Ann of Green Gables : Chapters 27-28
Chapter 27, pp. 196-202
On a beautiful spring evening that lifts even Marilla’s no-nonsense spirits, she walks home from an Aid Society meeting, looking forward to a nice fire and tea laid out by Anne. What she finds, however, is a cold fireplace and no food prepared. Hastily, she has to make tea for herself and Matthew, all the while grumbling to him about how irresponsible Anne is.
Marilla later goes up to Anne’s room to fetch a candle, and there she finds Anne lying in the dark on her bed. After some coaxing by Marilla, Anne reveals that she has dyed her hair, and Marilla is horrified to see that it is green, and she calls Anne “wicked” for tampering with her natural color. Anne certainly is repenting being a “‘little wicked” for buying some black dye from a passing peddler, who assured her it would turn her hair a lovely raven black. But the dye has turned her red hair a ghastly green instead. Anne is devastated and too ashamed to let anyone see her, most of all the spiteful Josie Pye.
She and Marilla try to shampoo the dye out, to no avail. Anne is therefore forced to stay home from school for a week, hoping the dye will fade with repeated washings. It does not. Marilla has to cut all of Anne’s hair off. Afterwards, Anne declares that looking in the mirror will be her “‘penance for being wicked that way. I’ll look at myself every time I come to my room and see how ugly I am.’” She realizes that although her hair was red, it was a lovely, thick, curly head of hair that she actually felt vain about.
No one at school knows why Anne’s hair was cut so brutally, and everyone is kind, except Josie Pye, who tells Anne she resembles a scarecrow. Anne bears her comment with great patience; it is part of her penance, she believes. And she does so want to repent and be good.
Diana has suggested she wear a ribbon with it as it grows out, which Anne thinks is quite romantic. As she speaks, Anne notes that Marilla is suffering another headache and asks if she is bothering her with all her talk. Marilla says she has gotten used to it, “which was Marilla’s way of saying that she liked to hear it.”
Anne is beginning to think more like an adult, despite her escapade with the hair dye. She finds the idea of penance romantic, but she also is aware that vanity truly can lead a person down the path of shallowness. She also understands that imagination, which got her through her unhappy early childhood, is not always a good thing. Sometimes, a person has to face reality and deal with it. That is part of growing up.
Chapter 28, pp. 202-210
One afternoon, Anne, Diana, Ruby Gillis, and Jane Andrews decide to reenact a scene from Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem “The Lady of Shalott,” about a cursed lady named Elaine from Arthurian times. The girls have chosen to recreate Elaine floating down the river in the boat that, because of the curse, ultimately becomes her death barge. They cannot decide who should play the dead Elaine, however. Anne protests that Elaine cannot be red-headed, but her protests are overcome by the others; she is to play Elaine. Secretly, Anne is pleased, because she has always wished she had been born in Arthurian times.
Using an old row boat that Anne and Diana have been using to fish and play in all summer (their playhouse was torn down by Mr. Bell), the girls line the boat with a black shawl, situate Anne so that she is lying in it like a dead person would, and drape her with a yellow scarf. The place an iris in her hands, since a lily—like in the poem—was not available. They say lines of farewell to her, then push the boat off and run away to meet it again down the river, past the bridge.
Anne loves the romantic drama of playing the dead Elaine, but she is knocked from her reverie when the boat begins to leak. The girls had raked it over a sharp stick as they launched it. As the water comes in faster and faster, Anne begins to fear for her life. As she later tells Mrs. Allan, she appealed to God to help her get close to the bridge pilings, and she was consequently able to float just close enough to abandon the boat and cling to the slick, upright bridge pilings. She hopes the girls will come looking for her, but when the half-sunk boat arrives at its destination without Anne, they panic. They run right by her seeking help, without seeing her.
Just as Anne is beginning to give up, Gilbert Blythe floats up in a fishing dory, much surprised to find Anne soaking wet and clinging to the pilings clutching a black shawl and a yellow scarf. Anne has no choice but to get into the boat, and Gilbert rows her to the bank. As Anne gets out, he touches her arm and asks if she can please forgive him for his long ago slight of her hair, which he thinks is “‘awfully pretty now.’” He asks if they might be friends now.
Anne hesitates. She likes the way he looks at her. But the day he called her “Carrots” still burns in her heart. She tells him she cannot be friends, and he storms off determined never to talk to her again. Anne tries to act like she does not care, but deep inside, she regrets refusing to be friends.
When the other girls see Anne again, they think Gilbert’s rescue of her was romantic, but Anne says it was certainly not.
Marilla, when she hears of the escapade, wonders when Anne will get some sense. Anne assures her that she has learned all sorts of lessons over the years—not to touch others’ possessions, or let her imagination convince her of ghosts, or to daydream while making cakes, for example. She has even learned not to be vain about anything. She is certain that now she has learned not to be romantic anymore.
Marilla concurs with that, but Matthew whispers to Anne that she must keep some romance, for some romance is a good thing.
Being caught in the act of playacting by Gilbert Blythe puts things in an uncomfortable perspective for Anne. Imagining and playacting knights and tragic maidens from Arthurian times suddenly seems embarrassingly unrealistic—and childish—when Gilbert performs like a real-life knight, rescuing the maiden he obviously loves. Anne still clings to childhood hurts and attitudes as she shies away from the adult feelings stirring in her heart. But she is not a child anymore, and her conscience tells her that it is time to put away her old resentments, just as it is time to stop playacting romantic tales.
Matthew, of course, knows that Anne’s romantic streak is what sets her apart from others.
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