Examining the themes in “Anne of Green Gables" can help you better understand the novel. Whether you’re studying the novel in class or reading it on your own, thinking about how the themes run throughout the book can help you understand the novel.
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Imagination vs. Reality
Anne is synonymous with “imagination." From the start of the book, her imagination runs wild, changing her red straight hair to black curls and her name to “Cordelia." Throughout the book, she begins to realize that imagination can sometimes be harmful. For example, when her imagination names a path “The Haunted Wood" and peoples it with ghosts of all shapes and sizes, she learns about the negative side of imagination. She also learns about how imagination can be dangerous when she almost drowns in the river after acting out a scene from a favorite book.
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The topic of forgiveness comes up again and again throughout the book. Right at the start, Marilla tries to convince Anne to apologize to Mrs. Lynde, and her apologies, although exceedingly overdramatic, are accepted. Throughout the book, Anne continues to find reasons for apology: she apologizes to Diana’s mother for intoxicating her daughter by accident, she apologizes to Marilla for dropping her broach into the water, and she apologizes to Diana’s Aunt Jo for jumping on the bed and disturbing her. All of these apologies are for accidents, or for events that never happened. For example, Anne did not intentionally give cordial to Diana, she did not know that Aunt Jo was on the bed, and she didn’t even take Marilla’s broach in the first place!
All of these apologies, however, pale beside the most important apology in the novel, which remains basically unsaid. Anne’s actions towards Gilbert Blythe are fueled purely by a childhood prank and a few misunderstandings. Although Gilbert tries multiple times to apologize to her, she refuses to accept his apologies. Only at the end of the book does she realize that she has forgiven him long ago.
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Anne struggles with vanity throughout the novel, continuously wishing away her red hair and freckles with a vengeance. When she finally buys hair dye from a peddler and dyes her hair green, she professes to have learned her lesson about vanity. Despite this fact, Matthew understands her hidden need to look pretty, and he buys her a dress with fashionable sleeves, much to Marilla’s dismay. Although Anne will never truly conquer her vain nature, she learns to temper it once she is out from under Marilla’s strict eye.