She’s next door to a perfect heathen.
When Anne announces matter-of-factly that she never says prayers, Marilla is horrified.
“Were you never taught to say your prayers? God always wants little girls to say their prayers. Don’t you know who God is, Anne?”
“‘God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth,'” responded Anne promptly and glibly.
It turns out she memorized the catechism in Sunday school (basically an outline of the beliefs of the Church), and she quite enjoyed the elegant old-fashioned language, regardless of whether she believed it or not.
“Don’t you know it’s a terrible wicked thing not to say your prayers every night? I’m afraid you are a very bad little girl.”
“You’d find it easier to be bad than good if you had red hair,” said Anne reproachfully. “People who haven’t red hair don’t know what trouble is, Mrs. Thomas told me that God made my hair red on purpose, and I’ve never cared about Him since. And anyhow I’d always be too tired at night to bother saying prayers. People who have to look after twins can’t be expected to say their prayers.”
So Anne was just never taught to say her prayers, in the same way that she failed taught a lot of things due to lifelong neglect. She doesn’t hate God, though, as she acquiesces readily enough when Marilla declares that she must say her prayers as long as she lives with the Cuthberts, determined to be as good a little girl as she can while having red hair.
Anne asks Marilla to tell her what to say, but Marilla is at a loss for words.
She had intended to teach Anne the childish classic. “Now I lay me down to sleep.” But she had, as I have told you, the glimmerings of a sense of humor – which is simply another name for the fitness of things; and it suddenly occurred to her that that simple little prayer, sacred to white-robed children lisping at motherly knees, was entirely unsuited to this freckled witch of a girl who cared nothing about God’s love, since she had never had it translated to her through the medium of human love.
Anne was always just surviving (physically, emotionally, and spiritually), and she was scared to love others, let alone be loved. Thus, when Marilla awkwardly instructs her how to pray herself, all the blessings she can list are natural beauties like “the Lake of Shining Waters”, or even the potted geranium – she doesn’t even think to include Matthew, whom she previously declared to be a “kindred spirit”, although it’s understandable that she wouldn’t view Marilla as a blessing just yet.
“As for the things I want, they’re so numerous that it would take a great deal of time to name them all, so I will only mention the two most important. Please let me stay at Green Gables; and please let me be good-looking when I grow up. I remain,
Yours respectfully, ANNE SHIRLEY.”
Marilla is so embarrassed by Anne’s lack of proper prayer etiquette (she remembers after she’s finished that prayers are supposed to end with “Amen”), that Marilla finally resigns herself to raising the girl properly.
“Matthew Cuthbert, it’s about time somebody adopted that child and taught her something. […] I foresee that I shall have my hands full. Well, well, we can’t get through this world without our share of trouble. I’ve has a pretty easy life of it so far, but my time has come at last and I suppose I’ll just have to make the best of it.”
Next time: Anne’s bring-up is begun…