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Anne of Green Gables | Chapter 8 : Anne's Bringing-Up Is Begun | Summary

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Summary

For most of the following day Marilla doesn't tell Anne whether she'll be allowed to stay at Green Gables. When Anne finally begs to learn her fate, Marilla is "unable to find any excuse for deferring her explanation longer." Yes, she says, Anne can stay as long as she behaves herself. Anne sheds happy tears, and the two sort out a few details. Since the village school is about to close for summer vacation, Anne will start there in the fall. Marilla wants to be called just "Marilla," with no other title.

Marilla then announces Anne needs to memorize the Lord's Prayer. Anne heads to the sitting room in search of a copy. Ten minutes later Marilla finds her still there, gazing at a picture called "Christ Blessing Little Children." Anne points to a little girl standing shyly in the background and says, "She was afraid He mightn't notice her. But it's likely He did, don't you think?" She adds most artists make Jesus look sad, though she's sure when he was with children he must have looked happier.

Marilla is scandalized by Anne's well-meaning comment but falls back on reproving Anne for dallying and daydreaming. Anne obediently settles down in the kitchen, occasionally interrupting her studies with questions for Marilla. She's thrilled to learn a potential "bosom friend" lives nearby: Diana Barry, who's away on a trip but will be returning soon. Anne informs her the only best friends she's had before were imaginary girls named Katie Maurice and Violetta.

At this Marilla dryly points out Diana Barry's mother might not enjoy hearing about an imagination this well developed. She sends Anne up to her room to finish memorizing the prayer. Anne finishes quickly and sits back to dream up a beautiful room to replace her plain one. But she quickly reminds herself it's much nicer to be Anne of Green Gables than an imaginary maiden, even one with hair "of midnight darkness."

Analysis

Although Marilla is honestly troubled by what she sees as Anne's lack of religious orthodoxy, this chapter makes it clear while Anne may be "unchurched," she's far from irreligious. In fact her lively take on Christian faith shows in this chapter as fresh, creative, and heartfelt. For Marilla, Anne's primary task is to memorize Christian doctrine; for Anne it is to understand what she's memorizing.

She appreciates the Lord's Prayer for its beauty because "it makes me feel just the same way poetry does." She's deeply moved by the print of Jesus and the children, which she studies for 10 minutes. By calling the print "a rather vivid chromo [lithograph]," the narrator makes it clear the image is noteworthy only for being colorful. But Anne is as moved by it as if it were a priceless work of art. She conjures up a tender story about a neglected girl at the edge of the picture—a story that makes Marilla uncomfortable. "It doesn't sound right to talk so familiarly about such things," says Marilla, missing the point that Anne has drawn true religious inspiration from the picture. That print may have been on the sitting room wall for decades, but Anne is the first person who has really looked at it.

Nevertheless an 11-year-old who stares at a religious painting for 10 minutes cannot be called ordinary, and Marilla is right to warn Anne to keep her imagination in check when Diana Barry's mother is around. When Anne asks if Diana might become a "bosom friend," Marilla replies guardedly that Diana is a very nice little girl, and "perhaps she will be a playmate for you." Perhaps Marilla reveals her limitations when she refuses to encourage Anne's fancies, but she's a realist who doesn't want Anne to come across as silly or pretentious when she meets new people. It's her way of looking out for her new charge.

Anne's imaginary bedroom makeover shows she's a reader. She could never have picked up phrases like reclining gracefully and clear ivory pallor from the Hammonds or Thomases! Her description also makes it clear the books she likes are romantic ones, full of regal young women "clad" in white lace gowns. Later an adult friend of Anne's will wean her from that kind of writing.

It is abundantly clear Anne hates having red hair. This is the second time she's expressed a wish for hair "of midnight darkness." Her yearning for black hair will cause her some heartache later in the book.

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