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Coming of Age
"There's such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that's why I'm such a troublesome person. If I was just one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn't be half so interesting." (20.5)
What Anne cares about varies from day to day, situation to situation. This is a common part of growing up—there are many versions of us inside ourselves.
"I mean to devote all my energies to being good after this and I shall never try to be beautiful again. Of course it's better to be good. I know it is, but it's sometimes so hard to believe a thing even when you know it. I do really want to be good, Marilla, like you and Mrs. Allan and Miss Stacy, and grow up to be a credit to you." (27.42)
Anne keeps trying to push against her flighty nature and learn to be responsible not for herself, but for the people who are raising and pushing her.
For a moment Anne hesitated. She had an odd, newly awakened consciousness under all her outraged dignity that the half-shy, half-eager expression in Gilbert's hazel eyes was something that was very good to see. Her heart gave a quick, queer little beat. (28.33)
What do you think that "newly awakened consciousness" is? (wink wink, nudge nudge)
"Ever since I came to Green Gables I've been making mistakes, and each mistake has helped to cure me of some great shortcoming. The affair of the amethyst brooch cured me of meddling with things that didn't belong to me. The Haunted Woods mistake cured me of letting my imagination run away with me. The liniment cake cured me of carelessness in cooking. Dyeing my hair cured me of vanity. I never think about my hair and nose now—at least, very seldom. And today's mistake is going to cure me of being too romantic." (28.47)
Anne is definitely someone who learns through trial and error. This little bit of self-reflection is a turning point for Anne, forcing her to admit how much she's learned through her accidents. Anne makes fewer mistakes after this.
"Miss Barry put us in the spare room, according to promise. It was an elegant room, Marilla, but somehow sleeping in a spare room isn't what I used to think it was. That's the worst of growing up, and I'm beginning to realize it. The things you wanted so much when you were a child don't seem half so wonderful to you when you get them." (29.26)
Anne's fixation on sleeping in a spare room might seem odd to modern readers, but think of it this way: Anne is imagining being an honored guest in someone's home, rather than an orphan girl who didn't belong and probably had to sleep somewhere like the kitchen.
"I didn't mind promising not to read any more like it, but it was agonizing to give back that book without knowing how it turned out. But my love for Miss Stacy stood the test and I did. It's really wonderful, Marilla, what you can do when you're truly anxious to please a person." (30.12)
Anne owes a lot of her reformed bad behaviors to Miss Stacy, a teacher she loves, and who she wants to love her back. It takes a lot of love to endure the agony of giving a book back without finishing it.
Marilla loved the girl as much as the child, but she was conscious of a queer sorrowful sense of loss. And that night when Anne had gone to prayer meeting with Diana, Marilla sat alone in the wintry twilight and indulged in the weakness of a cry. (31.19)
Marilla is experiencing the sorrow of a first-time parent with the realization that they'll never get to see their child as a youth again. It's normal, but that doesn't make it easy.
"I don't know—I don't want to talk as much," she said, denting her chin thoughtfully with her forefinger. "It's nicer to think dear, pretty thoughts and keep them in one's heart, like treasures. I don't like to have them laughed at or wondered over." (31.24)
The biggest change in Anne's growing up is that she's no longer an open book. She values her privacy, and wants to keep some of her thoughts to herself.
"I'm not a bit changed—not really. I'm only just pruned down and branched out. The real me—back here—is just the same. It won't make a bit of difference where I got or how much I change outwardly; at heart I shall always be your little Anne, who will love you and Matthew and dear Green Gables more and better every day of her life." (34.7)
"Pruned down and branched out." Leave it to Anne to compare her growth to a tree. But a tree is mostly the same at its trunk, so maybe it's a good metaphor, too.
Jane was smiling and happy; examinations were over and she was comfortably sure she had made a pass at least; further considerations troubled Jane not at all; she had no soaring ambitions and consequently was not affected with the unrest attendant theron. For we pay a price for everything we get or take in this world; and although ambitions are well worth having, they are not to be cheaply won, but exact their dues of work and self-denial, anxiety and discouragement. (36.1)
Anne is extremely ambitious, and it's true; she does pay a price for it. Instead of the happiness of knowing she passed, Anne has to endure the anxiety of wondering whether she passed at the top of her class, and won a prize for it.
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