Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.

Fashion Concerns

Although fashion interests Anne because she wants to look pretty, she wants to be fashionable mainly because she believes being good would be easier if she were well dressed and beautiful. For Anne, fashionable dress overlaps with morality. She feels she would be more grateful if her looks improved and says she cannot appreciate God because he made her so homely. Anne also views fashion as a means of fitting into her group of friends. Her increasingly stylish clothes represent her transformation from humble orphan to schoolgirl to successful scholar and woman. When Anne arrives at Green Gables, she wears ugly skimpy clothes from the orphanage, which represent her loneliness and neglect. At Green Gables, Marilla initially makes Anne sensible dresses devoid of frills or beauty. A few years later, Matthew buys Anne a stylish dress with puffed sleeves. Eventually, even Marilla agrees to allow Anne fashionable clothes. The gradual acceptance of Anne’s desire for fashionable clothes demonstrates the gradual shift of Matthew and Marilla’s feelings for Anne. At first, Marilla feels kindly toward Anne but does not see any reason to indulge her. Although Matthew would love to spoil Anne, he dares not speak against Marilla. Eventually, Matthew finds the courage to defy Marilla and give Anne a lovely dress, and Marilla comes to love Anne like a daughter and see the appeal of dressing her in fashionable clothes.

Images of Nature

Anne’s powerful imagination reveals itself during her first ride to Green Gables, when she talks romantically about the beautiful trees and natural sights of Avonlea. Nature not only pleases Anne’s eye, it gives her reliable companionship. She has lacked human friends and finds companions in plants and playmates in brooks. On her first night in Avonlea, when she fears no one will come for her, she takes comfort in the idea that she can climb into the arms of a tree and sleep there. For Anne, Avonlea, with its healthy trees, represents a pastoral heaven that contrasts with the sickly trees and coldness of her days at the orphan asylum. At Green Gables, she shows her respect for nature by giving lakes and lanes flowery, dramatic names. As she matures, she continues to love nature. During the stressful exam period at Queen’s Academy, her love of nature relaxes her and helps her to remember what is truly important in life. At the end of the novel, she looks to nature as a metaphor for her future: full of beauty, promise, and mystery.