Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pollyanna

Pollyanna  by Eleanor H. Porter
(downloaded as part of 25 classic books on my nook)

I'm not sure what I was expecting when I started to read Pollyanna.  My husband calls me Pollyanna all the time.  After reading the book, I can't imagine anyone truly deserving that name. 

Little Pollyanna, named for her two aunts (Polly and Anna, of course) lost her mother when she was very little. She was raised by her missionary father and the Ladies' Aid society in the community where she and her father lived.  Being a missionary and the daughter of a missionary, times were always tough.  Most of their things came in barrels of donations.  Even when it was hard to do, they were grateful for what they got.  In fact, her father turned it into a game.  The goal was to find something to be glad about in any situation.  Sweet and eternally positive Pollyanna thinks the game is the most fun when it's hard to find something to be happy about.  

When Pollyanna's father dies, she gets sent to live with her Aunt Polly.  Aunt Polly is kind of a hard case. She's the only survivor of her siblings, has inherited all the family wealth, lives in a big house and is a very unhappy woman.  There are rumors that she was in love once, but the staff aren't saying with who or how the relationship ended.  She agrees to take Pollyanna, because she sees it as her duty.

A housemaid who is unhappy with her employer and her job, gets the job of setting up Pollyanna's room.  Not one of the many beautifully appointed rooms in the house, but a corner of the attic. When Aunt Polly sends the maid, Nancy to pick up her niece at the train station, Nancy is livid, but does her job.  When she meets Pollyanna that all changes.  She is so taken by the girl that she vows to always be there for her.  

Pollyanna and her glad game touch everyone in the town. Of course, the one person she wants to prove that she's worthy to, Aunt Polly, is the last to come around. Although, with Pollyanna's simple and sweet way, she has a habit of wearing down Aunt Polly's sharper edges. And, when Pollyanna and her glad game are put to the hardest test ever, all the people that she's touched, which is pretty much all the people there are, come to return the favor.

I was really glad that I read this book at night, in bed, after Mr. O'Donnell went to sleep. I am pretty sure that I cried almost every single page.  It was kind of easy to rationalize, because I'd be crying as Pollyanna told a story to someone, and by the end, the author let you know that they were  crying, too.  I do have a little Pollyanna in me, but the world would be  a much better place if we all did.  I'm not sure if this is a really sweet and affecting story, or if it's the most manipulative piece of literature ever written.  Either way, I think we can all learn a little something from brave, sweet, kind Pollyanna.

I'm not sure how Porter managed it, but I really didn't feel manipulated by this book. Whereas Little Women made me want to scream, throw things and fight against Alcott's overt attempts to brainwash readers, while reading Pollyanna I wondered how it would be possible to transmit just a little bit of her brand of selfless optimism into the collective consciousness.  Porter shows the good in the characters that Aunt Polly looks down her nose at. Sure, she's preaching just as much as Alcott, but it's a kinder, gentler preaching.  It feels more accessible, than being directed to spend your free time being conked over the head by John Bunyan and his heavy handed, completely lacking in all subtlety, The Pilgrim's Progress.  

1 comment:

judy said...

At the risk of sounding like the business who may not be named, I want to tell you that if you liked Pollyanna, you would like Understood Betsy, by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. When I was a kid, I liked all those books where a kid, usually an orphan, overcomes hard things. And I had a mom who was a Pollyanna in her own way. I don't think I ever read this one though.