The Characters (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
The novel is densely peopled by a rural community about its everyday business. Although there is a pastoral quality to the writing, Montgomery’s characterization does not idealize. Characters have faults and virtues; many have icy exteriors with softer hearts. Only Anne’s two role models are idealized: They are presented as Anne would see them, on pedestals, rather than as rounded personalities. The contrasting presentations of Mr. Phillips and Miss Stacy exemplify this characterization dichotomy; however poor a teacher Phillips is, he can be imagined in real-life terms. It is difficult to do this with Miss Stacy.
The novel is dominated by Anne’s strong, willful, and brilliant character, which is revealed through a series of episodes that usually fit a pattern. Anne typically experiences a situation, reconstructs its reality imaginatively, goes through a catastrophe, then experiences contrition, punishment, and insight; finally, she becomes reconciled to reality. However, several episodes depart from this pattern significantly. In one, Anne has to nurse a sick child through the night. Her bravery and initiative are shown here as constructive rather than as compensatory fantasy. The episode demonstrates both the degree to which Anne has grown up and also the community’s gradual recognition of her real qualities. As she grows into mid-adolescence, Anne’s successes outweigh her failures; her characterization perhaps becomes sentimentalized at times...
(The entire section is 554 words.)
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Themes and Characters
Anne of Green Gables begins as an orphanage mistakenly sends eleven-year-old Anne Shirley to the Cuthberts, who want to adopt a boy. Matthew Cuthbert takes pity on Anne and insists that she stay at Green Gables. Anne finds a "kindred spirit" in Matthew, and she changes his life. A reticent bachelor, his concern for Anne forces him to overcome his overwhelming shyness with girls and women and to be more sensitive to others' feelings. His pride in her motivates Anne to excel, and his death devastates her.
Matthew's undemonstrative sister Marilla reluctantly agrees to adopt Anne. A self-described "old maid," Marilla has no experience in raising children. Believing that she must be especially strict to compensate for her brother's "softness," Marilla never expresses amusement, praises Anne, or misses an opportunity to teach a lesson in morals or etiquette. Although she actually feels as much love and pride as Matthew does, she hides her feelings until Anne is hurt.
The residents of the rural village Avonlea, Anne's new home, frequently misunderstand her active imagination and the sophisticated vocabulary that she insists on showing off. Her impulsiveness and quick temper further complicate her relationships with neighbors and classmates. But she is thrilled to have a home of her own, and the vivid imagination that sometimes gets her in trouble also consoles her when she is lonely or bored, enables her to see the best in others, and helps...
(The entire section is 663 words.)