Anne of Green Gables, L. M. Montgomery
Anne of Green Gables L. M. Montgomery
(Full name Lucy Maud Montgomery Macdonald) Canadian novelist, poet, short story writer, and autobiographer.
The following entry presents criticism on Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables (1908).
Soon after the publication of Anne of Green Gables (1908), the elderly Mark Twain wrote to its author, L. M. Montgomery, that her character Anne was “the dearest and most lovable child in fiction since the immortal Alice.” Since that time, millions of readers around the world have voiced their agreement. Indeed, almost a century after its first appearance in print, the novel—as well as its many sequels—remains one of the most beloved and critically acclaimed volumes of children's fiction.
Plot and Major Characters
Anne of Green Gables tells the story of Anne Shirley, an orphan on Canada's Prince Edward Island who is adopted by Marilla Cuthbert and her brother Matthew. Needing help on their farm, the middle-aged Cuthbert siblings decide to adopt a child from the orphanage. They request a boy and are shocked to discover that the orphanage has mistakenly sent them the eleven-year-old, red-headed Anne. But the high-spirited young girl soon wins their acceptance despite her strong will, sense of independence, and talkativeness. Proving herself to be intelligent and affectionate, Anne becomes the central fixture of her foster family's life and the social milieu of Green Gables, P.E.I. Narrated in episodic chapters, the novel portrays Anne's adventures in Green Gables, especially her fumbling but endearing attempts to establish herself in the town and forge her personality as a young adult. One character in particular is important to Anne, both in Anne of Green Gables and its sequels: Gilbert Blythe, a classmate whom Anne begins to despise when he mocks the color of her hair. Later in the Anne series, Anne and Gilbert work out their differences and eventually marry.
In Anne of Green Gables, Montgomery created a character who would develop an international following among young girls and women. The most striking feature of Anne is her independence, which may reflect Montgomery's feelings about her own upbringing by her strict Scottish Presbyterian grandparents after her mother died of tuberculosis when Montgomery was two years old. While Montgomery rebelled against the strictures placed upon her during childhood by developing a morbid sense of humor, Anne rebels in a more lighthearted way, usually accepting her own mistakes and learning from them. Some critics have commented on Montgomery's accurate portrayal of the adolescent search for self in Anne, who, as an orphan and an independent spirit, must forge her own way. Because Anne's status as an orphan and her personality traits make her vulnerable to the harsh judgment of the small community in which she lives, Anne's story is sometimes interpreted as a kind of journey tale; Anne must remain separate from the group at first so that she can develop as an individual before she joins the community as a fully functioning member. Once this happens, her attachment to Green Gables, and her place in its society, is confirmed. Although Anne of Green Gables is not an overtly feminist work, and traditionally “female” roles are maintained, the novel does insist on the importance of education, intelligence, and sensitivity for both genders.
Early critics praised Anne of Green Gables as a delightful work for children, especially girls. Subsequent criticism through the first three-quarters of the twentieth century was polite but unenthusiastic, despite the novel's popularity around the world, including in Japan, where young girls became enthralled with the red-headed Anne's adventures. But in the 1970s and beyond, and especially as important contemporary women writers such as Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro began to acknowledge their affection for Anne, the book took on a new critical life, with many feminist commentators noting the care Montgomery took to make Anne a fully developed character. Some critics still maintain that the book is sentimental and overwrought with stereotypical gender depictions, but many regard Anne as a solid role model for girls and young women.
