Read a full summary of Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery right here! This page is full of spoilers, so beware. If you are wondering what happened in Anne of Green Gables, then you are in the right place!
Special thanks to Sarina Byron, a BSR contributor who wrote this great recap! Sarina is a British Author and Contributing Writer living in California. Sarina enjoys bringing forth a different perspective and encouraging a different way of thinking through her writing. Visit her blog to read her reviews, and check the end of the review for a link to her Instagram.
Lucy Maud Montgomery
***** Everything below is a SPOILER *****
What happened in Anne of Green Gables?
**Disclaimer: The story is told as it is written. Any medication or wild snacks must not be ingested based on the book or this recap.** 😉
The 38-chapter story of Anne of Green Gables opens with a word picture of Mrs. Lynde, a paragon of all virtues in Avalonea. She was surprised to hear her neighbors, a brother and sister pair called Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, have sent for an orphan boy from the asylum. (When this book was written in 1915, orphanages appear to have been called asylums.)
Surprises were not done yet, though; Matthew Cuthbert arrived at the train station to find Mrs. Spencer had left a little girl behind. She was alone because Mrs. Spencer had left, and Matthew couldn’t very well leave her behind, so he took her home. She chatted all the way home and reveled in the beauty of Prince Edward Island.
Marilla was shocked to see Matthew arrive with a little girl whose name she learnt was Anne “with an e.” She told Anne they could not keep her, but she could stay the night. So Marilla put her to bed in the East Gable.
Anne was sad to see she had fallen in love with Green Gables in the morning light but felt much better after a hearty breakfast. On the way to Mrs. Spencer’s, Anne told Marilla all about her short life of eight years. Marilla learned Anne was born to two school teachers who were poor as church mice, and they both passed away when she was under a year old.
Anne was raised by Mrs. Thomas, who used to clean for her parents, and had to move in with Mrs. Hammond when Mr. Thomas passed away. Mrs. Hammond used Anne as a helping hand to raise her children, and Marilla sensed Anne had known no kindness growing up. When they arrived at Mrs. Spencer’s place and discussed the mistake, Mrs. Spencer suggested Marilla leave Anne with Mrs. Blewett. Mrs. Blewett was mean and sharp of manners, which cemented Marilla’s decision. She took Anne back with her and resolved to keep her (but didn’t say so to Anne).
That night, Marilla asked Anne to say her prayers and realized she didn’t know any prayers at all. Marilla resolved there and then to bring up Anne properly. The next day, Anne was overjoyed to learn she would be living at Green Gables and spent some time showing Marilla what chores she could do.
During a conversation with Marilla about little girls she could possibly befriend, Anne told Marilla about her imaginary friends Katie Maurice and Violetta. Marilla told Anne she could introduce her to Diana Barry, but it would be Mrs. Barry she would need to impress before Diana was allowed to spend time with her.
Before Anne could meet Diana Barry, though, Anne met Mrs. Rachel Lynde. Mrs. Lynde called her ugly and red-headed, which unleashed extreme anger from Anne, who called her rude and fat in return. Marilla asked Anne to apologize to Mrs. Lynde, and after quite a bit of sulking, Anne delivered a flowery and over the top apology. There was no chance of an extravagant apology like that being rejected, and Mrs. Lynde gladly accepted it.
Marilla decided Anne should start Sunday school and also made her a couple of plain dresses. They didn’t have puffed sleeves like the dresses of the other girls, but Anne decided she would imagine them. Marilla had a headache before Anne left for Sunday school, so Anne had to walk herself to the church. She decided to spruce up her outfit with roses and buttercups she found along the way and made quite an entrance with her flowery hat. She went to class after that and decided she didn’t like it very much.
Marilla heard about the flower hat from Mrs. Lynde a few days later and told Anne off for making a spectacle of herself. She then took Anne to meet Diana Barry. Having passed Mrs. Barry’s strict standards, Anne and Diana began a long friendship with a solemn vow to be bosom friends.
