Study Guide

Anne of Green Gables Religion

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"Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray I'll tell you what I'd do. I'd go out into a great big field all alone or into the deep, deep woods, and I'd look up into the sky—up—up—up—into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I'd just feel a prayer." (7.19)

Anne is all sincerity. Her religious feelings can be summed up as loving the world that God created, whereas the rest of Avonlea thinks of religion more in terms of prayers, church, and duties. We think Anne's idea of a prayer sounds nice, but it shocks Marilla.

She had intended to teach Anne the childish classic, "Now I lay me down to sleep." But she had, as I have told you, the glimmerings of a sense of humor—which is simply another name for a sense of the fitness of things; and it suddenly occurred to her that that simple little prayer, sacred to white-robed childhood lisping at motherly knees, was entirely unsuited to this freckled witch of a girl who knew and cared nothing about God's love, since she had never had it translated to her through the medium of human love. (7.20)

Sure, Marilla is a little shocked when Anne tells her she doesn't pray, but at least she understands why. If Anne doesn't know what love feels like, how could she understand what God is supposed to represent?

"Anne," said Marilla, wondering why she had not broken into this speech long before, "you shouldn't talk that way. It's irreverent—positively irreverent."

Anne's eyes marveled.

"Why, I felt just as reverent as could be. I'm sure I didn't mean to be irreverent."

"Well, I don't suppose you did—but it doesn't sound right to talk so familiarly about such things." (8.27 – 8.30)

Marilla doesn't like when Anne talks about God as if she knows him or knows what he wants. Which of them do you think knows better?

"You should have listened to Mr. Bell."

"But he wasn't talking to me," protested Anne. "He was talking to God and he didn't seem to be very much interested in it, either. I think he thought God was too far off to make it worthwhile. I said a little prayer myself, though. There was a long row of white birches hanging over the lake and the sunshine fell down through them, 'way, 'way down, deep into the water. Oh, Marilla, it was like a beautiful dream! It gave me a thrill and I just said, "Thank you for it, God," two or three times." (11.28)

Which do you think was a more heartfelt prayer, Mr. Bell's very official Sunday School prayer or Anne giving thanks for the birches and lake?

Marilla felt helplessly that all this should be sternly reproved, but she was hampered by the undeniable fact that some of the things Anne had said, especially about the minister's sermons and Mr. Bell's prayers, were what she herself had really though deep down in her heart for years, but had never given expression to. (11.35)

Not knowing better, Anne has criticized many elements of the local church. Marilla is torn between the idea that you shouldn't criticize anyone who's working for God and the fact that Anne's criticisms are on point. So she takes the middle road—she lets Anne get away with saying it, but doesn't say she agrees with Anne, either.

"Mrs. Allan said we should always try to influence other people for good. She talked so nice about everything. I never knew before that religion was such a cheerful thing. I always thought it was kind of melancholy, but Mrs. Allan's isn't, and I'd like to be a Christian if I could be one like her." (21.10)

Good thing the Allans came along. They're both so gentle and positive that they inspired an interest in religion in Anne. Probably because their approach appeals to Anne's sense of awe and imagination.

"Why, even Superintendent Bell came to see me, and he's really a very fine man. Not a kindred spirit, of course; but still I like him and I'm awfully sorry I ever criticized his prayers. I believe now he really does mean them, only he has got into the habit of saying them as if he didn't. He could get over that if he'd take a little trouble." (23.44)

Boring and honest are two different things, Anne learns. Both adjectives describe Mr. Bell.

"Do you suppose it's wrong for us to think so much about our clothes? Marilla says it is very sinful. But it is such an interesting subject, isn't it?" (29.15)

Marilla's religious views are pretty strict. She doesn't approve of fashion or trying to look good at all. But Anne likes to look pretty, and she isn't punished for it in the story, either. So even if Marilla thinks it's a sin, the author probably doesn't.

"If you are I guess I am too, Anne, for Rachel often has that effect on me. I sometimes think she'd have more of an influence for good, as you say yourself, if she didn't keep nagging people to do right. There should have been a special commandment against nagging. But there, I shouldn't talk so. Rachel is a good Christian woman and she means well. There isn't a kinder soul in Avonlea and she never shirks her share of the work." (31.8)

Here's proof that Marilla has changed. The Marilla in the beginning of the book would never have admitted aloud that Rachel Lynde makes her want to be a little sinful.

The joys of sincere work and worthy aspiration and congenial friendship were to be hers; nothing could rob her of her birthright of fancy or her ideal world of dreams. And there was always the bend in the road!

"God's in his heaven, all's right with this world," Anne whispered softly. (38.63-64)

The final line in the book comes back to God, and makes it clear what Anne finds godly: honest work, aspiration, and friendship.

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