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Anne of Green Gables | Study Guide

L. M. Montgomery

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Anne of Green Gables | Chapter 3 : Marilla Cuthbert Is Surprised | Summary



When Matthew and Anne reach Green Gables, Marilla is as unwelcoming as Matthew had feared she would be. For her part Anne is horrified to realize once again she's arrived at a place where she's not welcome. Bursting into tears, she announces, "This is the most TRAGICAL thing that ever happened to me!" Marilla can't help smiling. She says, "We're not going to turn you out-of-doors tonight ... What's your name?"

Anne asks to be called Cordelia—"it's such a perfectly elegant name"—but confesses her real name is Anne Shirley. (This is the first time her name appears in the book.) She begs Marilla, at least, to grant her the dignity of spelling her name with an E: "A-n-n-e looks so much more distinguished."

Anne is so miserable she can't eat much supper, although her grief doesn't make her any less talkative. Forlornly she follows Marilla up to the east gable room, which is bleak and bare. Marilla bids her an awkward goodnight and goes back downstairs. She's amazed to learn Matthew has warmed to Anne and wouldn't mind if she stayed at Green Gables, but Marilla refuses to change her mind. Anne is hardly the kind of girl she'd pick out of an orphanage: "There's something I don't understand about her."

"Frowning most resolutely," Marilla goes to bed. Upstairs Anne cries herself to sleep.


Marilla tells Matthew, "I don't like children who have so much to say ... There's something I don't understand about her." Anne upsets all Marilla's ideas of what a little girl should be. This reaction is partly because Anne is so talkative and what she says is so eccentric, but something else is bothering Marilla: Anne stands up robustly for the right to be emotional.

Clearly Matthew defers to Marilla in household matters. He may be in charge of the farm, but inside the house Marilla is the boss. Anne knows she'll have to obey if Marilla insists on sending her back to the orphanage, but she's clearly not afraid of the older woman. When Marilla says there's no need to cry, Anne flashes back, "Yes, there IS need!" Anne refuses to eat—"I'm in the depths of despair"—and when Marilla bids her goodnight, Anne retorts, "How can you call it a GOOD night when you know it must be the very worst night I've ever had?"

Anne's emotions make the reserved Marilla uncomfortable, but Anne's lack of deference is what Marilla doesn't understand. When she stands up for herself, Anne addresses Marilla as an equal—something even 60-year-old Matthew doesn't do. Marilla is unused to young people, but the reader senses she's even more unused to being defied.

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