Ann of Green Gables : Chapters 3-4

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Chapter 3, pp. 26-32

Marilla expresses great chagrin at the mix-up that has brought them a little girl instead of a little boy. When the girl understands that she is not wanted, she cries, “‘I might have expected it. Nobody ever did want me.’” She tells Marilla that this is the “‘most tragical’” event to happen to her, and Marilla, who is not used to smiling, offers a rusty smile and asks the child’s name. The girl asks to be called Cordelia because it is more romantic than her real name, Anne Shirley. Marilla says that is nonsense; Anne is a perfectly good name. Anne tells Marilla that, at least, she must be “‘Anne spelled with an e.’” That looks much nicer.

Eventually, Anne is offered supper, but she is too “‘in the depths of despair’” to eat.  Marilla takes her to the east gable room, which is plainly furnished and rigidly clean. When Marilla leaves Anne to put on her nightgown—a skimpy affair, but Anne imagines it is a flowing, lacy one—Anne examines her room and despairs at the puritan sparseness there.

In the kitchen, Marilla argues with Matthew, who says, “‘Well now, she’s a real nice little thing, Marilla. It’s kind of a pity to send her back when she’s so set on staying here.’” In the face of Marilla’s astonishment, he defends Anne. “‘Well now, she’s a real interesting little thing. . . . You should have heard her talk coming from the station.’”

Marilla goes to bed determined to return Anne. Anne cries herself to sleep.


In this chapter, readers learn the little girl’s name, Anne Shirley, but they also learn that Anne has a flair for the dramatic. Like an actress on stage, Anne’s speeches are designed to persuade Marilla to let her stay, appealing to Marilla’s sense of pity for an orphan. But Anne is not an actor; her speeches are sincere, and there is a desperate note to them, revealed when Anne is alone in a room so lacking in beauty that even her imagination cannot make it romantic.

Chapter 4, pp. 32-38

When Anne wakes the next morning, she remembers that she will not be staying at Green Gables. She opens the window to take in the view and imagines, instead, that she is staying. The view is lovely: blooming trees, grass sprinkled with dandelions, fields of clover, green forest trees. When Marilla appears, Anne talks about the view, saying that she cannot despair in the mornings because “‘isn’t it a splendid thing that there are mornings?’” However, having to stop imagining herself living there is making her sad.

Anne continues her speech about mornings at breakfast, driving Marilla to ask her to hold her tongue. But Marilla feels a twinge of nervousness at how thoroughly Anne lapses into silence. She does not seem to be a normal child. After breakfast, she oversees Anne as she washes the dishes and makes her bed; then she sends Anne outside. Anne, however, launches into a speech about how going out will only torment her because she will just be “torn” from all she sees. Suddenly she spies a plant and asks the name of it. Marilla replies that it is a rose-scented geranium, but Anne declares that it should be named Bonny because she always gives names to things so that “‘they seem more like people.’” Marilla mutters that the child is casting a spell over her and Matthew.

When Matthew prepares the horse and buggy for her, Marilla still declares she is taking Anne with her to leave her with Mrs. Spencer for returning to the orphanage. Matthew resignedly tells her he will hire a French boy for help, implying that Anne could stay. Marilla’s answer is to whip the horse rather harder than usual as she sets off.

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