Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Anne’s Red Hair (Symbol)

Anne is convinced that her red hair will be a lifelong sorrow standing in the way of her perfect happiness. Red is the most uncommon hair color and so Anne's hair is another point of difference between Anne and her friends, a sign of her "otherness." When Mrs. Lynde says that she knows of a girl whose hair darkened into auburn when she grew up, Anne is excited and pleased, telling Mrs. Lynde that she has given her hope. This signifies Anne's hope that she will become more like other people.

Anne often tries to imagine herself without red hair; however, she finds it difficult to imagine herself without it. When Anne tries to dye her hair black as an adolescent, she ends up dying it green and having to have it all cut very short. This shows Anne's struggles with self-identity and self-confidence.

As Anne grows up, she learns to be less sensitive about her hair, and her hair darkens as Mrs. Lynde predicted, showing Anne's maturity. Nevertheless, red hair is inextricably a part of the character of Anne: a symbol of her difference, temper, and personality.

The Color Green (Motif)

As the title of Anne of Green Gables suggests, the color green is a motif in the novel. Anne loves most things that are green, especially her home at Green Gables and trees, flowers, and other plants. Anne often says that she feels most able to pray when she is looking into nature, which shows how nature gives her a sense of safety and hope. In many cultures, the color green represents birth, newness, growth, and energy. These are all qualities that excite Anne, who is always imagining, exploring outdoors, and thinking about the future.

Clothing (Motif)

Anne’s clothing throughout the novel mirrors her becoming part of Green Gables and the increasingly strong connection between herself and Marilla. When Matthew picks Anne up from Bright River station, she is dressed in “a very short, very tight, very ugly dress of yellowish white wincey” (p. 17) and her nightgowns are “fearfully skimpy” (p. 36). After Marilla decides that Anne may stay at Green Gables, she makes her three new dresses that are “neat and clean and new,” but Anne is sad that they are not pretty—she longs for puffed sleeves. Some years later, Matthew realizes that Anne is not dressed like her friends, and he conspires with Mrs. Lynde to give Anne a beautiful brown dress with puffed sleeves. From this point on, Marilla dresses Anne fashionably.

When Anne leaves Avonlea to attend Queens, Marilla gives her an evening dress. This is a symbolic action: it shows that Marilla has accepted that Anne is growing up and that she has come to understand the significance that Anne attaches to clothing. One evening before Anne goes away to Queens, she puts on her evening dress and recites for Matthew and Marilla. At this point, Marilla recalls her first impression of Anne—“the odd, frightened child in her preposterous yellowish-brown wincey dress, the heartbreak looking out of her tearful eyes” (p. 346)—and contrasts this with who Anne has become—“so tall and stylish…altogether different in that dress—as if you didn’t belong in Avonlea anymore" (p. 346). In this scene, Anne is wiser, knowing that, even with new clothing, the real Anne hasn’t changed at all.

The Color White (Motif)

The color white shows up many times throughout Anne of Green Gables. When Anne arrives in Avonlea, she is amazed to see that the trees are laden with white blossoms near the house. She even decides to rename what others call "The Avenue": she calls it "The White Way of Delight," showing her skill for crafting imagery at such a young age. During this trip to Avonlea, Anne also notes that she likes white dresses.

For the rest of the novel, white flowers appear at important moments. Snowy orchids beautify Anne's room, creating a contrast with how bare the room is when Anne first moves in. At the end of the novel, Anne brings Scotch roses, a white variety of rose, to Matthew's grave.

In many cultures, white represents purity and quiet. These are qualities Anne feels she does not have as a child. She knows she would be more accepted if she did have these qualities, which is likely where her adoration of white things comes from. By the time she makes the decision to stay in Avonlea and teach, she no longer fixates on white things, but they still appear in the narration of the story, showing how Anne has taken on these qualities as she matured.

Marilla's Brooch (Symbol)

Marilla has a prized amethyst brooch that she always wears to church. It is described as "Marilla's most treasured possession" (p. 119) because "a seafaring uncle had given it to her mother who in turn had bequeathed it to Marilla" (p. 119). The necklace also contained a lock of her mother's hair. This brooch is so precious to Marilla because she does not have a large family to rely on; as far as the reader is told, Marilla and Matthew are each other's only family. This makes it all the more painful and confusing when Marilla thinks that Anne lost her brooch and then lied about it, since Marilla was beginning to see Anne as a part of her family. It is revealed that Anne did not actually lose Marilla's brooch, and Marilla learns a lesson about pressuring Anne to make confessions. This experience brings the two characters closer together so that, eventually, Marilla considers Anne "as dear as if [she] were [her] own flesh and blood" (p. 371).