Why I Watched “Anne With an E” and Why You Should Too

Published in 1908, Anne of Green Gables was an instant classic that has been loved by generations for over a century. The book tells the story of a young orphan named Anne Shirley who was adopted by an elderly brother and sister duo, named Matthew and Marilla. The classic covers her adventures on the farm Green Gables, located in Prince Edward Island, a Canadian province. The series follows the life of Anne as she grows into a young woman, with hardships, friends and of course, the occasional boy drama. The book has been adapted to the screen many times, through countless movies and television series.

However, the latest adaptation, Anne With an E, provides a refreshingly new perspective of life at the cusp of the 20th century. The show addresses issues of race, women’s rights and love, all vital topics that are not always analyzed in the light of that time.

Granted, Anne of Green Gables is a children’s book, so I was skeptical about watching the show when it was released on Netflix. I thought it was going to be a simple children’s show that was cut and dry. I turned out to be very wrong. Anne With an E dives right into the heart of many social justice issues that our society is still dealing with today.

First and foremost, in the show, Anne must deal with the fact that men and women are treated very differently and are expected to achieve different goals in life. She and other girls her age struggled to be seen as equals to boys. Some girls are expected to marry well to provide for their family, while others are discouraged from taking their studies too far.  Nevertheless, a major part of the later seasons of the show is some of the students, boys and girls alike, study for their college entrance exams. Anne has very big aspirations for a girl in her time, and she must fight the whole way for them. I know I gained perspective in being grateful for the women before me who have fought so that I can do anything a man can.

Anne With an E also addresses racial issues during the beginning of the 20th century that most adaptations of the show did not cover. The most prominent example is Gilbert, one of the main characters, who has a friend who is Black and eventually comes to live with him. The community is shocked at first and some do not come to accept Gilbert’s friend Sebastian. He has trouble finding work or using any services the town provides. Many of the town’s residents still held prejudiced views of those different from them. However, many members of the community came to realize the error of their ways and in turn accept Sebastian for who he is, not the color of his skin.

This theme translates over to even today, showing us that people can change, no matter how set in their ways they might seem to be.

Lastly, one of the most touching topics in the show is love, both familial, self and romantic. A major part of Anne’s character arc is coming to terms with her unique family situation, for she is not adopted by a usual family. Matthew and Marilla originally wanted to adopt a boy to help out on their farm, leaving Anne feeling unwanted and worthless. As Anne wins over the hearts of her guardians, a loving and strong family is built. Throughout the episodes, Anne learns that love is not always traditional, but it is almost always worth it.

Anne also must struggle with learning to love herself, as she feels like an outsider at times with her vivid imagination and the need for adventure. Eventually, Anne comes to realize that the parts of use that make us different are some of the best parts. Even now most people struggle with self-love, especially in a world where we are constantly comparing ourselves to others on social media. The show teaches us that being who you are is timeless.

So let yourself escape to Prince Edward Island in the year 1899, where horses were the way to travel, and butter was still churned in a barrel. Though a lot has changed since the turn of the twentieth century, the underlying issues that afflicted society then are still evident now. We can learn a lot from Anne, through her kind heart, wild spirit but most of all, through her kindness.