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On a cold December evening, Matthew enters the kitchen
and realizes too late that Anne and her friends are already there
conducting a rehearsal of “The Fairy Queen” in preparation for the
Christmas concert. Shy of all the little girls, he stays silently
in the corner until they leave. While observing the group, Matthew
notices that Anne is dressed differently from her friends. He becomes
convinced that she needs more fashionable clothing and goes into
the town of Carmody to find a bright dress with puffed sleeves.
Shopping is not an easy task for such a shy man, but Matthew summons
his courage and goes to Samuel Lawson’s store, which he thinks will
not have a female clerk at the desk. Much to Matthew’s dismay, he
finds that Samuel Lawson has hired a female clerk, Miss Lucilla
Matthew is too scared to ask Miss Harris for fashion
advice, and asks for twenty pounds of brown sugar and a garden rake
before making his escape. Matthew eventually asks Mrs. Rachel for
help, and she picks out a rich brown fabric and uses a fashionable
pattern to make Anne’s dress. Mrs. Rachel has often wondered why
Marilla dresses Anne so plainly and is happy to have a part in updating Anne’s
wardrobe. On Christmas Day, Matthew unveils the dress, complete
with puffed sleeves. Diana comes over with a present from Aunt Josephine
for Anne: delicate slippers. Anne is delighted by her beautiful
Anne’s Christmas concert is the first one Matthew and
Marilla have been to in twenty years. Anne, wearing her new dress
and shoes, is the star of the show. Both Cuthberts are swollen with
pride. Matthew immediately tells Anne how proud he is of her, but
Marilla decides not to compliment Anne.
After the excitement of the Christmas concert, the Avonlea
students return to their normal, humdrum patterns. Anne, now almost
thirteen, vows to improve herself by imitating Mrs. Allan, refraining from
saying uncharitable things and trying to do good.
For school, the students are assigned to write a piece
of fiction and a composition about a walk in the winter. These assignments displease
Marilla because they rely on imagination rather than memorization.
They elate Anne, however, and she completes her original story early.
Diana moans that she does not have enough imagination to do the
assignment. To help Diana cultivate her imagination and to practice
her own writing, Anne proposes that the two girls start a story
club. Two of their friends, Jane Andrews and Ruby Gillis, eventually
join, and the girls spend their time inventing romantic, melodramatic
One evening in late April, Marilla walks home feeling
uplifted and lighthearted, though she does not realize that the
sights of spring are the cause of her joy. She happily anticipates
the warm fire and tea that Anne should have prepared for her at
home. When she reaches Green Gables, Marilla finds the table bare
and Anne nowhere to be found. She complains to Matthew that Anne
has disobeyed her order to stay at home and prepare the meal. Her
anger turns to concern when suppertime comes and there is still
no sign of Anne. Marilla goes upstairs to get a candle from Anne’s
room and finds her lying facedown on her bed, moaning that she is
too ugly to be seen. It turns out that Anne has dyed her hair with
disastrous results. She bought hair dye from a traveling peddler
who claimed the dye would turn her hair raven black. The dye turned
her hair green, and the only solution is for Marilla to crop it
to an unfashionably short length. At first Anne weeps at the sight
of herself in the mirror, but she then decides to look at her unattractive
reflection to remind herself of the folly of vanity.
Anne, Diana, Ruby, and Jane enact a scene from a poem
by Alfred Lord Tennyson in which the corpse of a character named
Elaine is sent down a river in a barge. Though Anne does not look
like Elaine, who has golden hair, she gets the part because none
of the other girls want to drift down the pond alone in Mr. Barry’s
little boat. The girls recite romantic farewells and send Anne’s
unmoving body down the pond. For a few minutes, Anne revels in the
romance of the situation, but she then feels water at her back.
The boat has a leak, but Anne remains calm and prays for God to
bring the boat close to one of the bridge piles (poles running vertically
from the bridge to the bottom of the river) so she can grab on and
wait for help. The girls see the boat sink, and, thinking that Anne
has sunk with it, they run screaming for help. Anne is able to get
to a bridge pile, however, where she hangs on and waits uncomfortably
Just when Anne begins to think she cannot hold on any
longer, Gilbert Blythe rows up and rescues her. After depositing
her safely on the bank, he makes a friendly overture, apologizing
again for calling her “Carrots” when they first met and complimenting
the auburn color her hair has become. For a moment, Anne hesitates and
considers befriending her sworn enemy. But she then recalls her humiliation
during the “Carrots” incident and declares she will never become
friends with him. Gilbert storms off. Meanwhile, Diana and Jane
cannot find any adults to help and have become frantic. Ruby, always
inclined toward hysteria, grieves at the Barry house. When Diana
and Jane return to the pond, they are relieved that Anne is safe
and thrilled by the romance of her rescue by Gilbert. Anne, however,
orders Jane never to say the word “romantic” again.
To some extent, Matthew and Marilla reverse the characteristics traditionally
associated with men and women. Matthew goes to great trouble to
get Anne a new, fashionable dress, exhibiting almost womanly qualities.
Whereas Marilla thinks fashion silly, Matthew understands that Anne’s
dowdy dresses probably embarrass her; he sees the importance of
fitting into one’s peer group. Whereas Marilla is reserved and does
not believe in spoiling children, exhibiting almost manly qualities,
Matthew easily expresses his affection for Anne and welcomes every
opportunity to dote on her.
Anne’s approach to writing, which she describes in Chapter 26, reflects
Montgomery’s own approach. Anne writes romantic stories about ladies
named Cordelia and Geraldine who fall in love and meet tragic ends.
She explains to Marilla that the stories all have morals: the good
people are rewarded and the bad people are punished. Similarly,
Montgomery makes moral judgments about Anne’s behavior. Montgomery
does not divide the world into good and bad people, but she does
reward Anne’s strengths and punish her faults. Anne’s mistakes never
result in tragedy, but she meets with difficulties that are tragic
in her perspective.
At the end of Chapter 28, Anne
reflects on all of her mistakes. She realizes that each mistake
has taught her an important lesson and that, taken together, the
mistakes and lessons have made her a better person. After taking
Marilla’s brooch, for example, she learns not to play with things
that don’t belong to her. After running panicked through the woods,
she learns to keep her imagination in check. After making cake with
liniment, she learns to take care while cooking. After dyeing her
hair, she learns to curb her vanity. Anne’s faults and quirky traits,
which Marilla and Mrs. Rachel enumerate at the beginning of Anne’s
stay, disappear with every mistake, chapter by chapter.
Although Anne’s desire to rid herself of faults shows
her maturation, she has not yet perfected herself. For example,
she resolves to be modest after her vanity results in green hair,
but her vanity over her hair makes her simmer afresh over a years-old
insult and causes her to reject Gilbert’s offer of friendship. Gilbert’s
rescue teaches Anne yet another lesson that demonstrates that she
still has room to mature: real-life romance does not yet suit her.
Although the boat episode has all the markings of the kind of fictional
romance Anne loves—danger, a woman in distress, a last-minute rescue
by a handsome man—Anne finds the event awkward, embarrassing, and
irritating rather than charming and romantic.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Anne of Green Gables!