Anne of Green Gables | Study Guide

L. M. Montgomery

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Anne of Green Gables | Chapter 18 : Anne to the Rescue | Summary

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Summary

In January the premier of Canada visits Prince Edward Island, where a rally is held in his honor. Mrs. Lynde and her husband go—"Thomas would be useful in looking after the horse"—and take Marilla with them, leaving Anne and Matthew to keep house. They're enjoying a cozy evening together, Anne occasionally looking up from her homework to talk to Matthew, who sleepily does his best to keep up his end of the conversation.

They're interrupted when Diana rushes into the kitchen. "Do come quick," she begs Anne. Her three-year-old sister Minnie May has a terrible case of croup. The Barry parents are away, and the hired babysitter has no idea what to do.

Matthew grabs his coat and leaves the house to go for the doctor. Anne cheerily assures Diana she knows exactly what to do for croup, reminding all not to "forget that Mrs. Hammond had twins three times." She finds the ipecac bottle, and the two girls hurry back through the snow and dark to the Barry house, Anne enjoying the romance of their situation.

Minnie May is very sick, but Anne says she's seen worse cases. For hours she and Diana struggle to help Minnie May breathe better. It's three A.M. when Matthew arrives with the doctor, but by then Minnie May is on the way to recovery. Anne admits the severity of the condition to the doctor, saying, "I actually thought she was going to choke to death." Only when Anne had given Minnie May the last drops of ipecac did the little girl begin to recover. Later the doctor will tell Mr. and Mrs. Barry if Anne hadn't been there, Minnie May would have died.

Anne walks sleepily home with Matthew, who tells her to go to bed and skip a day of school. When Anne finally wakes up, it's late afternoon. Marilla tells her Mrs. Barry came to Green Gables earlier that afternoon. "She hopes you'll forgive her and be good friends with Diana again," and she wants Anne to come to the Barrys' house for tea.

Analysis

The real-life premier to whom Montgomery alludes is John A. MacDonald, who visited Prince Edward Island in 1890. The term monster mass meeting is as accurate as Marilla's description of the premier's nose (though MacDonald didn't actually visit in January; it would have been too cold to make the trip then). Monster mass meetings were the 19th-century equivalent of political rallies.

Most 19th-century homes had on hand a bottle of ipecac, which is used to induce vomiting and was used (ineffectually) to treat croup in the days before antibiotics. The word croup is probably onomatopoetic: it sounds like the sharp, barking cough made by its victims. An infection of the larynx and trachea, it can be either viral or "spasmodic." Minnie May has the spasmodic kind, which usually comes on suddenly at night. Seen less frequently now than it was in Anne's day, instead it can be triggered by cold weather, and modern insulated homes are warmer than 19th-century farmhouses.

Croup is frightening to witness (and to have) because it makes breathing so difficult. But it's not as dangerous as Anne and Diana believe. Nor does it involve phlegm that needs to be coughed up. Anne is right to order Mary Joe to heat some water, though. Steam can make the patient's breathing easier. But accurate croup reportage is not the point of this chapter. The point is that Anne rises so magnificently to the occasion that everyone, including the reader, realizes how competent she is. She takes instant control of the situation, knows exactly what to do, and remains cheerful throughout Minnie May's ordeal.

This is not true of Young Mary Joe, the French Canadian babysitter spending the night at the Barrys'. At first Mary Joe is too frightened to act: then she is "honestly anxious to do all she could," as if it's surprising she wants to help save Minnie May's life. English-speaking Canadians in the 19th century were commonly prejudiced against their French-speaking counterparts, and Montgomery shared the prejudice.

The end of this chapter is thoroughly satisfying. Mrs. Barry humbles herself to Anne, who forgives her with stately magnificence.

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