Don’t worry, the discussion questions are going to be very general, so even if the last time you read the book straight through was years ago, you can still contribute. Personally, I was just going to sort of skim, and then I ended up sitting down and reading and crying for 2 hours straight yesterday and forgot to eat lunch. Basically the same as the first time I read it
Synopsis: A spinster sister Marilla and bachelor brother Matthew in a small hardworking farming community foster an orphan girl with the expectation that she will attend school and church, but also do chores and help around the farm. The little girl is filled with imagination and passionate emotions which shock the brother and sister and they struggle to control her. She fights with a boy at school who teases her (Gilbert), makes passionate best friends with the girl who lives down the lane (Diana), inspires all the girls of her age group to do crazy fantastical things, dreams of being a great author, excels in school, continues to ignore Gilbert even though he clearly has a crush on her, and in the end chooses to give up her dreams of college in order to stay home and care for the spinster sister after the death of the brother who she has grown to love dearly and vice versa.
Now, first question! Who loves Anne more, Matthew or Gilbert?
Matthew, 100%. Gilbert is nice with his teasing that grows into patient love, and the way he puts up with Anne constantly ignoring him and rejecting his kind gestures, and ultimately giving her the Avonlea school just because it is the decent thing to do without even expecting her to know. But Matthew buys her a dress with puffed sleeves even though he is afraid of the store lady, and afraid of Marilla yelling about it! He goes above and beyond, does something that seems completely outside of his abilities, because he knows it would make her happy.
Next question, Would Anne have been better off in a home with more demonstrative love?
I’ve read a lot of Montgomery books, and I know a bit about her real life as well. In real life, she lived most of her childhood and young adulthood with her grandparents after her mother died. The few times she attempted to live with her father and stepmother, it was a disaster. Most of her books are about orphans, and in some of them the place the orphan ends up is really horrible. Relatives who nag and snap and never let her be herself. But I don’t think this book is that exactly. Yes, you read it thinking “well, if I were raising Anne, I would let her have pretty dresses and read for pleasure and decorate her room and all those things she was forbidden”. But on the other hand, she really did need something to steady her. The rules were good for her. In fact, I am going to say this was the best place for her, somewhere steady and secure and predictable, even if it wasn’t very fun.
Next question, which female bond resonates with you more? The passionate friendship based on nothing more than proximity and age matching between Diana and Anne, or the tough unbending love between Anne and Marilla?
When I was growing up, definitely the Anne-Diana friendship. I think that’s a universal for all children, this passionate connection that is really just being the same age and living next door. And yet it is stronger than any adult friendship based on mutual interests and blah blah blah. This book even addresses that, the girls Anne meets when she goes away for the two year advanced high school classes are so much more like her than Diana is. And yet, Diana is always and forever her one true best friend. SO TRUE!
On the other hand, now that I am older, the Marilla-Anne relationship is fascinating to me. Marilla is such a tough hard woman, afraid to love. And Anne loves so easily. The two of them balance each other, Marilla challenges Anne to think through her relationships and emotions and understand another perspective. And Anne works her way into Marilla’s heart by determined pushing. If there had been no more books in the series, I would have been happy with this ending I think, Marilla ready to sell the farm and lose everything so Anne could go to college and Anne ready to give up her dreams and her future so Marilla could have things a little easier. It’s a classic mother/daughter (or parent/child really) moment that resonates through to today, the mutual sacrifice of strong wills.
What do you think about how Anne’s life before Green Gables is handled (or rather, not handled)?
This is really a tragic life, parents die before she can remember them, taken in by two women in a row who barely care for her, and then shoved into an institution. I can see the writing part of this, you want her young enough that you can erase that sad bit with happiness, but old enough to talk for herself and have a personality. But still, even at only 11, it seems like all that misery would have an effect! There’s a new “Before Green Gables” series now that covers the Lost Years. But I think I prefer them not to be dealt with at all? If you include them, suddenly the whole story becomes so tragic you can’t enjoy it. Best to just leave them as something briefly described and dealt with as “and then they felt like a dream once my real life and childhood started”. What do you think? Would it be better to integrate that tragedy more? Or even to make her previous life less tragic?
Question that came up from my reread yesterday: Why does Matthew’s death always make me/everyone cry?
Is it because Montgomery so perfectly evoked that first moment of sorrow and tragedy in life? Or because it is Matthew, and Matthew is The Best? Or because Marilla falls apart, and Marilla never shows emotions? Or is it just the every day quality of it? So often death is like that, someone falling down in the kitchen while their loved ones try to hold them up, no big death speech, no hospital slow farewell, just everyday life interrupted? I don’t know what it is, but I know Matthew’s death and (SPOILERS) Walter’s death in Rilla (END SPOILERS) are the two times I am guaranteed to cry every single time I read the books. Oh, and basically anything with Dog Friday.
And two bonus questions:
Tell me about the first time you experienced this story
My Mom started reading Anne of Green Gables aloud to me while we were waiting for my sister to finish her dance class. And then I loved it so much, I had to start reading it on my own and gobbled up the whole series.
How has your relationship to the books changed as you got older?
I read them when I was so young, and then read them over and over and over again straight through until I was in college, every single summer, that now they are both a story of Anne’s childhood and my childhood. I can read them and remember all the other times I read them and be transported back to that time in my life at the same time I am transported into Anne’s life. Also, I have A LOT more sympathy for the adults dealing with Anne now than I had the first time I read it. She is a tricky little girl.