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is a subject that troubles Anne. Choose two main characters from
the novel and discuss the different ways each character approaches
the problem of being good.
Upon her arrival at Green Gables, Anne immediately
comes into conflict with the people of Avonlea, especially Marilla,
because of their different conceptions of what it means to be good.
Marilla follows a strict definition of good behavior based on traditional
roles and propriety, and she uses behavior to judge a person’s underlying moral
character. To Marilla, Anne’s ignorance of the proper way to pray
suggests that Anne is not only badly brought up but possibly wicked.
When Anne decorates her hat with wildflowers on the way to church,
she unwittingly draws stares and laughter from established churchgoers.
Marilla feels that such Anne’s actions reflect badly on her. Although
Marilla understands and sympathizes with Anne’s lack of formal education,
she believes that standard rules of behavior should govern a young
Anne is perplexed by the new moral codes she encounters
while living with Marilla. She includes several personal wishes
in her first prayer, asking that God make her pretty and change
her red hair, which suggests that Anne thinks of prayer as an opportunity
to express her fondest desires. Similarly, she does not understand
why wearing flowers to church is objectionable, as the other girls
wear artificial flowers in their hats. Expectations that conflict
with her own common sense confuse Anne. Anne believes that if good
intentions drive a person, it does not matter if her actions are
unusual, because that person is still inherently good.
As Anne matures and Marilla mellows, their conflict over
the definition of good behavior becomes less strident. At the beginning of
her stay, Anne thinks that if she feels justified in her actions,
it is right for her to act in any way she chooses. For example,
Anne attacks Mrs. Rachel when Mrs. Rachel makes a derogatory remark about
Anne’s red hair. Although Marilla sympathizes with Anne’s feelings,
she insists that Anne follow the accepted code of conduct. Eventually,
Anne comes to appreciate pleasant behavior and treating others with
kindness and respect. She maintains her independent spirit, but
begins to understand the importance of good behavior as a way of
getting along with people and that acting as expected puts people
How do Anne’s
conceptions of the future evolve throughout the novel?
As an unloved orphan, Anne cultivates the
ability to imagine exciting futures. She constructs futures for
herself based on imaginative, romantic notions of beauty, eternal
love, and tragic loss. When Anne arrives at Green Gables, she dreams
of a future in which she is named Lady Cordelia and has a best friend,
a home, and people who love her. She imagines that her red hair
will disappear and that riches will surround her. When some of these
dreams come true, they disappoint or please her to varying degrees.
She loves her home and her family, but her dreams of riches fall
flat. When she and Diana visit Aunt Josephine in the city, for example,
partaking of her wealthy lifestyle, Anne discovers that the fantasy
of wealth gives her more pleasure than the fact of wealth.
As Anne matures, she envisions her future differently.
Her romanticism fades, and she regards her childhood fantasies as
undesirable. Ambition replaces romanticism, and Anne strives to
achieve real goals. She studies and works with the same zeal that
she earlier applies to daydreaming. At the end of the novel, Anne’s
vision of her future draws on her romantic notions as well as her
ambition. Anne gives up her unrealistic dream of becoming rich and
spoiled and her realistic dream of attending a four-year college.
She settles for a future that combines her idealism and her work
ethic. She will stay in her well-loved Avonlea, with the house and
family she dreamed of as a child. She will continue her studies
and teach at the school, but she will also fulfill her duties as
a responsible adult by caring for the ones who love her.
What role does
fashion play in Anne of Green Gables? In what ways do fashion and
characters’ differing attitudes toward fashion reveal differences
and similarities between various characters?
As a child, Anne dreams of wearing fancy
dresses and puffed sleeves, but Marilla, always sensible, considers
interest in fashion an expression of vanity. Marilla believes that
an upstanding Christian woman should condemn fashion. The conflict
between Marilla’s and Anne’s attitudes toward dress reflects broader
differences in their personalities and beliefs. Anne often equates
morality with physical appearance, saying that it would be easier
to be good if only she were pretty and well dressed. Marilla, on
the other hand, considers morality to exclude concern with dress.
Matthew’s timid entry into the realm of women’s fashion
is the turning point in Anne and Marilla’s conflict. Although Matthew
is normally unaware of feminine pursuits, he notices that Anne stands apart
from her friends because of her plain, unfashionable clothes. He
decides to get Anne a new dress and courageously faces a female store
clerk in town, marking an important change in his character. Fashion
is a means by which Matthew shows his evolution as a character.
For love of Anne, he becomes a bit more brave.
Matthew’s purchase of a dress for Anne changes both Marilla’s and
Anne’s attitudes. Marilla sees that Anne is the same person in a plain
dress or in a fancy one. Marilla no longer relies solely on dogma
for moral guidance but is willing to accept new ideas. Anne realizes
that her physical appearance does not inform her morality and that
she can be a good person no matter what she wears. Anne learns that
beauty is more than just wearing a dress with puffed sleeves and
that behavior, not fashion, makes a person good.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Anne of Green Gables!