Anne of Green Gables | Study Guide

L. M. Montgomery

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Anne of Green Gables | Chapter 21 : A New Departure in Flavorings | Summary

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Summary

A red-eyed Anne comes home after the last day of school, still tearful over the departure of her teacher, Mr. Phillips. She says candidly she's not very sad and "cried because all the others did." But she feels remorseful about the times she's made fun of him or talked when she wasn't supposed to.

Still, two months of vacation are always nice, and Anne is further cheered by having met Avonlea's new Presbyterian minister, Mr. Allan, and his wife on their way home from the train station. Anne is interested in the minister's wife, dressed in blue muslin "with lovely puffed sleeves and a hat trimmed with roses."

Mr. Allan's arrival is important to his little congregation, and people vie to invite the Allans to their homes for meals. Marilla decides they should come to tea, and she and Anne work hard cooking delicacies for the occasion. Marilla allows Anne to make a layer cake—a great responsibility as far as Anne is concerned. Anne wakes up with a cold on the morning of the big day but manages to make a cake "as light and feathery as golden foam." Anne decorates the tea table and even manages to make shy Matthew feel comfortable once the Allans arrive.

Everything goes smoothly until Marilla passes out slices of Anne's cake. When Mrs. Allan tries her piece, "a most peculiar expression" appears on her face, though she continues politely eating it. Marilla quickly tastes the cake and, horrified, asks Anne what flavoring she used. Anne brings the bottle of vanilla extract to show her, and Marilla realizes it actually contains anodyne liniment—an over-the-counter cure-all—that she poured into an old vanilla bottle. Because of her cold, Anne didn't notice the difference.

Mortified, Anne rushes up to her bedroom to cry. Mrs. Allan follows her and coaxes her into the garden, "for I'm very much interested in flowers." When the guests have left, Anne reflects at least she never makes the same mistake twice.

Analysis

It's likely the fateful anodyne liniment in this chapter is something like Johnson's American Anodyne Liniment, a U.S. medicine made from 1881–1906 and the most popular brand in its day. Like many patent medicines it was said to cure pretty much everything. The label on the bottle touted its effectiveness in treating various respiratory ailments along with "pain in the stomach, bowels, or side; rheumatism, spitting of blood, and all lung complaints; sore throat, spinal complaints, chronic diarrhea, dysentery, chapped hands, burns, wounds, sprains and bruises." It's easy to see why so many households had it on hand. If only it had worked, it would have been a miracle product!

One reason Johnson's anodyne liniment made people feel better was that it was almost 20 percent alcohol, 6.25 percent ether, and half a grain of opium per fluid ounce. It must have tasted seriously awful to be noticed in a layer cake, since most cake recipes call for no more than a teaspoon or two of vanilla.

This chapter makes clear how important a minister could be in a small town. The Allans are treated almost like celebrities, with Avonlea families vying to entertain them. It's Mrs. Allan who gets Anne's attention, though. Along with Miss Stacy, Mrs. Allan will become a tremendously important person in Anne's life.

Something else the chapter reveals is Matthew Cuthbert is more than ordinarily shy. He seems almost pathologically so. Marilla can't tell him the Allans are going to visit, and Anne must work hard to draw him out. Indeed he was "in such a state of shyness and nervousness that Marilla had given him up in despair, but Anne took him in hand."

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