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Anne of Green Gables

Summary

Chapters 1–4

Summary Chapters 1–4

Summary—Chapter 3: Marilla Cuthbert Is Surprised

Unlike Matthew, Marilla does not shrink from voicing her surprise upon seeing a girl orphan, instead of a boy, at her front door. As the Cuthberts talk about Mrs. Spencer’s mistake, Anne realizes she is not wanted. She dramatically bursts into tears, crying, “Nobody ever did want me. I might have known it was all too beautiful to last.” Marilla and Matthew worriedly look at each other over the weeping child.

Marilla interrupts the girl’s outpouring to ask her name. Anne replies that she would like to be called Cordelia because she thinks the name elegant. Pressed to reveal her real name, she admits that it is Anne. She considers her name plain and unromantic, but likes the fact that her name is spelled with an “e,” which she feels makes it far more distinguished than if it were “Ann.” Marilla dismisses Anne’s musings about the spelling of her name with a quick “fiddlesticks.” Anne, focused on her situation at the Cuthberts, cannot eat supper and mournfully explains that she is “in the depths of despair.” She appeals to Marilla, asking if Marilla has ever been in the depths of despair. Marilla answers that she has not and cannot imagine what such a thing might feel like. After supper, Anne dons her skimpy orphanage nightgown and cries herself to sleep in the desolate spare room.

Downstairs, Marilla broaches the subject of how they will get rid of the unwanted girl. To her amazement, the usually passive Matthew voices an opinion, suggesting they might keep the child, who is so excited to stay at Green Gables and so sweet. When Marilla asks what good a girl would do on a farm, Matthew says, “We might be some good to her.”

Summary—Chapter 4: Morning at Green Gables

Anne wakes up momentarily confused by her surroundings. Her confusion turns to delight and then to disappointment as she remembers that although she is at her new home, Matthew and Marilla do not want her. Her spirits improve at the sight of the morning sunshine and a beautiful cherry tree in full bloom outside her window. Marilla yanks her out of her daydream by ordering her to get dressed. The sharpness of Marilla’s tone, we are told, belies a more gentle underlying nature, one that Anne seems to perceive and appreciate. Accustomed to an authoritarian upbringing, Anne is not cowed by Marilla’s harshness or her admonishment that Anne talks too much.

At breakfast, Anne announces that she has regained her appetite and is happy because it is morning, and mornings provide “so much scope for imagination.” Marilla hushes her, and Anne obediently quits her chattering. Throughout the silent meal Marilla feels increasingly uncomfortable, as though there is something unnatural in Anne’s silence. After breakfast, Anne declares that she will not play outside, despite the beauty of the day, because it would make her love Green Gables too much, which would cause her even more pain upon leaving. Instead, she contents herself by communing with the houseplants, one of which she names Bonny.

Throughout the morning, Marilla vents inwardly; she can tell from Matthew’s countenance that he still wants to keep Anne. She is frustrated by Matthew’s silence, and wishes he would voice his opinion so that she could defeat him with a well-reasoned argument. In the afternoon, Marilla takes Anne in the buggy to visit Mrs. Spencer and sort out the mistake. As they are departing, Matthew says that he has just hired a boy to help on the farm, an arrangement that would allow them to keep Anne. Angry, Marilla does not reply.