Study Guide

Anne of Green Gables Themes

By L.M. Montgomery

  • Friendship

    If you need a friendship handbook, just open up Anne of Green Gables. Seriously. The friendships in this book might just be the most idealized relationships ever. There's something about Anne that inspires all the best qualities in friendship—Anne's "bosom friend" Diana never fights with her or talks about her behind her back. True friends, according to the author, are proud of each other, keep each other's secrets, and love their friends selflessly.

    Maybe because Anne thinks so highly of friendship, people want to give her the same respect back. Anne makes a lot of unlikely friends throughout the story, like Diana's great-aunt Josephine. By the end of the book, even Mrs. Lynde considers herself part of Anne's circle.

    Questions About Friendship

    1. What do you think it was about Anne that initially appealed to Diana?
    2. What's the recipe for a "kindred spirit?"
    3. Why does Mrs. Rachel Lynde change her mind about Anne?
    4. What is the difference between a kindred spirit and a bosom friend?

    Chew on This

    Miss Josephine's and Mrs. Lynde's transformations in how they feel about Anne reflect Marilla's growth in learning to love her adopted daughter.

    Anne wanted to befriend Diana not because of Diana's personality, but because of her own deep desire for friendship. Anne would have made whoever lived next door her bosom friend.

  • The Home

    Anne of Green Gables is a story about Anne getting what she wants so desperately: a home. Home is so important to Anne that she (gasp) has trouble telling people why, even though she could talk for hours about pretty much any other topic.

    Pro-tip: whenever you see a description of the inside of the Green Gables house, it's there for either of these reasons: 1) to show the comforting, secure feeling that the Cuthberts have given Anne, or 2) to show how Anne has transformed the Cuthberts' lives.

    Questions About The Home

    1. What do the contents of Anne's bedroom show about her character?
    2. Why does Anne cry when Marilla tells her she can stay at Green Gables?
    3. What does home mean to Matthew? To Marilla?
    4. What would Anne's experience of home have been like if Green Gables was an apartment in a city?

    Chew on This

    Anne's devotion to Green Gables is more about the nature of the farm than the inside of the house.

    Anne should have taken the scholarship and gone to college instead of saving Green Gables. Her true "home" connection was with Marilla and Matthew, not the farm itself.

  • Appearances

    Marilla thinks that Anne is so vain, she probably thinks that this novel is about her. And, of course, she's right.

    She's also right that Anne spends a great deal of time thinking about her appearance. You might call Anne's hatred of her red hair an obsession. She's constantly asking people how it looks, hoping it's grown darker, and she rages at people who make fun of it.

    And like in a morality tale, Anne is punished for her vanity when she tries to dye her hair black and it turns out green.

    But worrying about your looks is part of being human, and the narrator doesn't look down on her for it. Remember, Anne was called ugly for all of her memory, starting with the first woman she ended up with, Mrs. Thomas, which probably added to her feeling unwanted. Makes sense that it's a sore spot.

    Questions About Appearances

    1. Why does Anne get so angry when people compare her hair to carrots?
    2. What does the way adults talk about children's looks in this book show about how children are viewed in its time period and culture?
    3. Why is it important to Anne to have a beautiful friend? What does that desire say about Anne?
    4. If Mrs. Lynde hadn't gotten to know Anne, would she still think her beautiful if she saw her at the story's end?

    Chew on This

    Anne's obsession with her looks stems from feeling unwanted when she was younger.

    Anne was not successful in her goal to stop caring about her looks after the hair-dyeing incident.

  • Man and the Natural World

    Open Anne of Green Gables to any page and you'll probably find a detailed description of a garden, flower by flower, or all the trees Anne encounters on a walk to school, or the sun rising through the window. This book's practically a kaleidoscope of nature scenes.

    Avonlea makes for the kind of childhood your grandparents told you about, where kids roamed free outside. Which great for Anne, who loves beauty and didn't get a lot of it until she came to Avonlea. It's meant to remind us of how free Anne is to be a kid in Avonlea, and also helps readers to feel like they're right there with her—part of the town and its magic.

    Questions About Man and the Natural World

    1. How do L.M. Montgomery's descriptions of the natural world reflect her characters' moods?
    2. Why does Anne think about plants like they are people?
    3. What is the role of flowers in Anne's life? Of plants? Of the sea?
    4. Why is the view from Anne's window described so often in the story?

    Chew on This

    Anne's imagination is deeply tied to her love of nature.

    Through her descriptions of the natural beauty of Avonlea, the author encourages readers to fall in love with Anne's new home.

  • Religion

    You don't have to read far into Anne of Green Gables to get a sense of the role of the church in the town's setting of Avonlea. The answer: a lot.

