Ann of Green Gables : Theme

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Imagination and Morality

Anne’s imagination allows her to find joy in a world that is not always conducive to joy, but it does not prevent her from acknowledging reality; if anything, imagination gives her strength of character and is the criteria by which she discerns good character in others.

When she first arrives at Green Gables and relates her background to Marilla, Anne makes it clear that she has suffered a bad—if not abusive—childhood. Orphaned as an infant, she grew up in the care of adults who regarded her more as a servant than a daughter, and at the orphanage she found no love or nurturing. Her imagination allowed her to survive neglect and drudgery. She was able to imagine fairytale scenarios, beautiful surroundings, heroic stories, and dear, ghostly friends in order to entertain and comfort herself. And she never gave up dreaming that one day she would find a forever home with loving parents.

Anne believes that nothing is worthwhile unless it offers her “scope for the imagination,” and she judges people based on their ability to imagine things. Both Mr. Bell and Mr. Phillips fall short in Anne’s eyes not because they lack imagination but because they lack the imaginations to connect them to the core of their beliefs. They go through the motions, in other words, rather than feeling their callings as preacher and teacher. The people who possess imaginations—or who appreciate imagination—are worthy in Anne’s eyes; Mrs. Allan, Miss Stacy, Miss Barry, Diana—all of them have the ability to tap into the unseen, into the invisible beauty of the world. And because they can see into things, they are good people. Matthew and Marilla are not extravagantly imaginative, but each has the courage to imagine his or herself as parents to Anne. Matthew shyly roots for Anne as she achieves success; Marilla opens her heart and becomes the mother she never thought she would, or could, be.

The Importance of Individuality

While Anne’s vivid imagination and her penchant for drama set her apart from others, even when she longs to blend in with them.

Anne professes that she hates her unique looks—her thin frame and her red hair and freckles—and instead she wishes for the black or golden hair and flawless, pale faces of heroines in stories. She hates ugly clothing and wishes for puffed sleeves and lace—all the fashionable attire other girls wear. She believes that she is ugly, and she craves beauty so much that she sometimes goes to ridiculous—and ill advised—lengths to attain it, from wreathing her hair with flowers to dying her hair. She takes offense easily when others allude to her hair or any other physical feature that sets her apart from others. She longs to look like the other girls she knows, whose fashionable clothes and hair and demeanors she envies.

But behind Anne’s skinny, flame-haired appearance is a lively mind and keen intellect, and these features make her stand out in a good way. Gilbert Blythe is attracted to Anne not just because she has red hair but also because she is as smart as he is and challenges him. Mrs. Lynde and Miss Barry deride Anne’s penchant for mishaps, but they fall in love with her way of speaking and persuading people to her point of view. It is Matthew who first realizes that Anne possesses an ethereal, unnamable beauty that, despite her drab clothing, makes her shine among her friends. And even when Anne is given beautiful, fashionable clothes, it is her personality that stands out in a crowd, like at the White Sands Hotel or at Queen’s College. Unlike Diana and the other girls, Anne believes dreams are worth striving for, and because she works toward dreams like the Avery Scholarship, she rises above others.

Most of all, it is her individuality that makes Matthew and Marilla love her. Any other child might have been compliant and meek and fallen right into their retired way of life, but Anne brought excitement and joy to them through her tribulations and triumphs.

Anne’s individuality brings her the love and admiration of the people who matter most in her life.

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