Summary—Chapter 1: Mrs. Rachel Lynde Is Surprised
Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive.See Important Quotations Explained
Mrs. Rachel Lynde, the town busybody, lives with her meek husband on the main road of Avonlea, a small rural town in Prince Edward Island in Canada. Mrs. Rachel, as she is known, sits on her porch one afternoon in early June. She sees her neighbor, Matthew Cuthbert, leaving his home. This activity is surprising, since the painfully shy Matthew is known as a bit of a recluse. Even more surprising is that fact that he is wearing his best suit and driving his buggy, evidence that an important errand calls him away. Mrs. Rachel, her mind abuzz with questions, goes to the Cuthbert house to seek an explanation.
Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert live tucked away on a farm called Green Gables. Marilla, though more talkative than Matthew, is severe and private. Her house and her appearance reflect this severity: the immaculate house seems too sterile for comfort, and Marilla has an angular face and tightly knotted hair. Despite her stiffness, however, something about her mouth suggests a natural, if undeveloped, sense of humor.
When Mrs. Rachel asks about Matthew’s errand, Marilla informs her that he is on his way to pick up the Cuthberts’ new orphan from the train station. With Matthew getting older—he is sixty—they realized they needed help around the farm and decided to adopt a boy from the orphanage. This news shocks Mrs. Rachel, who launches into a monologue about the horror stories she has heard about orphans—a boy who set fire to his new home, another who used to suck eggs, and a girl who put strychnine in the well. Marilla acknowledges her concerns about bringing a stranger into the house, but she comforts herself with the knowledge that the boy will at least be Canadian and thus not too different from themselves. Marilla wonders why anyone would adopt a girl, since girls cannot work on farms.
Summary—Chapter 2: Matthew Cuthbert Is Surprised
Matthew enjoys his quiet ride to the train station, except for the moments when he passes women and must nod at them. All women scare him, except for Marilla, who we learn is his sister, and Mrs. Rachel. He always feels like women are laughing at him. Arriving at the station, he sees no sign of the train and nobody on the platform except for a little girl and the stationmaster. Shyly avoiding the girl’s eyes, he asks the stationmaster whether Mrs. Spencer has arrived with his orphan, and the stationmaster says that she has and that the delivery is waiting at the end of the platform.
A girl of about eleven years is sitting on a pile of shingles. She carries only a faded carpetbag as luggage and wears an ill-fitting, ugly dress and a faded hat, out of which snake two thick braids of red hair. Her face suggests spirit and vivacity: her big eyes change from green to gray depending on the light, and her mouth is large and expressive. Afraid of the social ordeal ahead, Matthew approaches the girl, who spares him from having to introduce himself. She confidently holds out her hand to him and starts talking. Words spill out of her mouth at a pace that shocks the quiet Matthew. She explains that while she waited, she imagined an alternate plan for the evening in case Matthew did not come for her. She would have climbed a nearby wild cherry tree and slept among the blooms and moonshine, imagining she was sleeping in marble halls. Although Matthew is surprised that a girl, rather than the boy he expected, sits before him, he decides to take her to Green Gables for the night and let Marilla tell the girl they will not be able to keep her.
Anne rarely pauses from her chatter during the ride to Green Gables. Through her monologue, she reveals a vivid imagination and a thirst for beauty, along with a tendency to criticize herself, especially her red hair. She repeatedly remarks on the beauty of the landscape and exclaims that calling Avonlea her home is a dream come true. She compares the lush trees of Avonlea to the scrawny saplings at the orphanage, and although she loves the new landscape, she expresses sympathy for the undernourished orphanage trees, with which she feels a sense of camaraderie. Arriving at the Cuthbert place, Anne gushes that Green Gables feels like home, a home more beautiful and perfect than any she could have imagined.