Ann of Green Gables : Chapters 5-6

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Chapter 5, pp. 39-44

Anne does not stay downcast for long as she and Marilla travel the countryside. When Anne laments being a redhead and unable to wear pink, Marilla agrees she certainly cannot. Anne replies that being unable to wear pink makes her life “‘a perfect graveyard of buried hopes,’” a phrase she read in a book and uses when she is disappointed. She explains that phrasing her disappointments in a romantic way makes them more bearable.

Gradually, Anne reveals her background. She is eleven, she says, and both of her parents, Walter and Bertha Shirley, who were young and poor at her birth, died of a fever when Anne was three months old. A neighbor, Mrs. Thomas, took Anne in because nobody else wanted her. Mrs. Thomas was poor and had a drunkard husband, and Anne lived with them until she was eight; then Mr. Thomas was killed by a train and Mrs. Thomas moved away, giving Anne to Mrs. Hammond, who used Anne mostly as a nursemaid to her eight children. Anne stayed with the Hammonds two years, but after Mr. Hammond died, Mrs. Hammond remanded Anne to the orphanage. Anne says that she can read but has had little schooling.

When Marilla asks if those women were good to her, Anne falters. “‘Oh, they meant to be—I know they meant to be just as good and kind as possible. And when people mean to be good to you, you don’t mind very much when they’re not quite—always,’” Anne replies. Marilla suddenly feels pity for Anne and begins to think of letting Anne stay.


Marilla is, despite her staunch professions otherwise, softening toward Anne and the idea of keeping her. Marilla is, above all, a moral woman who believes in doing right, despite her puritanical living. Anne reveals that not only does she have an imagination, she also has a thirst for learning. And despite her hard life, she is not a bitter, conniving, dangerous child—as Mrs. Lynde warned orphans could be—but is instead a forgiving one.

Chapter 6, pp. 44-49

Marilla and Anne arrive at the home of Mrs. Spencer, who expresses surprise that the Cuthberts asked for a boy. She determines that the original request for a boy, having been passed through several people before getting to her, was somehow modified to a request for a girl. Mrs. Spencer suggests giving Anne to Mrs. Peter Blewett, who could use the help with her large number of children.

Mrs. Blewett happens to drop in, and Marilla observes that she is a thin, mean-looking woman, and she recalls tales of Mrs. Blewett mistreating servants. Marilla decides she cannot hand Anne over to such a woman, and they are alone, Anne confides to her that she would rather return to the orphanage than live with Mrs. Blewett, who “‘looks exactly like—like a gimlet.’” Marilla suppresses a smile and scolds Anne for being ungracious, although she completely agrees.

At Green Gables, Matthew says he “‘wouldn’t give a dog I liked to that Blewett woman,’” Marilla therefore agrees to keep Anne and, even though she knows nothing about bringing up a child, raise Anne. She warns Matthew, however, not to interfere with her methods. Matthew consents, saying “‘I think she’s one of the sort you can do anything with if you only get her to love you.’” Marilla sniffs at his remark and decides not to tell Anne of her decision until morning.


Anne’s natural goodness and her obvious need for a good home appeal to both Matthew and Marilla, who possess a keen sense of justice. Marilla intends, however, to bring up the child as a moral duty, not because she might love her or grow to love her. She sees nothing wrong with the way she lives her life now, with an emphasis on the practical and necessary. Matthew, however, reveals a longing for something beyond the practical, and he seems to sense that Anne will interject something softer into their lives.

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