Life got better for Anne with talk of an upcoming picnic and when she saw Marilla’s beautiful amethyst brooch. Marilla couldn’t find her amethyst brooch soon after she had shown it to Anne and suspected Anne had something to do with its disappearance. Anne denied any wrongdoing but behaved suspiciously, so Marilla told her to stay in her room until she confessed. This jeopardized Anne’s outing to the picnic, so she lied to Marilla that she took it over the bridge and it fell in the water.
Marilla was furious and wouldn’t let Anne go to the picnic at all, but then she happened to find the brooch fallen over her dresser. She asked Anne why she had lied. Anne confessed she had indeed lied but only so she could be allowed to go to the picnic. Marilla packed her off, and Anne still got to enjoy some ice cream with the others.
Anne started school with the other children and would walk to school and back with Diana every day. She was quick to make friends, but then one day Gilbert Blythe made fun of her hair by calling them carrots. She was furious—her red hair was a sore point with her, after all—and cracked her slate on Gilbert’s head. Mr. Phillips punished her by making her stand on the teacher’s platform for the rest of the afternoon. Gilbert apologized to Anne after school was dismissed. Anne didn’t want to accept it despite Diana telling her Gilbert had often called her a crow on account of her black hair and never apologized.
The next day, the children were all at the spruce groves collecting gum balls from the tree when they strayed and got late in coming back to class. Anne was made to sit with Gilbert Blythe as punishment for her tardiness, and she was furious. She went home that day and told Marilla she would never return to school.
Marilla consulted Mrs. Lynde, who told her to let Anne stay home for a few days, after which she believed she would resolve to return to school herself. Mrs. Lynde also opined Mr. Phillips was wrong in punishing Anne for being late from the spruce groves when all the children had been late as well. But it wouldn’t do to admit that to Anne.
Marilla allowed Anne to invite Diana to tea one evening when she would be away, and the girls had a splendid time playing grown-ups. In her excitement at serving raspberry cordial, Anne accidentally served wine to Diana, who was so thrilled at her grown up tea that she drank three glasses. She thought she was ill, but her mother was even more horrified to discover that she was drunk. Marilla tried to explain to Mrs. Barry that it was an error, but Mrs. Barry was an inflexible woman and refused to let Anne and Diana be friends any longer.
After this incident, Anne decided to go back to school, where she was welcomed enthusiastically by all the girls, but Diana did not so much as smile at her. Anne resolved to excel academically and found herself competing with Gilbert Blythe for the top position in class.
Diana came back into her life most unexpectedly when most of Avalonea’s adults were away at a political rally and Diana’s younger sister Minnie Mae was taken ill with the croup. Both Avalonea doctors were also away at the political rally, so Anne treated Minnie Mae with ipecac, which miraculously cured her. This painted Anne in favorable light again, and Mrs. Barry allowed Anne and Diana to associate again.
Anne went to the debating club with some of the other girls from school. Marilla was initially opposed to it but eventually allowed Anne to go, although she was still the only girl without puffed sleeves. Matthew noticed that every time she was with other girls. After a splendid evening out, Anne and Diana were looking forward to sleeping in the spare room in Diana’s house, so they ran to it and jumped into bed, only to find that they had jumped on someone. Turns out Diana’s aunt, Miss Josephine Barry, made a last-minute visit from Charlottetown whilst the girls were out, and they didn’t have a chance to be warned. The next day, Anne apologized to Miss Barry, and the formidable lady instantly grew fond of Anne.
That having gone well, Anne learned a valuable lesson next. Marilla asked her to pop over to the Barry house and get Diana’s apron pattern. Anne panicked at the thought as she and Diana had been making up ghost stories about the patch of woods between their two houses. Marilla told Anne because she has used her imagination for frivolous pursuits, it was about time she learned a lesson. She said Anne needed to go through the wooded patch and rush back. Anne did so and then resolved never to use her imagination for destructive imaginings ever again.
A couple of departures changed the mood in Avalonea for a while. Mr. Phillips the teacher and Mr. Bentley the pastor both left for greener pastures. The townspeople considered a few pastors and settled on Mr. Allan. Anne sensed a kindred spirit in his wife Mrs. Allan. Marilla and Matthew invited them over for tea, and Anne baked a cake for the occasion, except that she used liniment instead of vanilla essence. Despite her liniment cake disaster, Mrs. Allan invited Anne over for tea, where they shared ideas. Mrs. Allan also asked Anne to join the choir.
