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Anne of Green Gables | Study Guide

L. M. Montgomery

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Anne of Green Gables | Chapter 20 : A Good Imagination Gone Wrong | Summary



It's spring again, and Anne and her friends once more revel in the beauty around them. One June evening—the anniversary of Anne's arrival at Green Gables—Marilla asks Anne to run over to the Barrys' house to borrow an apron pattern. "It's too dark," protests Anne, promising to go to the Barrys' at sunrise the next morning. When Marilla insists she wants the pattern that night, Anne stalls some more before admitting the path to the Barrys' house passes through what she and Diana have begun calling the Haunted Wood.

Anne continues to explain that a few weeks ago, she and Diana started imagining the spruce woods across the bridge are haunted. For their amusement they "have imagined the most harrowing things." The stories the girls have made up are so frightening that although Anne doesn't really believe in ghosts, she can't imagine passing through the Haunted Wood after dark.

Marilla is adamant. This is what happens when Anne falls prey to her own imagination! Walking through the Haunted Wood will be "a lesson and a warning to you." She marches Anne down to the spring and orders her to cross the bridge with no more nonsense. Sobbing, Anne forces herself along the path through the woods, and then races across the field to Diana's house. Mrs. Barry gives her the pattern, and Anne runs home with her eyes closed rather than risk seeing "a white thing." Safely home at last she promises Marilla she'll be satisfied with ordinary places after this.


It's helpful to be reminded a year has passed since Anne came to live with Marilla and Matthew. Anne is still a chatterbox with an overactive imagination, but this chapter shows how much at home she has come to feel. Though her bedroom still looks the same, it's now full of "a new vital, pulsing personality," as if Anne's dreams have "tapestried the bare room with splendid filmy tissues of rainbow and moonshine." It's a bit hard to envision this; Montgomery would have had an easier time describing some actual changes. But she makes her point.

Another reminder—this one of Marilla's headaches—shows the reader how competent Anne has become and how much she cares for Marilla. She says she wishes "I could have had the headache in your place, Marilla." When Anne asks if Marilla is "sorry you kept me," she obviously knows the answer already, and Montgomery expands on Marilla's typically terse reply by describing what Marilla is actually thinking.

Anne feels it's cruel for Marilla to insist she pass through the Haunted Wood. Though Marilla's tendency to quash Anne's "nonsense" can be deflating, this adventure is one time she's right to do so. She doesn't want Anne believing her own fantasies, especially when they get in the way of her living a normal life. Burning a pie and starching Matthew's handkerchiefs are trivial mistakes Anne makes when she's daydreaming. But frightening herself into being unable to walk through the woods is allowing her imagination too much power.

At the same time, it's sad to see Anne promise to be "contented with commonplace places." Part of Anne's charm is her inability to be tamed and her disdain for convention. She may be less fearful of the woods from now on, but in clipping back her imagination she also loses something important.

Anne's twilight adventure may surprise modern readers. Nowadays it's hard to imagine many 12-year-olds being asked to walk alone through the woods at night without even a flashlight.

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