Anne of Green Gables | Study Guide

L. M. Montgomery

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Anne of Green Gables | Chapter 16 : Diana Is Invited to Tea with Tragic Results | Summary

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Summary

It's a Saturday morning in October, and Anne is ecstatic: Marilla, who will be out for the afternoon, has just suggested Anne invite Diana over to tea. Anne may serve her guest cherry preserves, fruit cake, and cookies to eat; to drink there's half a bottle of raspberry cordial.

That afternoon Diana arrives promptly and knocks at the door instead of running in as she usually would. The girls shake hands and move into the sitting room, where they hold stilted "adult" conversation until they relax back into themselves and run out to the orchard. They spend most of the afternoon there, eating apples while Diana fills Anne in with all the school gossip.

When they finally return to the house, Anne can't find the raspberry cordial. At last it turns up on a different pantry shelf than Marilla had specified. Anne brings it out. Anne herself is too full of apples to want any cordial, but Diana pours herself a glassful and sips it admiringly. Anne steps out to stir up the fire, and when she comes back, Diana is beginning her second glass of cordial. "The nicest I ever drank," she tells Anne, and takes a third glass.

Anne launches into one of her extended monologues about cooking; a story she thought up the last time she made a cake; the mouse that drowned in a pitcher of plum pudding sauce; and the fancy visitors who almost poured that sauce onto their pudding. Suddenly she stops: Diana has lurched to her feet.

She tells Anne thickly, "I'm awful sick ... I—I—must go right home." Anne suggests "a bit of fruit cake" and some cherry preserves, but Diana insists on leaving. "I'm awful dizzy," she says, staggering. Anne walks her home and returns to Green Gables, crying all the way.

It's too rainy for Anne to leave the house on Sunday. On Monday afternoon Marilla sends her on an errand to Mrs. Lynde's. She's alarmed when Anne rushes back into the house in a torrent of tears. Mrs. Lynde has just heard from Mrs. Barry that Anne got Diana drunk. (Being Mrs. Lynde, she helpfully passes on the information.) Never again, says Mrs. Barry, will Anne be allowed to play with Diana.

When Anne tells Marilla all she gave Diana was raspberry cordial, Marilla checks the pantry. There she realizes Anne accidentally served Diana some of Marilla's homemade currant wine. Marilla is sure Mrs. Barry will forgive Anne when she learns about the mistake; in fact, she'll walk over to the Barrys' house herself to explain. She returns in a wrathful mood. Mrs. Barry doesn't believe her. On top of that, she doesn't approve of Marilla's making currant wine in the first place. Marilla retorted by telling "her plainly that currant wine wasn't meant to be drunk three tumblerfuls at a time."

Anne drums up her courage and walks to the Barrys' house herself. Mrs. Barry answers the knock, and her face hardens. Anne begs for forgiveness, using some of her most elevated language, which angers Mrs. Barry even more: she thinks Anne is making fun of her. Anne tells Marilla, "My last hope is gone ... I do NOT think she is a well-bred woman." Later that night Marilla checks on Anne and finds she's cried herself to sleep. "Pour little soul," she murmurs, kissing Anne on the cheek.

Analysis

Readers might wonder if raspberry cordial and currant wine could really be mistaken for each other. Raspberry cordial is made from fresh raspberry juice sweetened with sugar and brightened with lemon juice. It's nonalcoholic and brilliantly red—a perfect fancy drink for children. Currant wine is made from fresh currant juice, sugar, and yeast, and it is alcoholic. Marilla's currant wine is prized throughout Avonlea, but she keeps it on hand only for sickness. In the 19th century and earlier a variety of alcoholic drinks were believed to be a healthful stimulant for invalids. It's not as strong as today's red wines; on the other hand, as Marilla says, it's not meant to be drunk by the glassful. That Diana downs so much currant wine is likely why she gets as drunk as she does.

However, it is somewhat surprising Diana thinks the wine is better than raspberry cordial. It's not as sweet as the cordial, it's not as pretty, and it does taste like wine—or at least like cough syrup. When Diana says, "I didn't know raspberry cordial was so nice," it's not clear whether she means she's tasted raspberry cordial that wasn't as good as the wine, or she's never tasted raspberry cordial and hence has no idea how it should taste. But readers know Diana enjoys her food, so perhaps she likes the taste of wine more than some children might.

There's so much humor in this chapter that readers may not notice Marilla's offhand reference to the way Mrs. Barry and the old minister feel about her currant wine. One reason Mrs. Barry is so furious with Anne is she has disapproved of Marilla's currant wine all along. Mrs. Barry does not drink alcohol and does not believe other people should either.

But the old Avonlea minister's disapproval of Marilla's making currant wine points to something else. In the 19th century strict Presbyterians believed drinking alcohol was sinful—some still do—and replaced the wine traditionally used at Communion with grape juice. Many modern Presbyterian churches have returned to using wine at Communion; many have stayed with grape juice. Evidently the former minister of Marilla's church believed in abstaining.

Mrs. Barry gives the impression she wants to find things to disapprove of. And if someone can be disapproving enough to find Marilla Cuthbert lax, that person must be very strict indeed.

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