*Anne of Green Gables (novel) 1908
*Anne of Avonlea (novel) 1909
Kilmeny of the Orchard (novel) 1910
Rainbow Valley (novel) 1920
The Story Girl (novel) 1911
Chronicles of Avonlea: In Which Anne Shirley of Green Gables and Avonlea Plays Some Part (novel) 1912
*Anne of the Island (novel) 1915
The Watchman and Other Poems (poetry) 1916
*Anne's House of Dreams (novel) 1917
Rainbow Valley (novel) 1919
Further Chronicles of Avonlea: Which Have to Do with Many Personalities and Events in and about Avonlea (novel) 1920
*Rilla of Ingleside (novel) 1921
Emily of New Moon (novel) 1923
Emily Climbs (novel) 1924
The Blue Castle (novel) 1926
Emily's Quest (novel) 1927
A Tangled Web (novel) 1931; published as Aunt Becky Began It, 1932
Pat of Silver Bush (novel) 1933
Courageous Women [with Marian Keith and Mabel Bums] (nonfiction) 1934
Mistress Pat: A Novel of Silver Bush (novel) 1935
*Anne of Windy Poplars (novel) 1936; also published as Anne of Windy...
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“A Heroine from an Asylum.” New York Times Book Review (18 July 1908): 404.
[In the following review, the critic asserts that the character of Anne is unbelievable and spoils the novel.]
A farmer in Prince Edward's Island ordered a boy from a Nova Scotia asylum, but the order got twisted and the result was that a girl was sent the farmer instead of a boy. That girl is the heroine of L. M. Montgomery's story, Anne of Green Gables, (L. C. Page & Co.,) and it is no exaggeration to say that she is one of the most extraordinary girls that she is one of the most extraordinary girls that ever came out of an ink pot.
The author undoubtedly meant her to be queer, but she is altogether too queer. She was only 11 years old when she reached the house in Prince Edward's Island that was to be her home, but, in spite of her tender years, and in spite of the fact that, excepting for four months spent in the asylum, she had passed all her life with illiterate folks, and had had almost no schooling, she talked to the farmer and his sister as though she had borrowed Bernard Shaw's vocabulary, Alfred Austin's sentimentality, and the reasoning powers of a Justice of the Supreme Court. She knew so much that she spoiled the author's plan at the very outset and greatly marred a story that had in it quaint and charming possibilities.
The author's probable intention was to...
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SOURCE: Gay, Carol. “‘Kindred Spirits’ All: Green Gables Revisited.” Children's Literature Association Quarterly 11, no. 1 (spring 1986): 9-12.
[In the following essay, Gay examines the reasons literary critics have tended to ignore Anne of Green Gables despite its status as one of the most beloved books for young people in the past hundred years.]
Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series represents a common problem in children's literature, the problem of the enduring classic that retains its popularity through the years without much evidence of what is usually defined as literary merit. Almost as much as Little Women, Montgomery's Avonlea books are a common bond shared by women of our century; but there is no gainsaying that Montgomery is sometimes sentimental, frequently cliché-ridden in plot and style, and often given to excessively flowery descriptive passages. What explains her enduring appeal and gives her a place in the history of literature, a history that continues to ignore her in spite of her impact on millions of readers in the past seventy-five years?
One explanation is that those readers were mostly women and girls, and thus invisible. Gerda Lerner called attention to their invisibility in her The Female Experience: An American Documentary in 1977, and in 1979 gave us a new way to look at history in her seminal The...
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SOURCE: Weiss-Town, Janet. “Sexism Down on the Farm? Anne of Green Gables.” Children's Literature Association Quarterly 11, no. 1 (spring 1986): 12-15.
[In the following essay, Weiss-Town argues against the classification of Anne of Green Gables as a sexist book meant to teach girls how to be proper women.]
A municipal draftsperson by trade, an interior designer by education, and a student of children's literature by interest and inclination, I am quite honestly impressed by the essays and ideas of writers such as Alan Garner and Virginia Hamilton, or educators and literary scholars such as Perry Nodelman and Carol Gay, that appear in the Quarterly. I learn a great deal from them. But sometimes I learn more from the articles and opinions that impress me less than they annoy me. It is in disagreeing with an idea that I'm forced to think about it in greater depth, particularly when the idea comes from a respected source and I can't just dismiss it as foolishness. This essay is about that sort of idea—a comment made by Perry Nodelman during a class in the children's literature course I took from him which is a perfect illustration of this sort of mental catalyst.
