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Two weeks after Anne’s adoption, Mrs. Rachel Lynde drops by to inspect Anne. Talking with Mrs. Rachel, Marilla admits she feels affection for Anne: “I must say I like her myself ... the house seems a different place already.” Mrs. Rachel disapproves of an old maid like Marilla attempting to raise a child. When Anne comes in from outside, Mrs. Rachel sizes her up, saying, “She’s terrible skinny and homely, Marilla . . . And hair as red as carrots!” Anne flies into a fury, stomps her feet, and screams that she hates Mrs. Rachel. After calling Mrs. Rachel fat, clumsy, and devoid of imagination, she runs upstairs.
Mrs. Rachel, indignant and offended, advises Marilla to whip Anne and declares she will not visit Green Gables if she is to be treated in such a way. Rather than apologize for Anne, Marilla finds herself chastising Mrs. Rachel for being so insensitive. She is not horrified to learn that Anne has a temper; instead, Marilla is sympathetic to Anne, recognizing that she has never been taught how to behave, and she wants to laugh at Mrs. Rachel’s snobbery. When Marilla goes upstairs, she finds Anne sobbing on her bed but utterly defiant. Anne maintains she had a right to be furious at being called skinny and homely. She asks Marilla to imagine how it feels to be called such things. Marilla remembers an incident from her own childhood in which an older lady called her homely, a comment that stung for years. Despite her sympathy for Anne, Marilla thinks Anne must be punished for lashing out at a visitor. She decides not to whip Anne but to make her apologize to Mrs. Rachel. Anne refuses, saying she cannot apologize for something she does not regret.
Anne remains in her room the entire next day, sulking and barely touching the food Marilla brings her. Matthew, concerned about Anne, waits for Marilla to leave the house and then creeps up to Anne’s room. He has not been upstairs for four years. He sneaks in and whispers to Anne that she should apologize to Mrs. Rachel, since Marilla is not likely to change her mind about the punishment. Anne admits that she is not as furious as she was, but says apologizing would be too humiliating. However, to oblige Matthew, she promises to go to Mrs. Rachel’s. Stunned by his success with Anne, Matthew hurries away so Marilla won’t find him interfering with Anne’s punishment.
Anne tells Marilla she is willing to apologize, and they walk to Mrs. Rachel’s house. During the first half of the walk, Anne’s gait and countenance suggest her shame, but midway through the walk, her step quickens and her eyes become dreamy. Upon arriving at Mrs. Rachel’s, Anne resumes slumping and throws herself on her knees before the older woman, clasping her hands and begging for forgiveness, saying,
I could never express all my sorrow, no, not if I used up a whole dictionary . . . I’m a dreadfully wicked and ungrateful girl, and I deserve to be punished and cast out by respectable people for ever.
Mrs. Rachel accepts the apology readily. In her way, Mrs. Rachel atones for her own thoughtlessness by telling Anne that her red hair might darken into auburn as she grows up. She tells Marilla that despite Anne’s odd ways, she likes her.
Marilla feels uneasy about Anne’s apology. She recognizes that Anne enjoyed her punishment, making her apology theatrical and flowery. Although Marilla feels the punishment has backfired, she would feel odd chastising Anne for apologizing too well. As they walk home, Anne slips her hand into Marilla’s, saying how happy she is to be going to a place that feels like home. At the touch of the little girl’s hand, Marilla feels a rush of motherly warmth that is both pleasurable and disarming. She tries to restore her usual emotional control and fends off this unfamiliar feeling of affection by moralizing to Anne about good behavior.
Marilla shows Anne the three new dresses she has made for her, all of which are ugly and none of which has the puffed sleeves that Anne wants. To make up for the ugliness of the dresses, Anne imagines they are as beautiful and ornate as the dresses she has seen other girls wearing. The next day, Anne goes to church and Sunday school alone, wearing one of her new dresses. On the way, she picks a bunch of flowers and decorates her otherwise plain hat with them, an eccentric adornment that causes other Avonlea churchgoers to scoff.
