Anne Starts Coming Into Her Own
The schoolroom at Avonlea absorbs Anne and becomes the focus of her world. For the first time, Anne befriends many children her age. Instead of talking to plants or her reflection, as she did in the orphan asylum, she find people with whom she can interact. Although she has not had any practice socializing with peers, she manages to learn quickly the rules and manners of the social world. Similarly, her lack of formal education does not prevent her from absorbing the rules of reading, writing, and mathematics. As Anne tries to make sense of the new rules, she has some difficulty reconciling them with her own code of behavior. For example, Diana and all the other girls are accustomed to Gilbert Blythe’s barbs and have grown to enjoy attention from him. Anne, a stranger to such friendly teasing, is offended and enraged when he calls her “Carrots.” Unfamiliar with the ways in which young people interact with each other, she cannot understand that Gilbert’s comment is not meant to be an insult but is rather just an instance of teasing.
As Anne’s social world changes, the content of her communication changes. Before, she talks to Marilla about nature and her imagination, but now she cannot stop talking about school events and friends. Her absorption in the minutiae of the girls’ social events reveals that, despite her eccentricities, Anne is not fundamentally different from the other girls her age. Her quick assimilation into the society of the schoolhouse suggests the power of peers to influence behavior, as well as the human ability to learn rapidly and conform to cultural norms.
The schoolroom replicates the adult world. The girls gossip as Mrs. Rachel does, for example, and their play mimics adult behavior. At tea, Anne and Diana act ladylike in imitation of their elders. Montgomery illustrates the danger of mimicking adult behavior with the episode of Diana’s drunkenness. Although Marilla and Mrs. Barry constantly prepare their girls to act like proper adults, when the girls make an innocent mistake in the process of trying to act grown up, the adults punish them.
Marilla continues to change and become a better parent. Just as Anne has to apologize earlier for lashing out at Mrs. Rachel, in these chapters Marilla learns to apologize for her mistaken assumptions. She feels bad about forcing Anne to lie and admits to her own mistake. Marilla becomes increasingly effective at managing Anne’s stubbornness and hot temper. When Anne comes home from school set on never returning, Marilla agrees to let her stay home. This leniency is new to Marilla, a product of her growing understanding of Anne and the mellowing effect that Anne has on her.
Chapter Challenge: 17-20