Redheaded Anne Shirley is creative, imaginative, and talkative. When the story begins, she learns the Cuthberts were planning to adopt a boy and is bitterly disappointed; when the Cuthberts let her stay, she's delighted. But fitting into the household is a challenge for her; though well-meaning and loyal, Anne is constantly getting into awkward situations. Anne is a voracious reader and has formed many of her ideas and sensibilities from the romantic poetry and prose she reads. The combination of determination, imagination, intelligence, presence of mind, charm, and the genuine desire to do good form her character. She appreciates loyalty and gives back to those who have helped her, as she does to Marilla at the end.
Prim, undemonstrative, practical, and inexperienced with children, Marilla Cuthbert remains confounded by Anne's exuberance, chatter, and imagination. However, behind Marilla's scorn for fashion and for romantic nonsense lies a sense of humor. Soon after Anne moves into Green Gables, Marilla comes to appreciate her, enjoy her company, admire her strength, and love her as deeply as she would her own child. In loving Anne, Marilla relaxes somewhat, tempering her stern demeanor; however, she's unable to tell the girl what a difference she's made at Green Gables. Only when her brother dies does she find the emotional vocabulary to express her love to Anne. Marilla struggles with headaches throughout the book; eventually a doctor tells her she'll go blind unless she stops using her eyes for close-up work or reading. Though resistant to Anne's offer to stay at home, she finally agrees. It may be the first time she's allowed someone else to take care of her.
A retiring loner, Matthew Cuthbert is extremely uncomfortable with females both old and young. With Anne's presence at Green Gables, Matthew—still shy and awkward in conversation—becomes more open and more able to assert himself with Marilla. He loves Anne dearly and believes in her completely, even going so far as to have a dress made for her in a style she would like. He is a kind man with deep feelings that have remained inside him for most of his life. Matthew's weak heart is mentioned in the first chapter, and Montgomery hints at his poor health throughout the book.
Diana Barry is sweet, pretty, and slightly out of her depth with Anne, but her devotion to her friend never wavers. Anne considers her a kindred spirit, and Diana loyally follows Anne into various misadventures, proud of Anne's accomplishments even when her parents temporarily end the girls' friendship.
Mrs. Rachel Lynde
Mrs. Rachel Lynde, often referred to as Mrs. Rachel, views herself as the guardian of town news and propriety—the town gossip, in other words. But she has a kind heart beneath a stuffy and bossy exterior. At Christmas she connives with Matthew to give Anne the first pretty dress she's ever owned. As one of the strong female characters in the book, Mrs. Lynde is married but seems to have little use for her husband, whom she describes as ineffectual.