We were studying L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, as an example of a “girl's book”. Apparently it had evolved amidst a history of series books about wonderful girls, such as the Pansy...
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SOURCE: Berg, Temma F. “Anne of Green Gables: A Girl's Reading.” Children's Literature Association Quarterly 13, no. 3 (fall 1988): 124-28.
[In the following essay, Berg revisits Anne of Green Gables as a grown woman remembering what the novel meant to her as a girl.]
While it is impossible to verify the following statement, I do believe it is true: Anne of Green Gables was the book that most profoundly influenced me as a child and young adolescent. What I remember most about my childhood reading experience of Anne is my sense of total immersion in the story. I was Anne Shirley. I, like Anne, was an orphan. Not literally of course. I had a complete set of parents, but I felt alienated in some undefined way from the world I lived in. I was a lonely, book-ridden child. I had a few friends, but I felt different from even them, and when I was among them, I usually preferred to be by myself, reading in a corner, wishing I could be curled up on a window seat like Jane Eyre. Of course, the houses my friends and I lived in did not have window seats, so I read on sofas or chairs, but I might just as well have been hidden in a window seat. I read Anne's books both because I was a reader and because they confirmed my sense of my difference and apartness. They told me it was okay to be different.
Not only did I recognize my self in Anne, but I also used the events of...
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SOURCE: Rubio, Mary. “Anne of Green Gables: The Architect of Adolescence.” In Such a Simple Little Tale: Critical Responses to L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, edited by Mavis Reimer, pp. 65-82. Metuchen, N.J.: Children's Literature Association and Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1992.
[In the following essay, Rubio discusses Montgomery's attention to Anne's process of psychological maturation and the complexity of her portrayal of adolescence.]
When Anne of Green Gables was first published in 1908, the terms “teenage” and “adolescent” were not in common use. Yet Anne caught—and continues to catch—the salient elements in teenage experience: yearning, rebellion, intense response to beauty, difficulty in accepting community standards, desire for an identity, friends, clothes, and popularity—all parts of an often difficult transition from childhood to maturity.
Anne of Green Gables was written by thirty-year-old Lucy Maud Montgomery, a woman living in a small rural community in Prince Edward Island, Canada's smallest province. Before 1908, L. M. Montgomery had published many short stories and poems, but Anne was her first full-length novel. She was to become a prolific writer: twenty-two books of fiction, a book of poetry, a serialized version of her life, 494 individual poems, and 497 short stories are listed in the Russell and...
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SOURCE: Drain, Susan. “Community and the Individual in Anne of Green Gables: The Meaning of Belonging.” In Such a Simple Little Tale: Critical Responses to L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, edited by Mavis Reimer, pp. 119-30. Metuchen, N.J.: Children's Literature Association and Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1992.
[In the following essay, Drain discusses the pattern in Anne of Green Gables of a person becoming part of a community in order to successfully individuate and withdraw from it when necessary.]
Finding one's rightful place in the social fabric is part of the challenge of growing up, and as such, it is an important focus of many books for and about children. An entire tradition of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century “orphan tales” is explicitly concerned with the problem of identifying and occupying that rightful place. In books like The Wide, Wide World (1850), Elsie Dinsmore (1867), and Pollyanna (1913), an orphaned or motherless heroine finds herself in a new and strange situation; the novel traces the course of events and adjustments which are made to ensure that the heroine takes her proper place at last. These adjustments usually work in one of two ways: either the child is subdued to the pattern of the adults, as in The Wide, Wide World (a book which is in this way not much more than a Sunday school tract), or like Elsie and Pollyanna,...
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SOURCE: Wiggins, Genevieve. “‘Born of True Love’: Anne of Green Gables.” In L. M. Montgomery, pp. 19-42. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1992.
