Spoiler Warning:  This article gives away the entire plot of Anne of Green Gables, so if you do not want the story spoiled, read no further!

When slow Matthew Cuthbert goes to pick up an orphan boy who is to help him and his sister Marilla on their farm at Green Gables, he finds a little girl named Anne has been sent to them instead.  Too shy to make much of the mistake at the start, he finds that Anne’s lively and cheerful chatter on the drive back to the Green Gables farm irresistible.  When practical Marilla would have sent her back, he quietly opines that he would like her to stay.  Marilla is unconvinced, until she meets the woman to whom Anne would be given if the Cuthberts don’t take her.  “I wouldn’t give a dog I liked to that Blewett woman,” Marilla told Matthew afterwards.  But Marilla makes Matthew promise to leave the raising of Anne to her, and not “put his oar in.”

Anne was ecstatic to learn that at Green Gables she would have a home at last, but when she flew into a temper at Marilla’s very respectable best friend Rachel Lynde, Marilla wonders what she has gotten herself into.  Anne is sent to her room until she will apologize.  Nothing moved Anne a bit until the next day Matthew secretly snuck upstairs to plead with her.  Much to Marilla’s relief, Anne announced that she would apologize.

A vivid imagination and a love for long, bookish words make Anne’s apology more flamboyant than Marilla expected or approved of, but it satisfied Rachel Lynde.  Anne’s irrepressible personality makes her many friends, but also means her childhood is series of one scrape after another.  She and the neighbor’s daughter Diana swear eternal friendship, and build a playhouse in the woods between Barry Farm and Green Gables.  Then Anne drives them both silly with fear by imagining ghouls and goblins into the little wood between their farms.  An astonished Marilla cures her of that by dispassionately dispatching her on an errand from Green Gables to Diana’s through that wood after dark.

A Sunday school picnic and a lost brooch elicit another imaginative apology from Anne and more astonishment for Marilla.  She had her heart set on it and was to go with Diana and enjoy a wonderful day with all the other girls.  But two days before the event, Marilla discovered her precious amethyst brooch missing from her dresser.  When questioned, Anne admitted to entering Marilla’s room and trying on the jewelry, but insisted she had put it back.

Marilla looked and looked for it, but could see no other explanation than that Anne had lost it and was too afraid to admit it.  She sent Anne to her room until she confessed.  Well, desperate as she was to go to the picnic, confess Anne did, and thoroughly too, down to the details of how the brooch had shown as it slipped from her fingers into the pond.  The problem was, not a bit of it was true!  Marilla was furious and decided Anne’s punishment would be to miss the picnic.  Much was Marilla’s astonishment when she discovered her brooch the next day folded into a lace shawl that she’d had lying on her dresser.  Kindly apologizing for misjudging Anne and goading her to the confession, she did explain that a falsehood was still a falsehood, even when one was making a confession!

That fall, Anne had hardly been at school a few days when she smashed her slate over the head of a schoolmate, Gilbert, who dares to make fun of her red hair.  The schoolmaster publicly humiliated her by making her stand before the class for half the day.  A few days later, the master singled Anne out from a crowd of guilty students to punish for being late.  She took home to Green Gables all her things from her desk and told Marilla she would not return.

On the advice of Rachel Lynde, who had raised ten children, Marilla humored Anne in this, and she studied her lessons diligently at home for weeks.  Then, one day, Marilla gave permission for Anne to have Diana to Green Gables for tea and drink the raspberry cordial from the pantry.  Anne served it up but hospitably gave all to her friend without drinking any herself.  Diana liked it very much and did not refuse seconds or thirds when Anne offered.  Presently, Diana felt unwell, and had to be helped home by Anne – thoroughly drunk.  It had been a bottle of currant wine Anne mistakenly served for the cordial.

Diana’s mother, an extremely particular parent forbade any further association between her daughter and Anne.  Not even Marilla’s sensible explanation and one of Anne’s fervent and flowery apologies had any effect.  At this, Anne decided that returning to school was better than no companionship at all, but she steadfastly refused to acknowledge the existence of poor Gilbert.

Quiet, shy Matthew finds he enjoys his role of not having to “bring Anne up” and instead simply enjoys her, listening delightedly to her talks after school and bringing her chocolate caramels from town.  At Christmas, he surprised Anne and Marilla both by giving Anne a beautiful and fashionable dress, made up in the latest style with the collusion of Rachel Lynde.

From nearly breaking her neck on a dare to nearly drowning while playing acting on the pond, Anne’s childhood was anything but quiet.  Despite starching handkerchiefs, leaving the flour out of one cake and flavoring another with anodyne liniment, and dying her own hair a hideous green, Anne prided herself on not making the same mistake twice.  She distinguished herself in her studies and delights in making Matthew proud of her.

Teenaged Anne was invited by the new schoolteacher to participate in advanced classes to prepare for the entrance examinations for the high school where she could earn a teaching certificate.  To Matthew and Marilla’s delight, she passed at with top honors.  In her time at the school, she continues to distinguish herself and wins a scholarship to college.  After her graduation, she returns to Avonlea full of affection for Matthew and Marilla and her home at Green Gables.

The two are getting older, Matthew’s heart is weak, and Marilla’s eyes are bad she might go blind if she is not careful.  Anne lovingly throws herself into housework to give Marilla a rest, and fervently explains to Matthew that she wished she had been a boy so she could do the same for him.  Matthew tells her it was a girl who’d won the scholarship and made them so proud.  These loving words are the last she hears from him, for the next day he drops of a heart attack on the threshold coming into the Green Gables kitchen.

When Marilla confides afterwards that she plans to sell Green Gables, since she cannot work to keep it up, Anne tells her the surprise she’d been keeping – she’d made the decision weeks ago not to accept the scholarship, but instead to teach close to home so that she could be with Marilla.  She explains that Gilbert has applied at the school in Avonlea, but she has been promised the one in the next town and will be able to commute daily in warm weather and only board in winter.  Marilla tries to tell her not to make the sacrifice of college, but Anne explains that it is no sacrifice to live in the home she loves with the person dearest to her in the world.

Soon Anne learns that the Avonlea school is to be hers after all; Gilbert has withdrawn his application and signed on with a school in another town.  This coming on top of a previous subtle nudge from Marilla move her to not only thank him when she saw him on the street, but finally make up with him for the grudge she had held for years.  They linger at the Green Gables gate, in happy conversation.  Marilla sees them there, and asks Anne about it when she comes in.  Anne explains that they intend to be good friends and had five years of lost conversations to make up for.

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