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Anne of Green Gables | Chapter 9 : Mrs. Rachel Lynde Is Properly Horrified | Summary



Mrs. Rachel Lynde catches the grippe (flu) around the time Anne arrives at Green Gables and is laid up for two weeks before she's able to visit Marilla and inspect the new arrival. In those two weeks Anne has come to love the woods, orchards, and fields around her new home. She is roaming through the apple orchard when Mrs. Lynde arrives, giving the latter "an excellent chance to talk her illness fully over" and to issue a few gloomy proclamations about the dangers of bringing a strange child into the house.

When Anne comes inside, she's startled to see a stranger and stops in the doorway. Her dress is too short and skimpy, her hair is mussed, and somehow she looks more freckled than ever. Proud of speaking her mind, Mrs. Lynde immediately points out how "skinny and homely" Anne is, "and hair as red as carrots! Come here, child, I say." Anne flies across the kitchen to plant herself in front of Mrs. Lynde. Quivering with rage, she chokes out her anger: "You are a rude, impolite, unfeeling woman! ... How would you like to be told that you are fat and clumsy?"

Horrified, Marilla orders Anne up to her room. Anne stamps out, slamming the door behind her. Marilla opens her mouth to apologize. Instead, though, she finds herself saying, "You shouldn't have twitted her about her looks, Rachel ... You WERE too hard on her." Mrs. Lynde makes a dignified speech before sweeping out of the house. She recommends Marilla give Anne a good "talking to"—with a birch switch—and adds Marilla shouldn't expect her back any time soon "if I'm liable to be flown at and insulted in such a fashion."

Left alone in the kitchen Marilla realizes she's more humiliated by Anne's behavior in front of Mrs. Lynde than sorry Anne has such a temper. She makes her way up to Anne's room and asks, "Aren't you ashamed of yourself?" No, says Anne. Mrs. Lynde had no right to call her "ugly and redheaded"! "You hadn't any right to fly into such a fury," retorts Marilla, but Anne refuses to back down. How would Marilla "feel if somebody told you to your face that you were skinny and ugly?"

Suddenly Marilla remembers a painful scene from early childhood when she overheard someone comment on what a "dark, homely little thing" she was. She's forced to agree with Anne; Mrs. Lynde is too outspoken. Still, that character trait doesn't excuse Anne's reaction. Anne will have to go over and apologize. This Anne flatly refuses to do. Marilla tells her she'll have to stay in her room until she's willing to obey. Then she leaves Anne and heads downstairs, admitting to herself she feels "a most reprehensible desire to laugh" whenever she remembers Mrs. Lynde's dumbfounded face.


Chapter 9 is a masterpiece of both humor and human drama. Anne gives Mrs. Lynde—a splendidly larger-than-life character—exactly what she deserves. Mrs. Lynde is properly appalled by Anne's tantrum but completely unaware she herself is responsible for Anne's rage. Marilla is torn between her sense of duty and the uncomfortable realization Mrs. Lynde was indeed rude to Anne. Anne is stung by Mrs. Lynde's remarks and knows they were glaringly personal. This may be the first time it dawns on Marilla that adults have no right to insult children; Anne feels instinctively Mrs. Lynde has crossed a line. Anne may be childishly sensitive about her hair, but her sense of justice is fully developed.

This chapter consists mostly of dialogue, and Montgomery gives the three characters many good lines. Mrs. Lynde's departing speech to Marilla is pitch-perfect, full of lofty reproach and aggrieved pomposity. "I'm too sorry for you to leave any room for anger in my mind," she intones, unconscious she's bursting with rage over childless, "inexperienced" Marilla's having sided with Anne.

Marilla manages to balance embarrassment over Anne's behavior with graceful acceptance that Anne has opened her eyes to a painful truth: adults' chance remarks have real power to wound children. Asking Anne to apologize to Mrs. Lynde is fair: "She was a stranger and an elderly person and my visitor." Asking Anne to repent her action would be unreasonable.

Although Anne has already made it clear she has no trouble speaking up for herself, this is the first time she has done so with an outsider. It's comically satisfying to watch an 11-year-old scold a woman five times her age, but Montgomery is making an important point about Anne's courage. She's not afraid to speak truth to power!

In the book's first chapter, Mrs. Lynde is described as a staunch churchwoman. Throughout the book Montgomery makes it clear religious faith is a living entity, not a litany of memorized dogma. Mrs. Lynde may go to church, but in this scene she is uncharitable and unforgiving—the opposite of the way a good Christian should behave.

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