Next to trying and winning, the best thing is trying and failing.
On the morning the exam results are announced, Anne is too nervous to check the list, but someone spots her name and cries that she has won the Avery Scholarship and Gilbert Blythe the Gold Medal. A swarm of people surrounds Anne and congratulates her, and when Matthew and Marilla come to the Queen’s Academy for commencement, they can hardly contain their pride in Anne’s achievements. Anne goes back to Green Gables after commencement, rejoicing in all the familiar sights and in spending time with Diana. Anne plans to continue her education at Redmond College in the fall, while Jane and Ruby will begin to teach. She learns from Diana that Gilbert will be teaching also, since his father cannot afford to send him to Redmond, which disappoints Anne.
At Green Gables, Anne and Marilla discuss the shaky position of Abbey Bank, where the Cuthberts have always kept their money. Rumors of the bank’s trouble have persuaded Marilla to ask Matthew about moving their money, but he has reassured her that the bank is all right. Anne notices that Marilla and Matthew are not looking well. Marilla says that her headaches have become severe and her deteriorating vision has made sewing and reading uncomfortable. Matthew has been having heart trouble all spring but cannot bring himself to follow the doctor’s order to rest more.
Although Anne has always fantasized about material wealth, fancy jewels, and fine dresses, she has never been overly materialistic or obsessed with acquiring nice possessions. The world of wealth and culture she sees at the White Sands Hotel does not appeal to her as much as her simple life in Green Gables, which is rich in natural beauty, love, and imagination. During Anne’s childhood, Marilla and Mrs. Rachel warn Anne frequently that lofty dreams, especially dreams of wealth, will lead only to disappointment. But Anne is not disappointed when riches do not measure up to her dreams. After indulging in dreams of opulence as a child, she now calmly realizes the worth of her simple, happy life.
As an adult, Anne dreams not of riches and of golden hair, but of academic and professional success. The word “ambition” appears nearly as often in the later chapters as the word “imagination” does in the early ones, showing how Anne’s character has changed. In some ways, however, Anne can cast aside her childhood dreams because they have all come true. The red hair she so loathes as a youngster has turned a rich auburn color. She claims earlier that she would rather be pretty than smart, and now she is both pretty and smart. She earlier wants to be well behaved, and she now comports herself with compassion and maturity as well as good manners.
Anne’s ideas about success change, and she ceases to define success as beating Gilbert Blythe. She even says, “Next to trying and winning, the best thing is trying and failing.” Whereas earlier she thinks that she would rather fail the entrance exam than be beaten by Gilbert, now she does not equate success with winning. When she feels she cannot recite her poem at the White Sands Hotel, she considers leaving the stage, but decides it is better to recite the poem and be humiliated than not to try at all. This newfound belief that losing to another person is not as humiliating as not trying to succeed is a sign of her growing maturity.
Anne’s feelings for Gilbert gradually change too. She thinks of their rivalry with affection and nostalgia, and is disappointed to learn that he will not go with her to Redmond College. She is now able to see that they share many character traits and might have been close friends were it not for her own competitiveness. Anne has not completely outgrown her childish traits, however, and the stubbornness that created the rift in the first place still prevents her from forging a friendship with Gilbert.