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In the CBC Television film adaptations of the 1980s, Gilbert Blythe is portrayed by Jonathan Crombie. For the 1934 film adaption, Gilbert is portrayed by Tom Brown. In the Japanese anime adaptation of Anne of Green Gables, he is voiced by Kazuhiko Inoue. For the musical that has run for more than 40 years at the Charlottetown Festival which focuses on Anne and Gilbert's relationship, the CD recording features as Gilbert.
Gilbert is described in the books as being very handsome, with dark, curly hair and hazel eyes. He is tall with a lean build.
In his youth, he seems aware of his good looks and popularity with the girls; perhaps because of this, he sometimes tends to seem a bit smug and self-assured. Anne's dismissal of his affections, however, seems to ground him, and he matures and is well liked by many. Throughout the series, Gilbert is depicted as a fair, practical and reliable man, who is inclined to have a "common sense" view of things. Keenly intelligent, he has a strong wit and sense of humour. As Gilbert matures, he becomes less headstrong and demonstrates a sense of patience and devotion. He eventually becomes a highly respected doctor in the town of Glen St. Mary, PEI, where he lives with his wife Anne and their children, and the family's spinster housekeeper, Susan.
Gilbert Blythe takes an immediate interest in Anne Shirley upon their first meeting and tries to gain her attention; however, when Anne ignores him, he teasingly calls her "Carrots" because of her red hair, unaware of her sensitivity about it. In response, Anne smashes her slate over his head in anger; and despite his attempts to apologize, she refuses to forgive him for several years. Throughout the entire first book, Gilbert repeatedly shows admiration for Anne, but she coldly rebuffs him. She continues her grudge even after he rescues her from the pond after a near-disastrous reenactment of Tennyson's "Lancelot and Elaine". They develop a strong academic rivalry instead (though the competition is entirely goodnatured on Gilbert's side), and Anne gradually acknowledges Gilbert as an intellectual equal; they eventually compete to win scholarships at Queens Academy. Following his time at Queens, Gilbert decides to teach at the Avonlea school to finance his future college education. When one of Anne's caretakers, Matthew, dies of a heart attack, Anne chooses to give up the Avery Scholarship in order to stay at Green Gables and support Marilla. After learning of Anne's predicament, Gilbert, who has always loved Anne, gives up his position so Anne can teach in Avonlea and live at Green Gables with Marilla. Gilbert goes on to teach at the White Sands School and Anne, after learning of his noble act, finally forgives him and they become good friends.
During the two years Anne teaches in Avonlea, Gilbert and Anne become very close. At the end of their teaching 'chapter in life' Anne starts to have stronger feelings towards him, but does not recognize them as love. Gilbert aspires to become a doctor and goes on to study at Redmond College, where he is joined by Anne, freed of personal obligations after the widowed Rachel Lynde moves to Green Gables to keep Marilla company, in Anne of the Island.
Gilbert's feelings for Anne become increasingly apparent during their first year of college, while Anne becomes uncomfortable around him because she believes her feelings for Gilbert are entirely platonic as he does not match her idealized notion of true love, which requires a handsome, melancholy, and over-romanticized hero. However, Anne's jealousy of Gilbert's other potential love interests, her moments of physical attraction for him, and her deep respect and devotion to their friendship suggest that she may be falling in love with him without realizing it.
In their second year of college, Gilbert proposes but Anne refuses him, saying she doesn't care for him "in that way" and that she only wants to be his friend. Disappointed, Gilbert reveals that "your friendship can't satisfy me, Anne. I want your love -- and you tell me I can never have that". Their relationship becomes awkward, especially after Anne meets and is courted by fellow Redmond student Roy Gardner, a man who at first seems to personify her "ideal", although Anne secretly admits to herself that Roy lacks certain qualities and that she and Roy do not share a mutual sense of humour. Gilbert seems to concede defeat and Anne believes that he has become involved with another student, Christine Stuart, who is later revealed to be only a friend. Instead, he focuses his attention to obtaining the Cooper Prize, a prestigious scholarship that will allow him to attend medical school.
Not long after graduation, Gilbert contracts typhoid fever as a result of physically exhausting himself during school. Anne, who has recently refused a proposal of marriage from Roy Gardner after realizing during his proposal that she does not love Roy, is shocked to learn that Gilbert may die. She realizes that she loves and has always loved him ;that "she belonged to him and he to her", and recognizes at last that she mistook her "bond" to Gilbert for strong friendship instead of true love, while her relationship with Roy was merely "flattered fancy."
Gilbert recovers from his illness and resumes his friendship with Anne after learning she refused Roy Gardner. He proposes to her again and she accepts. However, they remain engaged for three years, as Gilbert intends to finish his medical course before marrying her; they correspond regularly in their time apart (Anne of Windy Poplars), while Anne works as a principal at Summerside High School.
The two marry in Anne's House of Dreams, and move to the town of Glen St. Mary, where Gilbert takes over his uncle's medical practice. He proves to be an excellent and well-respected doctor. Their married life is very happy and they have seven children: Joyce (also called Joy; died as an infant), James Matthew (Jem), Walter (who dies during the First World War), Anne and Diana (twins; also called Nan and Di), Shirley (the youngest boy), and Bertha Marilla (called Rilla).
As the series ends, it is 1919 and they are happy; Gilbert is fifty-five and still in love with Anne Shirley sincerely.