As always, when things went really well for Anne, something always happened to teach her a valuable lesson. This time it was a dare. Anne climbed the roof of the Barry home on a dare but slipped and fell. Mercifully, she fell in the bushes and didn’t get hurt very badly. She did faint, however, and Marilla panicked and realized how much Anne meant to her. All the Avalonea folks sent Anne little get well soon presents and visited her while she recovered.
Miss Stacy, the new school teacher, planned to hold a concert in aid of a schoolhouse flag, and after being convinced by Matthew, Marilla agreed to let Anne go. That was not the only avenue where Matthew stuck his oar in. When all the girls were over at Green Gables practicing for the Snow Queen, Matthew again noticed Anne was the only one without puffed sleeves, and he decided to do something about it. He went to town and tried to buy her a dress but was too shy to do so. He came back with a big bag of brown sugar instead.
Matthew decided to ask Rachel Lynde for help. She made Anne the most beautiful dress with puffed sleeves and a beautiful waist and brought it up on Christmas eve. That is also when Marilla found out about it and told Matthew he was spoiling Anne. The surprises weren’t over, though. Diana came over with a gift from Miss Josephine Barry, and it turned out to be beautiful new slippers for Anne. Now she didn’t need to borrow a pair from anyone. Anne performed brilliantly that night, and Diana told her Gilbert Blythe took a rose that fell off her and put it in his shirt pocket. That night, Marilla and Matthew discussed how proud they were of her.
The excitement of the concert lasted a while and led to some fights amongst the Avalonea folks. During a walk to school one day, Anne told Diana about a story she was building in her mind, and Diana admired her for having an imagination. This led to the formation of the story club where the girls got together to craft stories. Marilla thought it was a silly idea, but Diana sent some of the stories to Miss Josephine, and she thought they were a fantastic read.
One day Marilla came home to find Anne hadn’t made tea as asked and was vexed. She waited for Anne to get home to tell her off but discovered Anne was in her room in the East Gable. Anne had been taken for a ride by a salesman who sold her hair dye, and she ended up coloring her hair green. Marilla and Anne tried to wash it, but the color wouldn’t come out. There was nothing to do but to cut the hair off altogether.
Scarcely was the hair fiasco behind them when another came along. Anne and the other girls were playing King Arthur, and Anne was playing Elaine. She was standing on a flat when it started leaking and drifted away from the shore. Anne did not have the oars on her and was helpless to save herself. She prayed hard for God to save her and then spotted a pile she could jump on. She got on it just in time when the flat she was on sank.
Gilbert Blythe came along and rescued Anne. He apologized to her for the carrots incident once again, but Anne refused to accept his apology. Gilbert told her he wouldn’t bother ever again. That night as she told Marilla about the incident, Anne tried to convince her that she was becoming more sensible and would give up all her romance. Matthew was listening in and advised Anne wisely not to give up all her romance. He told her to keep a little of it.
Excitement came to Anne and Diana again when Miss Barry invited them to Charlottetown for the Exhibition. Anne was afraid Marilla would refuse, so she and Diana got Mrs. Barry to ask Marilla. The girls had a great time at the Exhibition, and Anne refused to bet on a horse when she had the chance. Miss Barry took the girls to a concert at the Academy of Music in the evening, and the girls had a splendid time. As they sat eating ice cream at 11 PM, Diana decided she was a city girl, but Anne felt she would rather be in bed at Green Gables than be eating ice cream at 11 PM.
More excitement followed when Miss Stacy came over to Green Gables one day to ask Marilla if Anne would join the Queen’s class. This was a small group of students who would appear for entrance examinations to the Queen’s Academy, where they could train to become teachers. Marilla believed in girls being able to earn their own living, so she agreed and encouraged Anne to be enthusiastic about it. Mrs. Lynde came over that evening and told Marilla she doesn’t often find herself being wrong, but in Anne’s case, she had happily been proven wrong. She now believed Anne was a smart and lovely girl.
