Anne of Green Gables | Study Guide

L. M. Montgomery

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Anne of Green Gables | 10 Things You Didn't Know

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Anne of Green Gables, published by Lucy Maud Montgomery in 1908, tells the story of Anne, an orphan sent to live with a couple from Prince Edward Island, Canada. The couple want a boy to help out on their farm, but Anne arrives instead. Anne must adapt to her new life, making friends and going to school. She must also convince her adoptive parents that she is the right child for their family even though she is a girl, and a freckled, skinny one at that. The book traces her life through her adolescence and her adoptive father's death as she finds a family and community to embrace.

Anne of Green Gables has been immensely popular since its publication, with more than 50 million copies in print. It has been adapted for radio, television, the stage, and film, and tourism based on the book and its sequels is an important part of the Prince Edward Island economy. Anne's cheerful optimism in the face of hardship has endeared her to readers for well over a century, and her appeal shows no sign of diminishing.

1. Montgomery stuck the manuscript for Anne of Green Gables in a hat box for years after it received several rejections.

Montgomery had some success in publishing stories and poems before 1905, when she wrote Anne of Green Gables. When she finished the novel, she sent it to several publishers, but all of them rejected it. She put the manuscript in a hat box, where it remained for two years. In 1907 she came across the manuscript again, and on rereading it she decided to try for publication once more. The Page Company of Boston accepted it, and in the century after it was published it sold more than 50 million copies around the world.

2. Montgomery submitted her work secretly to publishers.

Montgomery was raised by her grandparents on Prince Edward Island. When her grandfather died, her grandmother MacNeill was appointed postmistress for the town of Cavendish, and Montgomery worked as her assistant. The post office, as a result, was in Montgomery's own home, so she was able to send out her writing and often receive it back without anyone in town knowing about it and without embarrassment.

3. There was an Anne of Green Gables theme park in Japan.

Japanese readers were introduced to Anne of Green Gables after World War II (1939–45), when the government was looking for inspiring Western literature for schoolchildren. A Canadian missionary had given a copy of the book to her Japanese friend years earlier, and the friend, who happened to be a translator, translated it into Japanese. Readers loved Anne's comic character and bright red hair. The translation was enormously popular and became required reading in schools. The Japanese opened a theme park called Canadian World that reproduced parts of Avonlea in Ashibetsu in the 1990s, and they visit Prince Edward Island by the millions each year.

4. Montgomery did not want to write sequels to Anne of Green Gables.

The ending of Anne of Green Gables did not provide closure for Anne's story. She wasn't yet married, and she didn't get to go to college. When Montgomery was approached with the idea of writing a sequel, she complained, "If I had known I was to be asked to write a second Anne book, I wouldn't have 'ended' it at all but just 'stopped.'" She went on to write 38 books featuring Anne and other characters from the original book.

5. During World War II Polish resisters found hope in Anne of Green Gables.

The central theme of finding and appreciating a home in Anne of Green Gables and its sequels was embraced passionately by Polish resisters during the Nazi occupation of Poland in World War II (1939–45). Anne's love for her home echoed their own feelings, and Polish soldiers were given copies of Anne of the Island (1915) to help them endure the displacement, hardships, and trauma of battle.

6. In one film adaptation the character of Anne Shirley is played by an actor named Anne Shirley.

Dawn Evelyeen Paris began acting at age three in 1929, after her parents changed her name to Dawn O'Day. In 1934 RKO Productions cast her as Anne in the first talkie version of Anne of Green Gables. For publicity reasons the producers changed her name again, this time to Anne Shirley. The film didn't make Shirley a star, though she was later nominated for an Oscar for her role in Stella Dallas (1937). She kept the name Anne Shirley until her death in 1993.

7. Three thousand girls auditioned for the role of Anne in the 1985 miniseries.

The Canadian Broadcasting Service broadcast a four-part miniseries based on Anne of Green Gables in 1985. The director, Kevin Sullivan, took six months to cast the part of Anne, knowing that Canadian viewers would be very particular about the way the character was portrayed. He auditioned more than 3,000 girls for the part, finally choosing a Toronto actress, Megan Follows. He said:

I was looking for someone who was able to play 12 to 16 years convincingly, someone who was able to be eccentric but also display extreme emotion. I was looking for an actress who could do everything.

The miniseries was watched by more than half of all Canadian television viewers.

8. The phrase Anne of Green Gables has been trademarked by the Montgomery family and Prince Edward Island.

The book Anne of Green Gables and the character of Anne were so immensely popular throughout Canada, and particularly on Prince Edward Island where the action takes place, that the phrase Anne of Green Gables was legally registered as a trademark. Owned by Montgomery's heirs and the province of Prince Edward Island, the trademark ensures that marketers off the island have to pay a fee to use the phrase to sell their products. Those located on the island can use the phrase to sell their items without a fee.

9. Montgomery's husband was mentally ill.

Montgomery married a pastor, Reverend Ewan Macdonald, in 1911. The reverend was reportedly a terrible hypochondriac, imagining himself ill with a variety of maladies. He was also deeply eccentric. One story told by one of Montgomery's biographers says that when his wife asked him to help with chores, he fled to a neighbor's house to hide. He had a series of nervous breakdowns and self-medicated with cough medicine containing codeine.

10. Montgomery's suicide was not made public for more than 60 years after her death.

Montgomery died in 1942, and her death was reported to be caused by a heart attack. However, she left a note by her bedside, which her son found and hid for the next 66 years. Made public by Montgomery's granddaughter in 2008, the note said:

I have lost my mind by spells and I do not dare think what I may do in those spells. May God forgive me and I hope everyone else will forgive me even if they cannot understand. My position is too awful to endure and nobody realizes it. What an end to a life in which I tried always to do my best.

Montgomery's granddaughter, Kate Macdonald Butler, stated that her grandmother took a drug overdose to end her life. Many readers and even some of Montgomery's relatives, however, don't believe that her death was definitively a suicide.

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