Friday, October 24, 2014

Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter

I'm surprised that I liked this book. Normally I have trouble with children's books because I find them too simplistic or didactic, and this book was definitely both of those. Maybe I'm getting kinder towards children's literature now that I'm going to have a child of my own. (I hope so.)

If you haven't read Pollyanna but have heard someone called "a Pollyanna," then the story is probably much like you would expect. A little girl named Pollyanna, recently orphaned, goes to live with her aunt Polly, a strict, strait-laced woman constantly preaching about duty. The optimistic child runs about town chattering incessantly and teaching everyone she meets (mostly adults--there aren't too many children in the story) about the "Glad Game," the rules of which are simply to find something to be "glad" about in everything. The characters are transformed and everyone learns how to be happy. Until, of course, Pollyanna runs into a hardship that even she can't find anything to be glad about.

In my class, I discussed this book in relation to the Disney adaptation, so that's how I've come to think of it. In the movie, they clearly made an effort to turn Pollyanna into a more ordinary (aka believable) child, one who has tantrums and doesn't always like everybody and doesn't talk every waking moment. The trouble with this is that in the end of the movie, Pollyanna's influence in the town is blown to ridiculous proportions. In the book, Pollyanna's character is just extraordinary enough to make a real difference in the personal lives of several individual friends, particularly those she's closest to--so it makes sense. The Pollyanna in the movie, however, is far too normal to make such a huge dent in the culture of the town (which, by the way, is far more judgmental and prejudiced than the town in the novel).

Understandably, the producers of the film decided that a little more plot was necessary, so they tried to add in several plot points with the adults of the story. Otherwise it would just be a story about a little girl running around making friends, which is hardly what moviegoers want to pay good money for. Well, I suppose that's true, but I prefer the simplicity of the book's plot. Little girls love to read about the daily lives of extraordinary children (at least, I did as a child). I didn't think the story needed any embellishment, and I liked the focus on Pollyanna's uniqueness. I didn't mind the movie, but the book pushed more of the right buttons for me.


  1. I have never read or seen either, but just last week somebody told me I ought to see the movie (or read the book, I presume). I don't know....I love Anne of Green Gables but I always heard that Pollyanna is over-the-top sugar. Maybe I ought to do it as a personal challenge. :D

    1. It is pretty over-the-top, much more so than Anne of Green Gables, I think. I don't know if you would like it! I think I liked it because it reminded me of books I liked as a kid or something. If you do ever read it, I'll be interested to see what you think.

  2. I like the book more than the movie too, though I recently bought a used copy of the movie for my kids for the next time I want to watch something "new" with them.

    I still like reading about the ordinary lives of interesting characters (I call them "slice of life" books), and I definitely favored those as a child. So that could be why I like this.