Anne of Green Gables

by: L. M. Montgomery

Chapters 5–8

Summary—Chapter 8: Anne’s Bringing-Up Is Begun

The next afternoon, Anne begs Marilla to tell her whether she can stay at Green Gables. Marilla makes Anne wash the dishcloth in hot water before announcing that she can stay. When Anne hears the good news, she cries with happiness, promising to be good and obedient, two qualities she senses Marilla values above all others. Anne asks whether she should continue to refer to Marilla as Miss Cuthbert or whether she might call her Aunt Marilla. Calling Marilla her aunt, says Anne, would be almost as good as having an actual relative. Marilla says Anne should call her Marilla.

Afraid that Anne might repeat the prayer debacle of the previous night, Marilla instructs Anne to retrieve a copy of the Lord’s Prayer from the next room and memorize it. Anne does not return for ten minutes. Marilla finds her kneeling before a picture entitled “Christ Blessing Little Children,” rapt and starry-eyed. Anne is imagining herself as a little girl in the picture whom the other children ignore but who creeps into the crowd hoping for Christ’s attention and blessing. Marilla chastises her for being irreverent, which surprises Anne.

Anne sits at the kitchen table to memorize Lord’s Prayer. She asks Marilla if she will have a “bosom friend” or “kindred spirit” at Avonlea. Marilla says a little girl named Diana Barry lives nearby, and Anne asks about Diana’s hair color, saying red hair in a bosom friend would be unendurable. She tells Marilla about her previous best friends, both imaginary. At Mrs. Thomas’s, she created an imaginary best friend to whom she spoke in the glass door of a bookcase. When she moved to Mrs. Hammond’s, she found a new best friend in the echo of her own voice in a nearby valley. Marilla, fed up with Anne’s chatter, sends her to her room, where she daydreams. She tries to imagine that she is Lady Cordelia Fitzgerald, but finding this persona unconvincing, she appeases herself with her new real name: Anne of Green Gables.

Analysis—Chapters 5–8

In these chapters, we learn that Anne has had a difficult life. She realizes that her foster mothers did not care for her; they simply wanted a maid and a babysitter. Considering the pain of Anne’s life, her refusal to criticize her foster mothers makes her seem strong and surprisingly optimistic. She also expresses satisfaction in her friends, although they were imaginary. Along with her strength and optimism, Anne possesses a mature ability to use herself as a resource and find happiness in her own company.

Anne is guided not by the rules of social decorum but by her imagination, as Marilla recognizes when she lets Anne make up her own prayer rather than recite “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.” For Anne, the reality that society presents can be altered by imagining a different reality. She thinks her own name and life dull, so she renames herself Cordelia and imagines herself a fine lady. She does not have friends, so she makes friends of her reflection and voice. She sees the good in people and places, and then imagines them as even better than they are.

Anne practices her own form of spirituality, which she has developed independently and which consists of a belief that miracles and perfection exist in life. Demoralizing experiences have turned her away from Christian tenets and toward a spiritual life centered on love of the natural world. Marilla cannot understand Anne’s form of spirituality because it diverges from traditional religion. When Marilla asks Anne to pray in a Christian way, Anne begins to forge a mixture of her own spirituality and Marilla’s religion. Anne prays before bed as Marilla’s religion dictates, but she makes up her own flowery, unorthodox prayer. She looks at Marilla’s picture of Christ, but she uses her imagination to insert herself into the scene.