Friday, October 4, 2013


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 Book
When 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 Thoughts
Pollyanna 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."
"Eight hundred!"
"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.
He must want us to do it--some. Indeed. I loved Pollyanna, because she made the choice to rejoice and be glad no matter what came to her in life, and others followed her example so well that they in turn could lift her up when she could not do it on her own.

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 Books
Eleanor 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 Movie
I 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. :)

Lady Bibliophile


  1. Aw, I love Pollyanna! It was so much fun watching the movie on your birthday and it made me pick up the book-for the second time this year!
    Do you have Pollyanna Grows Up?
    Pollyanna has such a grateful spirit and she's one of my favorite book characters! :D
    I liked Timothy's character in the movie. ;) He's so much fun. Do you like the book or the movie better? I first saw the movie before I read the book, so I'm rather partial to it, but I like them both because they each have their own kind of charm. :D

    1. I do have Pollyanna Grows Up, and you are more than welcome to borrow it if you like, along with the other two Glad Books I own. :D
      I'm not sure which I like better, to be honest--the movie or the book--it's so special to see a favorite story faithfully adapted to screen, so they're almost equally intertwined, in my opinion. :)

      Love and cuddles,

  2. I love this story, too. It's a great one for refreshening one's perspective. It's so easy to look at life "realistically" (i.e. without God). It takes effort to rejoice and be glad, but it's effort in the right direction. Pollyanna is such a sweet, loving character. I've enjoyed reading it multiple times!

    I second the recommendation that Lady B makes about the newest movie version. It is very well done. The musical scoring and setting are delightful. I believe that this was the first major part for Georgina Terry, too.

    One of my favorite funny lines in the movie: Character A: Go to your room! Character B: Which one? (Slightly impertinent response, but will be best understood in context)

    1. There are so many funny lines. :D

      "Do I remind you of a Ladies Aid?"

      "Shall we play for money?"

      Character A: "I have something for you."
      Character B: "It isn't part of a car, is it?"
      Character A (wounded expression): "No. No, it's not that."

      And when Pollyanna's describing the fly pamphlet to her aunt over breakfast--that's priceless. XD

      Oh, and--

      Character A: "How do you like my new trousers, Doctor Chilton?"
      Character B: "Very nice. It's not everyone who can look good in tartan."

      Oh yes, the Brits did a good job with this one. :)

  3. Ooohh!! *ecstatic gasp of delight* I love Pollyanna <3 :). It is such a beautiful story, and I can't understand how people don't like her story - I think Pollyanna is such an endearing character - and her choice to always be glad and make everyone around her happy - to rejoice in all things, in all circumstances just as God commands in His Word, is a great example and so sweet under the difficult *realistic* circumstances she faces bravely and with joy! :) Only this morning I read in my Bible the book of Colossions and was impressed with how often we are commanded to GIVE THANKS... :). So often the world can pull us down with its negativity and murmuring discontent so that we forget to see the silver linings - the good and beautiful in our lives. So oh yes, Pollyanna is a dearly favourite character!

    I read Pollyanna Grows Up and you are right - it is so sweet!! But it made me laugh often over how absurdly everyone was misunderstanding the real situation in regards to the affections of everyone... But I didn't know there were other Glad Books as sequels by different authors. Oh my! I must look those up :). Great review, Schuyler, I am so glad you made a review of this book :)). I have to read more books by Porter in the future too.

    I am so glad you watched and loved Pollyanna 2004 movie adaption as well - it is a great adaption; it is my favourite too!!! Georgina Terry was perfect for Pollyanna, and I personally loved how it was set in England and had British actors ;). The witty bits of dialogue (especially from Aunt Polly) was such a delightful spice to the movie, and sweet Nancy and bumbling Tim were so cute - and the music score is BEAUTIFUL.



    1. HAHA!! Yes. The movie always starts out with a general chuckle from that quote. And when Timothy's singing the praises of the motorcar and he says "It keeps the flies off. It goes so fast they can't keep up." I just laugh and laugh.

      I found all the misunderstandings in Pollyanna Grows Up quite amusing as well. ;) That's one of Porter's trademarks, actually--misunderstandings--and appears in almost every plot line of her adult novels.

      I think the beautiful thing about Pollyanna is her unquenchable determination that there is something in everything to be glad about. We are taught that gladness is not realistic; that to be real you have to be dour and sour and look at the world through an expectation of impending doom. I think that's why Pollyanna's simplicity grates on some people. Gladness is too simple. But God's choices always are simple; it's only when we walk by sight instead of faith that things get complicated.

      I have you on my email list, my dear, and you'll be hearing from me soon!


  4. Oh, yes, "DEAD FLIES!" :) (I wish you could really laugh out loud on Blogger)

  5. "DEAD FLY"

    I believe that was the most frequently quoted line in our house. :D I love this movie and book. Mrs. Snow (I think that was her name) was quite the character herself, too. ;) Reading through your post and the comments has brought back good memories. Maybe we should watch this again soon. :D

    Great post, Schuyler! :)


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