Anne of Green Gables | Study Guide

L. M. Montgomery

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Anne of Green Gables | Chapter 17 : A New Interest in Life | Summary

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Summary

The next day Diana comes over to say her mother has allowed her 10 minutes to bid Anne farewell. Sobbing, the girls promise they'll never forget each other. "Diana, wilt thou give me a lock of thy jet-black tresses in parting?" asks Anne, who luckily has a pair of scissors with her. She clips a curl from Diana's head, saying, "Fare thee well, my beloved friend." Then she goes back inside and asks Marilla to bury Diana's curl with her, "for I don't believe I'll live very long."

The following Monday Anne returns to school. It's the only way she can see Diana, even if they can't speak to each other. Her classmates are delighted to have her back, and several girls give her little presents. Gilbert leaves an apple on her seat, but Anne refuses to eat it—though she does accept a fancy slate pencil from Charlie Sloane.

But Anne is bewildered because Diana won't even look at her, much less smile at her. The next day, Diana passes Anne a note explaining her mother has forbidden her even to talk to Anne in school. Anne quickly sends a note back to say she's not angry: "Our spirits can commune," she writes.

Anne throws herself into her schoolwork to compensate for missing Diana, vying constantly with Gilbert to be head of the class, and passing that honor back and forth. By the end of the term she and Gilbert have both been promoted into the fifth class. Anne does well in all her new subjects except geometry, where she's a complete dunce—worse even than Diana. But she doesn't "mind being beaten by Diana."

Analysis

In the long run Diana and Anne's temporary separation may benefit Anne more than she realizes: it forces her to return to school. Anne is so stubborn she might have stayed away even longer, but because school is now the only place she can see her best friend, she wants to go back again. A born scholar, Anne could probably have educated herself quite well, but she's such a companionable girl that being with other students invigorates her. And since she's forbidden to speak to Diana even in school, she uses that vigor to throw herself into her studies.

The "elevated" romantic language in Anne's farewell to Diana is amusing, especially because she keeps lapsing into regular speech. The scene is a parody of the books the girls love most. It's also funny Diana can't manage this brand of rhetoric and answers Anne's flowery questions in her normal way of speaking. When Anne asks for "a lock of thy jet-black tresses," practical Diana asks, "Have you got anything to cut it with?"

It's clear Anne is a true 19th-century girl when she answers, "I've got my patchwork scissors in my apron pocket fortunately." An apron! Scissors for patchwork! Working on a quilt is such an ordinary activity for girls of the period Montgomery doesn't bother to put in a quilt-making scene. Anne seems so alive readers may be reminded the book is set almost 150 years ago.

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