[In the following excerpt, Wiggins discusses major themes in Anne of Green Gables and Montgomery's personal affection for the book.]
After eight years of growing success in writing for periodicals, Montgomery, in her own words, “went to work and wrote a book” (Weber, 51). In the spring of 1904, she began her account of a red-haired orphan girl adopted by an elderly couple, intending to use the story as a short serial for a Sunday-school periodical. Her central character soon became so real to her that she decided to follow a long-standing ambition and make the adventures of Anne the basis for a full-length novel. Written during the evenings at her grandmother's home in Cavendish, the work was completed in October 1905,1 the handwritten manuscript typed on her secondhand machine that refused to print clear capitals and would not print a w at all (Alpine Path, 75). She submitted the novel to an Indianapolis publishing house, which promptly returned it.
After receiving rejection slips from four other publishers,2 Montgomery put the manuscript away in an old hat box. About a year later, she took it out, reread it, found it still “rather interesting” (Journals I, 331), and...
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SOURCE: Santelmann, Patricia Kelly. “Written as Women Write: Anne of Green Gables within the Female Literary Tradition.” In Harvesting Thistles: The Textual Garden of L. M. Montgomery. Essays on Her Novels and Journals, edited by Mary Henley Rubio, pp. 64-73. Guelph, Ontario: Canadian Children's Press, 1994.
[In the following essay, Santelmann explores the details of women's lives that are portrayed in Anne of Green Gables and the ways in which the novel advances the female literary tradition.]
In A Literature of Their Own, Elaine Showalter discusses the lack of a female literary tradition, and she begins by quoting a male critic—G. H. Lewes. In an 1852 essay entitled “The Lady Novelist” Lewes remarked, “hitherto … the literature of women … has been too much a literature of imitation. To write as men write is the aim and besetting sin of women; to write as women is the real task they have to perform” (qtd. by Showalter: 3). The problem, says Showalter, is not so much that women fail to write about their own experiences, but that they seldom consider that these experiences “might transcend the personal and local, assume a collective form in art, and reveal a history” (4).
Lewes' calling for women to write about their own experiences is in itself evidence of the way that women's writing has failed to become part of literary history. By 1852, the...
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SOURCE: Foster, Shirley, and Judy Simons. “L. M. Montgomery: Anne of Green Gables.” In What Katy Read: Feminist Re-Readings of ‘Classic’ Stories for Girls, pp. 149-71. London: Macmillan, 1995.
[In the following excerpt, Foster and Simons consider the ways in which Anne of Green Gables circumvents archetypical girls’ literature.]
In August 1907, a few months after Anne of Green Gables had been accepted for publication, Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote joyfully in her Journal:
Well, I've written my book. The dream dreamed years ago in that old brown desk in school has come true at last after years of toil and struggle. And the realization is sweet—almost as sweet as the dream!1
The novel, which appeared in June 1908, was, like most of the other books discussed in this study, an overnight success, despite its modest beginnings. As Montgomery herself explains:
Two years ago in the spring of 1905 I was looking over [my] notebook in search of some suitable idea for a short serial I wanted to write for a certain Sunday School paper and I found a faded entry, written ten years before:—“Elderly couple apply to orphan asylum for a boy. By mistake a girl is sent them.” I thought this would do. I began to block out chapters, devise incidents and “brood up” my...
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SOURCE: Barry, Wendy E. “The Settler of P.E.I.: The Celtic Influence in Anne.” In The Annotated Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery, edited by Wendy E. Barry, Margaret Anne Doody, and Mary E. Doody Jones, pp. 418-21. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.
[In the following essay, Barry explores the Celtic history of Prince Edward Island, the setting of Anne of Green Gables, and the ways this history is woven into the text.]
