On a beautiful September evening, Anne is bringing the cows back from the pasture when she runs into Diana, who has exciting news: Aunt Josephine has invited the two girls to her mansion in Charlottetown to see an exhibition, an event similar to a fair. The girls go to Aunt Josephine’s estate, called Beechwood, and they relish their drive. The house is richly decorated, with silk curtains, velvet carpets, and a spare bedroom specially made up for them. Anne finds that these luxuries, which she has dreamed about and yearned for, are actually disappointing and alienating in real life. She reflects later to Marilla that part of growing up is realizing that “[t]he things you wanted so much when you were a child don’t seem half so wonderful to you when you get them.”
The exhibition is exciting, with its displays of knitted lace, flowers, vegetables, and horseracing. Afterward, when Anne laments that she will have difficulty returning to normal life, Aunt Josephine offers to take the girls to a fancy restaurant for ice cream at eleven P.M. This restaurant visit comes to represent the excitement of city life to Anne. Upon returning home, Anne decides she would rather be sleeping in bed at Green Gables than gallivanting around a city.
One night Marilla rests after another one of her eye aches, which occur with increasing frequency and severity. She looks at Anne with an expression of fondness that she would never permit herself to show in the daylight when she could be seen. Because of Marilla’s tendency to veil her affection, Anne does not know, we are told, that Marilla loves her so much. Marilla tells Anne that Miss Stacy visited that afternoon, and Anne, assuming Miss Stacy told Marilla about her recent misbehavior, quickly admits to sneaking a novel into class when she should have been studying. Anne also tells Marilla that she and Diana have been talking about serious subjects like the future and that they are thinking of becoming old maids and living together. Anne explains that Miss Stacy told the girls they must cultivate sound characters now, because once they reach their twenties the foundations of their characters will be set for life.
Marilla tells Anne that Miss Stacy has invited Anne to join a group of advanced scholars who will study every day after school to prepare for the entrance exam to Queen’s Academy in a year and a half. Marilla says that every woman should be able to support herself and that teaching is a good profession for a woman. Anne hesitates to accept the offer to attend college because she worries that the cost of college will be too high for the Cuthberts. However, after Marilla says that Anne’s education is worth the cost, Anne expresses excitement.
The other students in the advanced class are Gilbert Blythe, Ruby Gillis, Jane Andrews, Josie Pye, Charlie Sloane, and Moody Spurgeon MacPherson. They study for an hour every day, but begin to lose their drive when spring comes and the other students leave school early every day. For the first time since Minnie May was sick, Anne and Diana are separated, since the Barrys do not intend to send Diana to college.
The rivalry between Gilbert and Anne rekindles. Gilbert decides to treat Anne just as coldly as she treats him. This icy treatment distresses Anne, but she acts unconcerned. She realizes that she no longer feels angry with Gilbert, and she regrets causing tension.
The school year ends and Anne locks her books away, declaring that she wants to make the most of her last summer as a child. The next day Mrs. Rachel drops by Green Gables, and Marilla tells her that Matthew has had another bad spell with his heart, which is the first we hear of his condition. Marilla expresses her happiness that Anne is growing into a trustworthy person. Mrs. Rachel agrees that she was mistaken to doubt Anne when she arrived three years ago. She comments that Anne has improved in everything, especially in her looks. Though Anne lacks Diana’s coloring and Ruby’s flashy looks, there is something special and arresting in her “pale, big-eyed style.”
After a rich summer free of studying, Anne returns to school with vigor and ambition. She is now fifteen years old, and with the other Avonlea scholars attends Debating Club concerts, parties, sleigh drives, and skating events. Anne is now taller than Marilla, and her eyes have grown serious. Anne does not chatter as she used to, explaining to Marilla that “it’s nicer to think dear, pretty thoughts and keep them in one’s heart.” This change in Anne saddens Marilla, who misses the bright-eyed child she first took in. She bursts into tears at the thought that next year Anne will go to college and leave Green Gables as quiet as it was before her arrival. Miss Stacy remains a central figure in Anne’s education, especially in her training as a writer. Anne becomes critical of her own writing, changing her style from romantic to realistic. All the scholars are nervous about the upcoming entrance exam to Queen’s Academy, and Anne has nightmares about failing.
The end of June marks the end of Miss Stacy’s tenure and Anne’s time at Avonlea School. Anne and Diana walk home, weeping that their time together as child scholars has ended. Though Anne is paralyzed by nervousness about her upcoming entrance exam, she dutifully follows Miss Stacy’s advice and avoids cramming during the week of the exam. After the first day of the exam, she writes Diana a letter from Charlottetown, relating the students’ nervousness and comparing her own sense of foreboding to her fear when she first asked Marilla if she could stay at Green Gables.
Anne returns to Avonlea and greets Diana as though they had been apart for years. She spends an agonizing three weeks waiting for the results of the exam. Although Anne feels she has passed, she claims she would rather not pass at all than be beaten by her rival, Gilbert. Finally, the newspaper comes out with the results: Anne and Gilbert have tied for first place in the entire island, and all the Avonlea scholars have passed. Matthew, Marilla, Mrs. Rachel, and Diana are enormously proud of Anne’s success.
Having used early chapters of the novel to establish Anne’s -character, in this section Montgomery shows the results of Anne’s -development and maturity. Anne is contented, lovely, and -successful. After visiting Aunt Josephine, Anne realizes that the luxurious belongings for which she has always yearned do not -satisfy her as she dreamed they would. She discovers that the ways of Avonlea suit her better than elegant city life. Even the critical Mrs. Rachel, initially a vocal critic of Anne’s looks, proclaims that Anne has turned into a beauty. And Anne’s dedicated studying pays off tangibly when she ties Gilbert for first place in the entrance exams.
Anne’s progress into adulthood is not always easy, however. She and Diana cling to their childhoods, deciding that they can avoid marriage, children, and adulthood by living together as old maids. The girls know that they will be separated, as Anne will go to college and Diana will not. Their separation at the end of every day, as Anne studies with the Queen’s Academy candidates while Diana goes home, foreshadows the greater separation to come the following year, when Anne will attend Queen’s Academy full time. Marilla, too, feels the pangs of impending separation, mourning the loss of Anne’s childhood and the nearness of her departure for Queen’s Academy. Marilla appreciates the companionship and energy Anne brings to Green Gables. As Anne becomes more adult, Matthew and Marilla grow older; Marilla has frequent head and eye aches, and Matthew has heart troubles.
Anne benefits from the strong women who encourage her. Whereas earlier Marilla does not approve of female teachers, she now encourages Anne to make a career of teaching. Miss Stacy provides a model for Anne’s possible career as a teacher. Even Mrs. Rachel, who is so often very critical of Anne, takes pride in Anne’s academic achievements and begins to respect her as a woman.
The pace of the novel mirrors the pace of Anne’s life. Earlier in the novel, each minor event, each cooking accident and social gaffe, fills Anne’s mind, and so fills an entire chapter. As Anne matures, the events of her life move more quickly, and she begins to think of important plans like going to college. As a result, the novel’s pace accelerates. Instead of focusing on one daylong event, as do the early chapters, these chapters begin to cover entire school years. The acceleration of the narrative does not necessarily suggest that Anne is growing up too quickly; rather, it shows that Anne is maturing and that what she deems important has changed. In her youth she focuses on immediate events, but as she grows older she develops a broader, more far-reaching perspective.