Pollyanna sparks almost as much debate as Elsie Dinsmore among bibliophiles. When I first found that out it surprised me, for I loved her book growing up with all my heart and soul, and read it again and again and again. Every year, or sometimes more than once a year, I would go through the familiar adventures of her friendships with Jimmy Bean and Mrs. Snow and Mr. Pendleton, whether in book form or by my favorite audio cassette tape. It's been so long now that I don't even remember where I originally heard of her--she's just been there for years, and I have a well loved copy to prove it.
It was only a couple of years ago that I discovered to my great grief that some people did not like Pollyanna. I loved her cheerful spirit and her unquenchable determination to be grateful for everything God sent her in life. Her simple spirit can be a little jarring next to complicated 19th century British lit, but she's an American classic, and well worth reading.
The BookWhen Pollyanna Whittier's father dies, she is left an orphan and goes to live with her stern Aunt Polly. Grieving over the death of her father, and stuck in a house with a woman who doesn't like children, Pollyanna clings to her father's admonition to 'rejoice and be glad' in all circumstances, trying her best to play the Glad Game in her new surroundings. As Pollyanna's innocent cheer brightens the hearts of sour men and woman, the Glad Game spreads from one person to the next, until her loving gratefulness has touched the hearts of almost everyone around her. Then Pollyanna suffers a tragic accident and can no longer play the Game herself, and the people gather round to try to heal her spirit by showing her all she has done for them.
My ThoughtsPollyanna is such a charming Americana tale. From the little girl's hilarious descriptions of the Ladies' Aid in her church (which I'm afraid have been remembered too well in our family) to Nancy's pessimistic view of Mondays, something about the little details and problems that Porter puts in--the everyday things that Pollyanna finds reasons to be glad about--give a realness and charm to her optimistic view of life.
Eleanor Porter has only one drawback in her writing which I can see, but it's not a big one. Her characters stutter too much, and sometimes you're waiting in agony for them to figure out what they're trying to say. This drawback doesn't appear as much in the Pollyanna books, but in her Miss Billy novels it was a rather noticeable flaw. Certainly not an insurmountable drawback, and a small point all things considered.
By far the most beautiful chapter was when Pollyanna told her minister about her father's rejoicing texts:
"The—what?" The Rev. Paul Ford's eyes left the leaf and gazed wonderingly into Pollyanna's merry little face.
"Well, that's what father used to call 'em," she laughed. "Of course the Bible didn't name 'em that. But it's all those that begin 'Be glad in the Lord,' or 'Rejoice greatly,' or 'Shout for joy,' and all that, you know—such a lot of 'em. Once, when father felt specially bad, he counted 'em. There were eight hundred of 'em."
"Yes—that told you to rejoice and be glad, you know; that's why father named 'em the 'rejoicing texts.'"
"Oh!" There was an odd look on the minister's face. His eyes had fallen to the words on the top paper in his hands—"But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" "And so your father—liked those 'rejoicing texts,'" he murmured.
"Oh, yes," nodded Pollyanna, emphatically. "He said he felt better right away, that first day he thought to count 'em. He said if God took the trouble to tell us eight hundred times to be glad and rejoice, He must want us to do it—some.
If anything, this book shows two things: number one, that all Christians can make the choice to rejoice, because God is in sovereign control over every circumstance. And number two, that Christian young people can be an example to others no matter their age or the age of the people they're ministering to. Sometimes God even uses children (in fact, often He uses children) to show how simple obedience can be, and such is the case with Pollyanna.
The Glad BooksEleanor Porter didn't stop with Pollyanna. I loved Pollyanna Grows Up and her romance with her man. They were perfect for each other, and it was a most enjoyable happily-ever-after tale, perfect for a pick-me-up. But Eleanor wasn't the only one to write about Pollyanna. After her death several authors were commissioned to continue Pollyanna's adventures, ending up with a series called "The Glad Books". There were fourteen in all, including the original two. Unfortunately, I've only been able to read four of the continuations. But Harriet Lummis Smith was a fantastic author, and her Pollyanna of the Orange Blossoms and Pollyanna's Jewels were absolutely genuine and kept in spirit with the other books, carrying on with Pollyanna as a wife and mother. By all means, if you can get hold of any of these books, be sure to pick them up, for they are rare finds in today's market.
The MovieI have faint remembrances of watching the Hayley Mills movie adaptation of this story. But by far my favorite is the British Masterpiece Theatre adaptation, released in 2004 and starring Georgina Terry as Pollyanna. The Brits took the liberty of changing the story from its American setting to a small British town, but they followed the story so faithfully and added such nice expansions that I quite forgave them the country switch. After all, if they can make a movie that stays truer to the spirit and plot than we can, the more power to them, I say. Also, this movie is a good example of screenwriters who chose to add some enhancements to the plot that only bettered the original story, and made it come more alive. Timothy's love for motorcars and his bumbling romance with Nancy may not be in the original story (though he did marry Nancy in Pollyanna Grows Up) but they fit so charmingly with the rest of the tale that I quite like the additions.
By all means, if you enjoy Pollyanna's story you will love this Masterpiece Theatre version. It's a fantastic family-friendly film, contains lots of quotable British wit, and dramatizes the story so beautifully. In fact, if you don't like Pollyanna in book form, you may just like it on the silver screen with a nice British accent to slip it down easy. :)