Analysis—Chapters 1–4

Setting plays an important role in Anne of Green Gables. These chapters, in introducing the characters and their homes, suggest that houses reflect the personalities of their inhabitants. The Lyndes live on the main street, an appropriate place for them since Mrs. Rachel, the town snoop and gossip, likes to keep constant vigil over the activities of Avonlea. The Cuthberts live secluded on their farm, which reflects their reclusive natures. Marilla’s meticulously clean kitchen and garden reflect her own severity. Montgomery suggests we should understand the characters that people this novel by examining their homes and surroundings.

Landscape not only establishes characters’ identities; it also guides their interactions. Because Mrs. Rachel and Marilla live close to one another, they have become friends. They are not particularly compatible, but a comfortable coexistence has evolved between the two women. Mrs. Rachel’s unannounced visit to Marilla seems to be one of her regular intrusions on Green Gables. The brook that runs from Green Gables to the Lynde place is a metaphor for the relationship between the two women. Its source at the Cuthbert place is silent, formed from a network of invisible trickles of water. By the time it reaches the Lynde plot, it has become a stream, a distinct and boisterous collection of all the quiet trickles of water from Green Gables. The stream also represents the way Mrs. Rachel collects bits and pieces of news and turns them into a steady flow of gossip.

Marilla seems to consider an orphan a pair of hands rather than a child with a personality and needs. She objects to Anne because she knows Anne could not work on the farm, not because she worries that she and Matthew are inexperienced with children. The difference between Anne’s warmth and optimism and Marilla’s sternness begins a dynamic that foreshadows how much Anne causes the Cuthberts to change their routine.

Matthew and Marilla live together much like a married couple. Montgomery portrays both sister and brother as nearly sexless beings; Matthew cannot even look women in the eye, and Marilla is straitlaced and stern. However, some view their cohabitation as slightly strange. Mrs. Rachel seems scandalized at the prospect of Matthew and Marilla raising a child, perhaps in part because raising a child together suggests a married relationship. In a biographical article about her career, Montgomery wrote that incest was common in the town where she grew up; however, she makes no implication that incest exists in Matthew and Marilla’s relationship, suggesting instead that a brother and sister can live together and even, despite Mrs. Rachel’s protestations, raise a child together in a natural way. She emphasizes this point by having Anne call her new guardians “Matthew” and “Marilla” rather than “Mother” and “Father,” or even “Aunt” and “Uncle.”