What Anne Shirley Taught Me About Having a Strong Character and Romantic Spirit

The heroine in Anne of Green Gables is a true role model.
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The heroine in Anne of Green Gables is a true role model.

Since childhood, the Anne of Green Gables movie series has been a favorite in my family. After first meeting Lucy Maud Montgomery’s precocious yet irresistible Anne (with an “e”), I’ve since found myself not only adopting some of her phrases, such as “kindred spirit” and “bosom friend,” but also aspiring to the beauty of her character. An orphan who finds her way into the hearts of all who know her, Anne is truly a model for women everywhere (not to mention that Gilbert Blythe sets the bar pretty high for gentlemanly manhood, too).

So, why is it that Anne struck a chord with me as a child and continues to inspire me today? She's a woman of many convictions and strengths—a few of which really stand out in my mind.

01. Anne helps people change their lives.

This part of Anne’s character is the most inspirational for me. Throughout the movie series, Anne befriends people who feel lonely or unloved. Take Marilla, Anne’s adoptive “mother,” who is at first skeptical of taking in a short-tempered, dreamy young girl. After some time with Anne, though, Marilla says to a friend, "She hasn’t changed, not really. It’s us that’s changed...."

As a young school teacher, Anne encounters an embittered fellow teacher named Katherine Brook, whom no one in the school likes because of her cold personality. Though Anne is snubbed by Katherine in a number of attempts to reach out to her, Anne generously invites Katherine to spend the summer at Green Gables. The summer proves transformative for Katherine, bringing healing and joy into her life.

Like Anne, I hope that I can be the kind of person who reaches out to others, and see their good. And that’s often easier said than done. But Anne, with her humility and candor, shows me that I can approach others as myself—with both my goodness and my flaws.

02. Anne can admit when she’s wrong.

I think it’s fair to say that Anne makes a great many mistakes throughout the movie series. There’s the time she blows up at a neighbor for commenting on her red hair. There’s the time where Anne and her “bosom friend” Diana accidentally jump on Diana’s Aunt Josephine during a sleepover. But perhaps the most heart-rending situation is when Anne realizes she’s in love with Gilbert, who is battling a dangerous bout of scarlet fever. She tearfully tells Marilla, “there’s a book of revelations in everyone’s life. I’ve been so wrong.”

Instead of shying away from her mistakes, Anne works to make things right. She composes an elaborate apology for the neighbor, has a conversation with Diana’s aunt, and goes to Gilbert’s sickbed to show him she cares about him.

In a society that offers little room for reflection, seeing someone who truly tries to make positive change in her life is refreshing. From Anne, I remember that it’s often in the little things that big changes are ultimately made.

03. Anne is true to herself.

Spoiler alert: Anne says yes to Gilbert’s (second) marriage proposal at the end of Anne of Avonlea. But before the beautiful bridge scene happens, Anne struggles with loving Gilbert. After all, it took her years to recover from Gilbert’s calling her “Carrots” during primary school. When he first proposes, Anne is torn. She tells Diana, “Gil’s just a chum. I don’t love him that way.” Anne has to leave Green Gables to realize that “[t]he dreams dearest to my heart are right here,” and that she is meant to be with Gilbert.

Especially now, when my friends are beginning to get married, it is nice for me to remember that there is no pressure to rush relationships. If Mr. Right isn't here yet, or even if he is but the timing isn't perfect, it's up to me to make my life what I want. And it's always a great time to be working on my relationship with myself.

04. Anne’s an utter romantic.

In our current society, which often shies away from romance, either dubbing it old-fashioned or cliché, Anne reminds me that romance is valuable. For her, romance is not just a way of loving people, but a way of seeing the world. For this, I turn to L.M. Montgomery’s books, (which I must add, are very different from the movies in terms of plot). Anne is especially moved by nature, as she is in this scene from the third in the Anne series, Anne of the Island: “Anne was sitting on the big gray boulder in the orchard, looking at the poem of a bare birchen bough hanging against the pale red sunset with the very perfection of grace. She was building a castle in the air…." In a scene in the second movie, she describes to Marilla how it feels when she hopes for something: “I can’t help flying up on the wings of anticipation. It’s as glorious as soaring through a sunset.”

What Marilla smilingly calls “foolishness” in Anne’s character, I call gold. I know, ladies, that some of us are romantics, and that is so beautiful. Anne reminds me that having a romantic spirit allows me to appreciate the people in my life and the world around me in a unique way. Those things that captivate our hearts, and move us to wonder, our romantic spirits are sure to especially appreciate.

05. Anne learns to roll with the punches.

The movies echo the sentiment found in Anne of the Island, when Anne says, “how horrible it is that people have to grow up—and marry—and change.” When Diana becomes engaged, Anne laments that Diana’s fiancé has “no business waltzing in, stealing my best friend.” She often resists the passing of time, and in response to Gilbert’s first proposal, urges, “Let’s not change, Gil, let’s just go on being good friends.” Though change is painful for Anne, she resolves to support Diana as she prepares for her wedding, and embarks on new adventures herself, first to college, and then to teach in a far-off town.

As a twenty-something unsure of my future, this aspect of Anne’s character is comforting. My friends and I are at a time in our lives that is uncertain, and the next few years carry the potential for big changes. The lesson Anne teaches is that every change is important—even the uncomfortable ones—because all experiences can lead to growth.

Anne will never stop delighting me with her rich character, and even richer vocabulary. The most wonderful thing about her is her reality—her beauty comes from her imperfection, and her joy comes from approaching life with her whole heart. She reminds me that in this journey called life, I best take a friend.

Image Credit: Sullivan Entertainment