedy the situation since she, not Diana, proposed the race into the spare bedroom. She goes to the Barry house and enters the old lady’s room, terrified but bold, and begins to confess. The old lady is amused by Anne’s elevated way of speaking. She agrees to give Diana her music lessons and stay the full month at Avonlea, under the condition that Anne talk to her at the Barrys’ and then visit her in town.

Summary—Chapter 20: A Good Imagination Gone Wrong

Spring returns to Green Gables, bringing Anne’s favorite ornaments of nature—flowers. She tells Marilla stories about exploring nature with her school friends. On the day of her anniversary of arriving at Green Gables, Anne takes considerable care with her chores. Marilla leaves Anne in charge of the house because of a headache. In the evening, Marilla asks Anne to go to Mrs. Barry to get an apron pattern. Anne asks Marilla if she may delay the trip until morning. She explains that she and Diana, tired of their commonplace surroundings, have begun to pretend that the woods between their houses are haunted. But Marilla, always trying to rid Anne of the nonsense in her head, sends her on the errand. Anne returns from the Barrys’ house out of breath from running and trembling with fear.

Analysis—Chapters 17–20

The anniversary of Anne’s arrival at Green Gables corresponds with signs of Anne’s development as a young woman and a full member of Avonlea society. Anne digests her old experiences and uses them to improve herself, a process central to a child’s development into adolescence and adulthood. In an instance of Anne’s increasing maturity, she manages for the first time to make a heartfelt, effective apology. In contrast to her overblown apologies to Mrs. Rachel and Marilla in past chapters, Anne’s apology to Aunt Josephine, in Chapter 19, is delicate, sincere, and immediately successful. She has learned to curb her temper and put her eloquence to good use.

Anne applies old lessons to new situations not only when making apologies but also when saving Minnie May. Although Anne disliked caring for Mrs. Hammond’s twins, she is able to use the knowledge she gained in the Hammond household to save Minnie May’s life. Previously, Anne’s unorthodox background and unusual behavior have made her the town laughingstock, but in these chapters respectable people like the doctor compliment her for learning from the unusual experiences of her past.

Anne and Gilbert’s rivalry grows increasingly heated. Anne is “as intense in her hatreds as in her loves,” an intensity apparent in her enduring hatred for Gilbert. She will not even speak Gilbert’s name, as if trying to deny his existence altogether. When Mr. Phillips writes their names on the board in Chapter 17, the image of Anne’s name underneath that of her enemy suggests both a flirtation between the two of them and her failure to best him in school, and Anne cringes at the sight. However, just as Anne’s unorthodox manner of speaking wins her the approval of Aunt Josephine, her unusual talent for holding a grudge works in her favor in some respects. Because she loathes Gilbert and wants to triumph over him, she works harder in school than she otherwise might, even given her natural love of learning.

Anne displays her fanciful and unshakable imagination yet again in pretending with Diana that the woods between their houses are haunted. There is nothing scary about these woods, but Anne simply decides that she wants them to evoke a particular emotional reaction. Because she believes so strongly in this fantasy, she actually alters her perception of reality. Though she herself has created the idea that the woods are scary, she nevertheless comes home nervous with fright. This ability to get lost in fantasy and think creatively about the world differentiates Anne from Marilla, who initially cannot even fathom that Anne could be useful at Green Gables.

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