After church, Anne reports to Marilla that the service did not impress her. She says that the minister’s sermon, the prayer, and the Sunday school teacher’s prim questions were all unimaginative. Anne was able to survive the boring morning only by looking out the window and daydreaming. Marilla scolds Anne for her inattention at church but inwardly agrees with her. Although she never articulates her own criticisms of the minister, Mr. Bentley, and the Sunday school teacher, Mr. Bell, she, like Anne, has always felt that the church service is boring and uninspiring.
Mrs. Rachel tells Marilla that Anne put flowers in her hat at church, making herself the laughingstock of the congregation. When Marilla reprimands Anne for doing something so inappropriate, Anne bursts into tears. She does not understand what she did wrong, since the flowers were beautiful and other girls had artificial flowers in their hats. Anne’s mood quickly changes when she learns they are to visit the Barrys that afternoon. Anne has dreamed of becoming bosom friends with Diana Barry, and she now trembles with nervousness. Marilla warns her not to say anything startling or to use too many big words in front of Mrs. Barry, who has a reputation for strictness.
At the Barry’s house, Anne and Diana go out to the garden to play and immediately strike up a friendship. Anne’s first words to Diana are a heartfelt proposition of friendship. She creates an oath of eternal devotion for them to swear. On the walk back to Green Gables, Anne blissfully tells Marilla that she has found a kindred spirit in the plump, pretty, raven-haired Diana. When Matthew gives Anne chocolates he has bought for her, Anne asks to be allowed to share them with Diana. She says she will enjoy her chocolate even more if she can give half of it to her new friend. Marilla, pleased by Anne’s generous spirit, tells Matthew she cannot imagine what life would be like without Anne.
In each succeeding chapter, Montgomery illustrates her characters in greater depth and detail. Each chapter contains a small story, and as the stories accumulate, we can trace the evolution of the characters and their relationships with one another. In Chapters 9 through 12, Anne blows up at Mrs. Rachel, apologizes, goes to church, and meets Diana Barry. Over the course of these events, Anne demonstrates her willingness to learn and to follow the rules of society. She begins by throwing a wild tantrum, but she ends by apologizing for her bad deeds. Matthew changes too: at the beginning of the novel, he dislikes interacting with women, even hesitating to nod at them on the street. In these chapters, however, he becomes a warm father figure who takes increasing pleasure in spoiling Anne. Matthew and Anne are “kindred spirits,” and in his dealings with Anne, Matthew shows a flair for parenting. In Chapter 10, for instance, Anne agrees to apologize to Mrs. Rachel not because it is the right thing to do or because Marilla threatens her but because she wants to oblige Matthew.
Anne struggles to do the right thing, but Avonlea’s code of manners is unfamiliar to her, and she acts like a well-meaning tourist in a foreign country, violating the standards of propriety by accident. Although anxious to do what people consider right, Anne acts according to her own moral code. She feels that because Mrs. Rachel insults her, she has a right to show her anger, and because she does not truly believe she should apologize to Mrs. Rachel, she makes the apology a piece of theater. Anne’s moral code contrasts with Marilla’s. Marilla frequently observes something Anne does, like decorating her hat with wildflowers, and deems it ridiculous because it is unconventional. Anne, however, does not understand how she can be considered bad when her behavior makes perfect sense to her and when she is not trying to hurt anyone.
Despite her criticisms of Anne, Marilla changes over the course of these chapters, even revising her own moral code because of Anne’s different perspective. Sometimes when Marilla feels she should reprimand Anne, she thinks about the logic of such a scolding and decides against criticizing. For example, when Anne returns from church and calls the preacher unimaginative and boring, Marilla admits to herself that she shares these exact feelings, although she has been unwilling to acknowledge them in the past. As Marilla and Anne begin to understand each other better, they start to question their own standards of judgment and to accept each other’s moral codes.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Anne of Green Gables!