Anne Realizes Her Mistakes and So Do The Cuthberts
To some extent, Matthew and Marilla reverse the characteristics traditionally associated with men and women. Matthew goes to great trouble to get Anne a new, fashionable dress, exhibiting almost womanly qualities. Whereas Marilla thinks fashion silly, Matthew understands that Anne’s dowdy dresses probably embarrass her; he sees the importance of fitting into one’s peer group. Whereas Marilla is reserved and does not believe in spoiling children, exhibiting almost manly qualities, Matthew easily expresses his affection for Anne and welcomes every opportunity to dote on her.
Anne’s approach to writing, which she describes in Chapter 26, reflects Montgomery’s own approach. Anne writes romantic stories about ladies named Cordelia and Geraldine who fall in love and meet tragic ends. She explains to Marilla that the stories all have morals: the good people are rewarded and the bad people are punished. Similarly, Montgomery makes moral judgments about Anne’s behavior. Montgomery does not divide the world into good and bad people, but she does reward Anne’s strengths and punish her faults. Anne’s mistakes never result in tragedy, but she meets with difficulties that are tragic in her perspective.
At the end of Chapter 28, Anne reflects on all of her mistakes. She realizes that each mistake has taught her an important lesson and that, taken together, the mistakes and lessons have made her a better person. After taking Marilla’s brooch, for example, she learns not to play with things that don’t belong to her. After running panicked through the woods, she learns to keep her imagination in check. After making cake with liniment, she learns to take care while cooking. After dyeing her hair, she learns to curb her vanity. Anne’s faults and quirky traits, which Marilla and Mrs. Rachel enumerate at the beginning of Anne’s stay, disappear with every mistake, chapter by chapter.
Although Anne’s desire to rid herself of faults shows her maturation, she has not yet perfected herself. For example, she resolves to be modest after her vanity results in green hair, but her vanity over her hair makes her simmer afresh over a years-old insult and causes her to reject Gilbert’s offer of friendship. Gilbert’s rescue teaches Anne yet another lesson that demonstrates that she still has room to mature: real-life romance does not yet suit her. Although the boat episode has all the markings of the kind of fictional romance Anne loves—danger, a woman in distress, a last-minute rescue by a handsome man—Anne finds the event awkward, embarrassing, and irritating rather than charming and romantic.