Study Guide

Anne of Green Gables

By L.M. Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables Introduction

Anne with an "e." Anne-girl. Anne Shirley. "Carrots."

Whatever name you heard first, we bet you've heard of Anne of Green Gablesbecause everyone wants a piece of this fictional redheaded orphan girl. There's an Anne-related wiki. There have been several movie adaptations. There's a musical. People from around the world flock to the island where Anne of Green Gables was set, even though Avonlea was never a real town.

She's a full-fledged, superhero-level celebrity.

…which is funny, because Anne's no superhero. She doesn't save the world, or her home country of Canada, or become famous. She's just an orphan who grows up in a small late 19th Century farm village, and gets into funny "scrapes." So how did this character's story get so famous? And how did that kind of fame last a whole century?

It wasn't as if author L.M. Montgomery was onto something totally new. Leading up to this book's 1908 publication, fictional stories about orphans were common in both novels (David Copperfield, anyone?) and in popular magazines.

But when these orphan stories were about girls, they had a formula:

  • A female orphan offers a service to someone lonely—a single person or widow.
  • She'll clean for them or watch young children, and she might help them with a problem or save them from illness over the course of the story.
  • The grown-up grows to like her, and at the end, decides to keep her. (Check out a book called Looking for Anne of Green Gables: The Story of L.M. Montgomery and her Literary Classic for more on this.)

And one little redhead emerged on the scene to break this formula into smithereens.

Anne's the very opposite of a serviceable child. She daydreams, she messes up the housework, and she has a temper. In other words, she's a kid. When Marilla comments on how it doesn't make sense to keep Anne because she won't be useful, Matthew counters with, "We might be some good to her." (3.62)

While we might say "Right?" now, this was a new idea in 1908. It came during Progressivism, a movement of reformers who believed that children had the right to a childhood with limited labor. The orphan stories that followed Anne of Green Gables, Pollyanna in 1913, and Little Orphan Annie in the '20s followed Montgomery's lead. They told stories about children changing the lives of the people around them because of their personalities, not the services they offered.

Anne's a dreamer. She's a smart, imaginative girl in a bad situation, and readers get the satisfaction of watching her grow into a self-assured woman, because Matthew and Marilla gave her that chance. It's a celebration of adoption, and of taking chances on people—the good things that might happen to you if you just let them in.

What is Anne of Green Gables About and Why Should I Care?

Hoo boy. Where to start?

You'll probably care a whole lot if you're into literary fame—Anne of Green Gables is one of the reasons that more than 125,000 tourists flock to the tiny Canadian isle of Prince Edward Island each year.

Or you might care that Anne of Green Gables is big in Japan—it spawned a beloved Anne of Green Gables anime series.

But we think all that's secondary to the real reason Anne is so enduring—its heroine's total spunkiness.

Anne Shirley is a girl that comes from nothing. She has no parents. She has no money. She has no skills—she's all of eleven. And she's dropped into a family that has no use for her.

But by the end of the book she has everything she lacked before: she belongs, she's loved, and she's found her identity.

And how does she get there? Not by being a goody-two-shoes, that's for sure. She gets everything she dreams of (with a few misadventures and heartbreaks along the way) by being bigger than life, dreamy, forgetful, chatty, and deeply weird.

In short, she's an inspiration for girls everywhere that have been told that the way to get ahead is to be meek, pretty, and neat.

And she's not just inspiring bookish girls, either. During WWII, copies of Anne of Green Gables were issued to Polish soldiers. No; we're not joking—it was decided that the best companion a Polish soldier could have on the front lines was a literary heroine who spoke her mind and stood up to injustice in a small Canadian town. (Source)

We should also revisit that whole "big in Japan" thing. Because when we say "big," we mean massive:

In Japan, [Anne of Green Gables] remains so popular that some Japanese businessmen recently signed a contract to import more than $1.4 million worth of potatoes from Prince Edward Island upon being told that the potatoes hailed from the same place as Anne. (Source)

Yeah. When a kid's book inspires businessmen to ship $1.4 million (in 1986 dollars) worth of spuds halfway across the world, you know it's a mega-hit. And the reason why Anne's popularity soared was because of Anne's spirit—when Anne of Green Gables hit Japanese bookstores, the country was still reeling from the aftermath of the atomic bombs. The idea of an orphan prevailing through high spirits and optimism was inspiring and comforting. (Source)

So pick up a copy of Anne of Green Gables (just avoid that one weird cover that shows Anne as a sultry blond instead of a waifish carrot-top) and get to reading. When a heroine has inspired Polish soldiers, Japanese businessman and countless generations of normal, everyday girls alike…you know she's got to be worth getting to know.

Anne of Green Gables Resources

Websites

A Fan Encyclopedia
You can look up anything in the Anne of Green Gables series universe in its very own wiki.

Everything L.M. Montgomery
This is the more official site where L.M. Montgomery scholars and die-hard fans share their news.

So Many Puffed Sleeves
See what Anne's fuss over puffed sleeves are about… or agree to disagree in this history of Romantic Era fashion.

Kindred Spirits Wedding Photo Shoot
Ever imagine what it would look like to have an Anne of Green Gables themed wedding? No? Well, these vendors have.

Movie or TV Productions

The Long Version
The most famous retelling of Anne of Green Gables, this award-winning TV miniseries aired on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 1985 and on PBS in 1986. It stars Megan Follows, and is widely known as the most faithful adaptation of the novel.

Anne in Black-and-White
The teenage actress who played Anne in this 1934 version actually changed her screen name to Anne Shirley when the movie came out. Talk about devotion to the role.

Life Lessons for Kids
Anne of Green Gables: The Animated Series was a PBS children's show running from 2001-02, where Anne and her friends learned a lesson in each episode.

Anne-ime
Akage no Anne (or "Red-Haired Anne") hit Japan's anime scene in 1979 and has contributed to Japanese tourism on Prince Edward Island.

Articles and Interviews

Megan Follows Shares Some Anne Memories
Megan waxes nostalgic in 2013 about the time she spent playing Anne.

Budge Wilson's Fanfic
An Anne of Green Gables prequel was published in 2008, by another famous children's author. Here's the story.

Video

Prince Edward Island
No wonder Anne loved nature so much. Here's a tourism video that shows you what Prince Edward Island looks like today.

L.M. Montgomery's Other Job
A short documentary on how working at the post office influenced Montgomery's work.

Green Gables Fables
A modern Anne of Green Gables adaptation through vlogging—because you know Anne would totally vlog if she had the technology.

Hairstyle Tutorial
In case you want to imitate Anne's curly up-do (from when she's old enough to wear her hair like that.)

Audio

Anniversary Ode
On the hundredth anniversary of the book, here's a fun little interview about Anne's lasting appeal.

Listen to the Book
You can listen to the entire novel of Anne of Green Gables, read by volunteers.

Make a Cake
Fiction Kitchen Podcast talks you through some Anne of Green Gables recipes.

Images

Do you like my hat?
Here's a photograph of Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Poor Anne
We had trouble choosing our favorite Megan-Follows-as-Anne photo, because she was so expressive. But we think this is the one.

Paper Art Anne
Check out these Anne covers by artist Elly MacKay. All were created using paper cutouts in lightbox dioramas.

So Wrong
Anne of Green Gables is in the public domain, which means anyone can publish the text with their own cover, including this one.