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Anne of Green Gables | Chapter 11 : Anne's Impressions of Sunday-School | Summary

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Summary

Marilla presents Anne with three dresses she has sewn for her by hand. All three are plain and drab, and the best Anne can say is she can imagine she likes them: they're not pretty and don't have puffy sleeves, as is the fashion. Marilla scoffs at the idea of Anne needing pretty clothes. The three dresses are sensible and serviceable, which is all that matters.

One of the dresses is for Sunday school, which Anne will begin the following day. Marilla is sick on Sunday morning, so Anne walks there by herself. On the way she picks a mass of flowers with which she decorates her plain, serviceable hat. At church all the girls her age, wearing dresses with puffy sleeves, stare at her; no one tries to befriend her. The uninspired Sunday school teacher is also a disappointment to Anne, though Anne correctly answers every question she is asked but is disappointed about not being able to ask questions when she had so many.

Home again Anne reports she didn't like Sunday school a bit. "It was horrid," she says. Both the service and the class were dull and lifeless. Anne is especially critical of the minister's sermon, accusing him of having no imagination. Instead of listening to him, she tells Marilla, "I just let my thoughts run." Marilla is helpless to protest. Deep down she agrees with Anne. Opinions she has held for years and never examined are suddenly voiced by "this outspoken morsel of neglected humanity."

Analysis

Three religious chapters in a row! Montgomery really cares about the points she is making. Marilla's faith is like the dresses she makes for Anne: serviceable, without flourishes, and easy to ignore. When she argues with Marilla about the importance of puffed sleeves, she is making a plea for bringing beauty into one's life, but Marilla can see only the waste of fabric.

Anne instinctively rejects that version of faith along with that style of clothing. Adorning her hat with wildflowers is a sign of her own fresh and naturalistic view of what religion should be. Why shouldn't she appreciate the beauties God has bestowed on the world? There's no doubt which side Montgomery was on. In her teenage diary she excoriated boring sermons. "I actually fell sound asleep while the Rev. John M. was praying," she confessed in 1893.

During the years she was writing Anne of Green Gables, Montgomery was an organist, choir director, and Sunday school teacher at her village church. This work gave her plenty of material for her books, many of which treat church services flippantly. During this period Montgomery also wrote stories for Sunday school magazines. As an avid magazine reader, perhaps she saw The Delineator's 1905 article on public speaking, which noted, "Ministers and preachers today are striving for brief, bright, local effects." Clearly she agreed with the article.

A small detail: This chapter seeds the plot with another of Marilla's "sick headaches."

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