The Growth and Change of Avonlea
I have always adored Avonlea, with its wholesome nature and simple views. It’s part of what makes this story so enduring. However, in these chapters we start to see major changes within Anne but more importantly within Avonlea itself.
Anne benefits from the teaching methods of Mrs. Allan and Miss Stacy. Education under Mr. Phillips, Marilla, and Mr. Bell, Anne’s former Sunday school teacher, consists of memorizing and reciting facts and moral lessons, which grates on Anne’s imaginative spirit. The more interesting, innovative methods of Mrs. Allan and Miss Stacy fit better with Anne’s learning style. In addition to learning schoolwork more readily, Anne begins to learn the nature of adulthood from her new teachers. When Mrs. Allan comforts her after the cake mishap, Anne begins to think more forgivingly of her own mistakes, telling Marilla that at least she learns from her errors.
Anne’s views about religion and school change because of her friendships with Mrs. Allan and Miss Stacy. Previously, Anne says her prayers to oblige Marilla, but the pretty and kind Mrs. Allen helps Anne see that organized religion need not be painful or boring. For Anne, religion no longer means foreign, dull speeches and rules; under Mrs. Allan’s tutelage, religion becomes interesting, especially because Mrs. Allan allows her pupils to ask questions about it. Similarly, Miss Stacy’s new, liberal form of education allows Anne to enjoy learning for its own sake. When Anne first comes to Avonlea, she advances quickly in her studies in order to irk her rival, Gilbert, but this model of academic success depends largely on the presence of an enemy. Now, Anne can rely on herself alone. She sees that learning can be an exercise of imagination rather than a chore of rote memorization.
Marilla’s affection for Anne continues to grow. When she sees Mr. Barry carrying Anne across the field, she realizes in a flash that she loves Anne more than she loves anything else in the world. Even what seems like unnecessary sternness is simply Marilla’s affection for Anne. For example, when Marilla tries to dampen Anne’s enthusiasm for the tea party, she does it not out of mean-spiritedness, but because she hates to think of Anne’s hopes dashed, and wants to save her from disappointment.
Avonlea is a community caught between tradition and modernity, especially in its views on women. Characters such as Mrs. Rachel hold beliefs that seem to be in tension with one another. On the one hand, Mrs. Rachel feels that women should be given the right to vote—a liberal and progressive view. The Cuthberts, true to their generally conservative characters, oppose Mrs. Rachel in this belief. At the same time, however, Mrs. Rachel believes it “a dangerous innovation” for the Avonlea trustees to hire a female teacher. As women’s roles change, Mrs. Rachel’s contradictory views on women represent the Avonlea community as a whole. She does not wholly support independence and power for women, but she supports it in part. She believes simultaneously in tradition and in progress.
Chapter Challenge: 25-28