    In a town without a lot to do, its Protestant church is one of the few gathering places. Everyone's a member. But the things this book has to say about organized religion are not always so great. Through Anne, a girl who has a close relationship with God but has never been a member of a church, the author gets to voice lots of opinions about the church from the view of an outsider.

    Anne finds a lot of church practices boring and lacking in joy. There's a big gap between the respectful silence of Avonlea citizens and worship that feels real. Through Anne's action and speeches, we see what gratitude really looks like.

    Questions About Religion

    1. Explain the narrator's statement that a sense of humor is another name for "a sense of the fitness of things."
    2. Why do you think it bothers Marilla that Anne talks about God as if she knows him and what he likes?
    3. How would Anne have thought of religion by the end of the story if Mr. and Mrs. Allan hadn't come to Avonlea?
    4. What do you think this book has to say about religion and God?

    Chew on This

    Mr. Bell represents L. M. Montgomery's opinions on what is wrong with the Protestant church.

    Marilla's ability to raise Anne is hampered by her strict religious beliefs.

  • Awe and Amazement

    You could say Anne has almost too much awe. (And Marilla would agree with you.) But the ability to find wonder in everyday things is one of Anne's greatest strengths.

    Some of it comes from how little Anne had before coming to Green Gables. (Ice cream would seem pretty amazing if you've never tried it before.) It was probably also a way to survive—if you don't get to have or do much, making a big deal out of small things kept Anne from being depressed.

    Marilla thinks that Anne's "sensitive" because things like sunsets and being invited to tea make her emotional. But Anne reminds us that an emotional rollercoaster of getting excited about things is better that hiding or pushing down on your feelings.

    Questions About Awe and Amazement

    1. Do you agree with Anne's theory about the fun of looking forward to things? Or are you on Mrs. Lynde's team and think it's better to not be disappointed?
    2. What does Anne mean when she vows to believe in fairies for one more summer?
    3. Why does Marilla force Anne to walk through The Haunted Wood? Do you think she did the right thing?
    4. For each place that Anne re-names, what do Anne's names reflect about the places that their actual names don't?

    Chew on This

    Matthew should have told Anne that they'd been expecting a boy before taking her home.

    Anne does not lose any of her imagination by the novel's end.

  • Coming of Age

    They grow up so fast, don't they?

    Especially Anne of Green Gables. The first nineteen chapters of the book zero in on Anne's first year in Avonlea, and then suddenly, the picture zooms, way, way out, and Anne's studying to go to school to get her teaching degree. It only takes her two chapters to get that degree and graduate.

    So why the focus on young, eleven-year-old Anne? Maybe because we have to appreciate mini-Anne to understand how Marilla feels when she grows up. Marilla's torn, remember? She loves current Anne but misses the weirder, smaller version from the past. Anne manages to hold onto her sense of awe and love of nature as she grows, but she does lose some qualities that made her unique (like her long, fanciful speeches) in order to become an adult who can get things done.

    Questions About Coming of Age

    1. Do you think later-in-the-story Anne really is the same person, deep down, that she was as a child? Why?
    2. What do you think Anne means when she says she wants to keep her thoughts to herself?
    3. What are all the different versions of Anne?
    4. Anne says she's the same person inside that she was when she arrived at Green Gables. What qualities has she kept?

    Chew on This

    Mrs. Allan and Miss Stacy had more of an impact on the adult Anne becomes than Marilla does.

    Anne would not have been academically ambitious without her rivalry with Gilbert Blythe.

  • Duty

    Anne isn't a fan of cooking, sewing, or doing dishes. So she's normal. But, in Anne of Green Gables' Christian farm community, people, especially children, are expected to do their work without complaint.

    It's not that Anne whines, or is ungrateful. She just hasn't been taught to hide what's on her mind, so when she doesn't like a chore, she says so. She tries to follow Marilla's instructions, but she keeps spacing out and messing them up.

    Anne, we've been there.

    By the end, Anne can make a cake without substituting something inedible for flour, and can help Marilla with chores when Marilla's eyes fail. It's not like she grows to love dishes or anything, but she's learned the tools she needs to be a working adult.

    Questions About Duty

    1. What household tasks make Anne's big imagination a liability? Are there other tasks she might be more suited to?
    2. Why does Marilla feel the need to speak in morals every few seconds?
    3. What quality does Marilla have that causes her to sympathize with Anne enough to keep her? Would Mrs. Spencer do the same if she heard Anne's history?
    4. Is there a moment when Anne changes from Marilla's duty to someone Marilla genuinely likes?

    Chew on This

    Marilla's greatest strength as a new parent is that she's willing to admit that she doesn't know what she is doing.

    Mrs. Lynde can take some responsibility for raising Anne, having helped both Matthew and Marilla with elements of their parenting.