The preparations for the Queen’s entrance exam began in earnest, and just about this time, Marilla realized Anne had grown taller than her. This made her feel quite sentimental. She began to think how much she would miss Anne when she went away. Matthew tried to comfort Marilla, but she just wanted to sit in her emotions for a bit.
Miss Stacy spent two years training the Avalonea children, and the time finally arrived for them to appear for their entrance exam. They all went down to Beechwood, and Anne stayed with Miss Barry. The results came out about three weeks later, and Anne heard of them when Diana’s father brought the paper up from Bright River. She learned that everyone from the Avalonea school who had appeared had passed, but the best news was that she had stood first. She shared that position with Gilbert Blythe, but for once she did not mind. Matthew and Marilla were thrilled, and Mrs. Lynde was generous in her praise.
Anne was growing up fast, and the day arrived when she was performing at the concert at the White Sands Hotel in Charlottetown. Anne drove in with Diana, Jane Andrews, and her brother Billy Andrews, who insisted Anne sit with him in the front. Anne’s performance was appreciated by all those present, and a millionaire’s wife introduced her to everyone in her circle. The other girls dreamed of being as rich as the ladies at the hotel, but Anne felt she was rich enough in all that she had.
Soon after that, Anne began preparations in earnest to go to Queens, and they all went through an extremely emotional three weeks at Green Gables. The time finally came for her to move to Beechwood, and she moved into a boarding house there. Anne found new ambitions at Queens. She resolved to win the Avery scholarship and to do the two-year course in one year, as recommended by Miss Stacy.
The students all went back to Avalonea every weekend, and Gilbert Blythe walked from the station with Ruby Gillis, even carrying her bag. This did not escape Anne’s notice. Anne had made two good friends at Queens: Stella Maynard and Priscilla Grant. Neither were as dear to her as Diana, though. The students all worked hard and regularly made guesses regarding who would win the medal and the scholarship. Anne’s dream came true when she found she had won the Avery scholarship. Matthew and Marilla came to Queens for the commencement ceremony and were immensely proud of their girl. Anne went home with them after the ceremony.
While in Avalonea, Anne found out Gilbert would not be going to Redmond for further studies, and that pinched her a bit. Things at home also looked a bit grim as Matthew began to keep unwell and Marilla had constant headaches. Marilla confessed to Anne that all their money was in Abby Bank, and it had shown signs of being in trouble, but Matthew had assured her it was doing better. When Anne saw Matthew struggling with his work, she told him she wished she was a boy so he wouldn’t need to hire someone. Matthew responded that he would take her over any boy and she had done him immensely proud.
Turns out that conversation came at the perfect time as Matthew died the next day. The doctor said his death was caused by a shock, which turned out to be a piece of paper in his hand declaring the failure of Abby Bank. A deep sadness fell over Marilla and Anne. Marilla made sure to tell Anne that she may not have told her so, but she loved her very much. They buried Matthew two days later, and Mrs. Allan encouraged Anne to be as happy as Matthew would have liked her to be.
As they tried to get on with life, Marilla planned to have her eyes checked by a specialist and asked Anne to manage Green Gables while she was away. That night she also shared with Anne that she had dated Gilbert Blythe’s father when they were young but had stopped speaking to him after an argument, and she still regretted this.
The next day, the doctor found the source of Marilla’s headaches and told her she would have to give her eyes complete rest if she wanted to save her sight. Marilla planned to sell Green Gables to survive, but Anne told her not to. She had given it some thought and was not going to go to Redmond any more. She planned to teach at the Carmody school for two reasons: the Avalonea school had been given to Gilbert Blythe and this way they could keep Green Gables.
On her way back from the graveyard next day, Anne met Gilbert Blythe, who walked home with her and told her he had withdrawn his application for the Avalonea school so Anne could get it. Anne thanked him for doing this and told him she had forgiven him the day he rescued her and had regretted not being friends with him for so long. Marilla saw them standing by the gate and talking for a good thirty minutes. When Anne walked in, she told Marilla she and Gilbert Blythe were friends now, with years of conversation to catch up on.
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