Anne Shirley is by far the most well-known character Lucy Maud Mongomery wrote of. The red-haired orphan with a hot temper is adopted by Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, unmarried siblings, who don't want a girl- they want a boy to help on the Green Gables farm!
- SPOILERS AHEAD! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!
When Anne Shirley is adopted by the Cuthberts, she never dreams she will one day marry childhood rival Gilbert Blythe, become bosom friends with Diana Barry, have six children, or live through the Great War. Not long after her birth, both parents, Walter and Bertha Shirley, die, leaving baby Anne an orphan. She goes through hard times at the Thomas' , Hammond's and the Hopetown orphan asylum.
Her stories begin with Anne of Green Gables, where at age eleven she is adopted, and becomes friends with Diana Barry, but also chumming with the likes of the sensible and prim Jane Andrews and beautiful, frivolous Ruby Gillis. In this book, she also begins the long feud and rivalry with Gilbert Blythe when he calls her 'carrots', referring to her red hair. Anne then smashes a slate over his head. Anne's many hopeless escapades and her fiery temper often land her in trouble, and once she even sets Diana drunk by accident, giving her five tumbler fulls of red currant wine, fondly believing it to be the rasberry cordial Marilla had made ready. Mrs Barry is indignant over this and does not let Anne and Diana see each other for a long time thereafter. Eventually, Mrs Barry forgives her when Anne saves Diana's young sister, Minnie May, from the croup. Near the end of the book, Anne goes to Queen's with fellow students Gilbert Blythe, Jane Andrews and Ruby Gillis, but breaks her heart over leaving Diana at home. Anne also meets new friends Stella Maynard and Priscilla Grant there, who she also becomes long-term friends with. At the end of Queen's, Anne wins the Avery Scholarship, but turns it down after Matthew Cuthbert dies, and Marilla's eyesight starts going downhill. She decides to take up teaching instead, and Gilbert Blythe, who seems to have his eyes on her, takes the White Sands School in order to leave Anne the Avonlea one, so she can be closer to Marilla.
In Anne of Avonlea, Anne becomes the Avonlea school-teacher, teaching genius Paul Irving, and meeting Miss Lavendar Lewis on the way, a middle-aged, kindly woman who lives at the beautiful Echo Lodge. In this book, Anne discovers that at age sixteen, she is still not well and truly done with unfortunate scrapes. She is now close chums with Gilbert, after Anne forgives him at the end of the last book. During Anne's time as "Miss Shirley", Marilla unexpectedly adopts the twins Davy and Dora, and Anne also finds Miss Lavendar's old beau, Stephen Irving, who happens to be Paul's father, and, for the first time, Anne tries her hand at match-making. She looks to be good at it, and the book ties of with a happy wedding.
Anne of the Island brings about a change in Anne's life; she is going off to Redmond College for three years. She is going with old friend Priscilla Grant (as well as Gilbert Blythe lurking somewhere in the background), but during their first week, they meet indecisive Phillipa Gordon, a beautiful girl who can not make up her mind on anything; from what hat to wear and which husband--Alec or Alonzo?--to choose. After the first year, Anne has already had her first two proposals, one from Jane Andrews' sister Billy, and one from the detested Charlie Sloane. The next year, Anne and Pris's old pal Stella Maynard comes, and they, along with Phil, rent a pretty little house called "Patty's Place". Here, Gilbert Blythe romantically proposes to her for the first time, only to be graciously turned down. Soon after this, Anne meets handsome, rich Roy Gardiner, Phil meets and falls in love with homely Jo Blake, and Gilbert is going around with stately Christine Stuart. Before the next year starts, Diana is wed to Fred Wright. The next spring, Roy proposes to Anne, who suddenly realises she can never marry him. Alone again, Anne returns to Green Gables, a fully-fledged B.A., and meets little Fred Wright, Jr., for the first time, and shockingly discovers Gilbert Blythe is on the brink of death with typhoid fever and that sge really does love him after all. Luckily, he recovers, and they are engaged.