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Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas
explored in a literary work.
Anne is guided by her imagination and romanticism, which
often lead her astray. Daydreams constantly interrupt her chores
and conversations, pulling her away from reality and into her own
imaginary world. This escape pleases Anne, but her rich inner life
often comes into conflict with Avonlea’s expectations of appropriate behavior.
Anne’s imaginative excursions lead to everything from minor household
disasters, such as baking an inedible cake, to life-threatening
calamities, such as nearly drowning in an attempt to act out a poem.
Marilla does not indulge in fantasy, and equates goodness with decorum
and sensible behavior. She adheres to the social code that guides
the actions of well-behaved ladies. Anne has difficulty understanding
why Marilla doesn’t use her imagination to improve upon the world.
Partly Marilla is not naturally inclined to imaginativeness, and
partly she worries for Anne, thinking that Anne will imagine and
long for wonderful things and then experience painful disappointment
when reality does not live up to her expectations. Anne wants to
please Marilla by acting obedient and deferential, but she finds
irresistible pleasure in her wild fantasies. As she matures, however,
Anne curbs her extreme romanticism and finds a compromise between
imagination and respectability.
Anne’s feelings run deep; she loves and hates with passion,
and dreams with spirit. However, as a child, she cannot distinguish between
true emotion and mere sentimentality, or fake emotion, often allowing
herself to indulge in sentiment because she thinks it romantic.
Her weakness for sentiment colors her fictional stories, which feature
melodrama, true love, eternal devotion, and tragic loss. She and
her friends enjoy histrionic displays of emotion, working up a weepy
farewell to Mr. Phillips even though they dislike him and terrifying
themselves by imagining the woods to be haunted.
In part, Anne’s attachment to sentimentality provides
a refuge from the real emotions of fear and loss she experienced
as a child. Her parents’ death left her at the mercy of others,
and as a young girl she was treated not with the love and attention
that most children receive, but with cruelty and carelessness. Because
Anne knows the pain of real emotion, the play-world of sentiment
is comforting to her. When she imagines sentimental stories and
games, she is able to control the situation, as she could not in
her dealings with real emotion. Only when Anne becomes an adult
can she deal with real emotion. When Matthew dies at the end of
the novel, Anne experiences real loss. As a well-adjusted woman,
she can cope with the loss of someone dear to her and recognize
her pain as real emotion, not the sentimental fluff of her childhood
Ace your assignments with our guide to Anne of Green Gables!