Anne's beloved Prince Edward Island was once called “Abegweit,” or “land cradled on the waves,” by the Micmac people who lived there. They told stories of how after creating the universe and the Micmac people the Great Spirit had a large amount of dark red clay left over. The Great Spirit then fashioned that clay into a crescent shape that became the most beautiful jewel in the universe. Then, as in most of North America, the arrival of European explorers and settlers had an adverse affect on the native population. Many First Canadians, including a large percentage of the Micmacs, died of exposure to new diseases such as influenza, smallpox, and measles. Alcoholism became a problem among these people as among many other First Canadian peoples. Moreover, the Micmacs were a migratory hunting and fishing people who moved back and forth between the mainland and the island seasonally. The settlement of P.E.I. by a more agriculturally oriented population, and...
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SOURCE: Jones, Mary E. Doody. “The Exceptional Orphan Anne: Child Care, Orphan Asylums, Farming Out, Indenturing, and Adoption.” In The Annotated Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery, edited by Wendy E. Barry, Margaret Anne Doody, and Mary E. Doody Jones, pp. 422-29. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.
[In the following essay, Jones examines the care and treatment of orphans in the late nineteenth century and the ways this is reflected in Anne of Green Gables.]
R.M.D., Route 3
Aug. 21st/17 
To Mayor Martin Halifax City Halifax Co., N.S.
Kindly tell me the names of the Homes for boys in your city. I am desirous in getting a good boy (with decent parents) from ages 8-11 yrs inclusive, to bring up and of protestant religion preferably [sic] methodist. Let me know please by return mail. Find enclosed postage stamp for letter.
Also tell me the name of Homes for girls to bring up whether Catholic or Protestant, with address for each home. I mean for both boys and girls.
Answer please by return mail as I wish to inform my mother, who lives in Guysboro, of...
(The entire section is 4484 words.)
SOURCE: Davey, Frank. “The Hard-Won Power of Canadian Womanhood: Reading Anne of Green Gables Today.” In L. M. Montgomery and Canadian Culture, edited and with an introduction by Irene Gammel and Elizabeth Epperly, pp. 163-82. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999.
[In the following essay, Davey addresses the ways in which Montgomery's Anne continues to reflect women's feelings of social estrangement and prefigured contemporary Canadian literary explorations of the subject.]
L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables played an ambiguously progressive role in various turn-of-the century ideological conflicts concerning religion, child rearing, and opportunities for women. In its strategic focus on an orphan it linked itself to a textual formation that had already seen such works as Dickens's Oliver Twist (1839) and Great Expectations (1861), Twain's Huckleberry Finn (1885), Kipling's Kim (1901), and—in a less complex way—Frank L. Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) deploy this figure to interrogate social practices. In her invocation of the orphan figure, Montgomery, like the nineteenth-century authors who preceded her, was using a sign of considerable psychological and cultural power—including the power to outlast any specific social issue a novel might engage. For orphanhood and feelings of orphanhood, whether caused by separation,...
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Garner, Barbara Carman, and Mary Harker. “Anne of Green Gables: An Annotated Bibliography.” Canadian Children's Literature, no. 55 (1989): 18-41.
Comprehensive listing of books, monographs, and articles on Anne of Green Gables up to 1989.
Baldwin, Douglas. “L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables: The Japanese Connection.” Journal of Canadian Studies 28, no. 3 (fall 1993): 123-33.
Discusses several reasons for the immense popularity of Anne of Green Gables in Japan, notably similarities between the values and cultures of Prince Edward Island and Japan, as well as the Japanese desire for optimistic stories after World War II, when the book was first published in Japan.
Brennan, Joseph Gerard. “The Story of a Classic: Anne and After.” American Scholar 64, no. 2 (spring 1995): 247-56.
Discusses Montgomery's writing of Anne of Green Gables, as well as the book's popularity and critical history.
Holzer, Harold. “A Visit to Green Gables.” Americana 16, no. 3 (May 1988): 58-63.
Recounts Holzer's family's journey to Prince Edward Island, at the urging of his young daughter, to explore Green Gables.
Rubio, Mary. “Satire, Realism and...
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