Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sunday Salon: Reading Pollyanna (1913)

Pollyanna. Eleanor H. Porter. 1913. 304 pages.

This was my first time to read the novel Pollyanna, and I just loved it. True, Pollyanna doesn't really come close to matching Anne of Green Gables in my affections. But. Perhaps given enough rereads, Pollyanna could do quite well! Pollyanna is a nearly flawless character, unlike Anne, thanks in part to her always playing the glad game. She's an orphan; she's traveled across the country to live with an aunt who is merely doing her duty, yet, Pollyanna finds reasons to rejoice for that is what the Lord would have us do at all times. It is what her Father taught her. Rejoice in the Lord, always, again I say rejoice!

As Pollyanna meets Nancy, Aunt Polly, Mrs. Snow, Jimmy Bean, and plenty of other characters including "the Man" (Mr. Pendleton) and a charming doctor (Dr. Chilton), she slowly but surely starts changing lives for the better. For her merry spirit is contagious and she soon has everyone--almost everyone--playing the glad game too. Readers get various examples of the glad game, my particular favorite being the occasion where Nancy learns to appreciate her name and to be glad that it isn't Hephzibah!
"Well, anyhow," she chuckled, "you can be glad it isn't 'Hephzibah.'"
"Yes. Mrs. White's name is that. Her husband calls her 'Hep,' and she doesn't like it. She says when he calls out 'Hep—Hep!' she feels just as if the next minute he was going to yell 'Hurrah!' And she doesn't like to be hurrahed at."
Nancy's gloomy face relaxed into a broad smile.
"Well, if you don't beat the Dutch! Say, do you know?—I sha'n't never hear 'Nancy' now that I don't think o' that 'Hep—Hep!' and giggle. My, I guess I AM glad—" She stopped short and turned amazed eyes on the little girl. "Say, Miss Pollyanna, do you mean—was you playin' that 'ere game THEN—about my bein' glad I wa'n't named Hephzibah'?"
Pollyanna frowned; then she laughed.
"Why, Nancy, that's so! I WAS playing the game—but that's one of the times I just did it without thinking, I reckon. You see, you DO, lots of times; you get so used to it—looking for something to be glad about, you know. And most generally there is something about everything that you can be glad about, if you keep hunting long enough to find it."
"Well, m-maybe," granted Nancy, with open doubt.
 I did enjoy the character of Pollyanna. I enjoyed her point of view. I loved some of her insights, especially her insights on living...
"Oh, but Aunt Polly, Aunt Polly, you haven't left me any time at all just to—to live."
"To live, child! What do you mean? As if you weren't living all the time!"
"Oh, of course I'd be BREATHING all the time I was doing those things, Aunt Polly, but I wouldn't be living. You breathe all the time you're asleep, but you aren't living. I mean living—doing the things you want to do: playing outdoors, reading (to myself, of course), climbing hills, talking to Mr. Tom in the garden, and Nancy, and finding out all about the houses and the people and everything everywhere all through the perfectly lovely streets I came through yesterday. That's what I call living, Aunt Polly. Just breathing isn't living!"
"Well, as near as I can judge, there are a good many things you 'love' to do—eh?" he added, as they drove briskly away.
Pollyanna laughed.
"Why, I don't know. I reckon perhaps there are," she admitted. "I like to do 'most everything that's LIVING. Of course I don't like the other things very well—sewing, and reading out loud, and all that. But THEY aren't LIVING."
"No? What are they, then?"
"Aunt Polly says they're 'learning to live,'" sighed Pollyanna, with a rueful smile.
The doctor smiled now—a little queerly.
"Does she? Well, I should think she might say—just that."
"Yes," responded Pollyanna. "But I don't see it that way at all. I don't think you have to LEARN how to live. I didn't, anyhow."
The doctor drew a long sigh.
"After all, I'm afraid some of us—do have to, little girl," he said.
School, in some ways, was a surprise to Pollyanna; and Pollyanna, certainly, in many ways, was very much of a surprise to school. They were soon on the best of terms, however, and to her aunt Pollyanna confessed that going to school WAS living, after all—though she had had her doubts before.  
And I did enjoy the moral message of this one:
 “Oh, yes," nodded Pollyanna, emphatically. He [her father] 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 [in the Bible] to be glad and rejoice, He must want us to do it - SOME.”
What I loved most about this one is that it was not like the (Disney) movie at all. The characters may have the same names, but, the characters, the stories, are so much better in the book! The details were just off, in my opinion, in the movie. And HOW she becomes paralyzed is very, very different. Jimmy Bean is also, to my relief, very different. (He's not the most annoying person ever.)

I didn't think I'd love the writing and the characters as much as I did. I would definitely recommend this one!

Eleanor H. Porter also wrote one sequel to Pollyanna, Pollyanna Grows Up. (Other authors later wrote sequels to this novel including: Harriet Lummis Smith, Elizabeth Borton, Margaret Piper Chalmers, Virginia May Moffitt, etc.) She also is the author of Just David. 

Have you read Pollyanna? What did you think? Do you have a favorite character? a favorite scene?

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


amanda @ simplerpastimes 12:48 PM  

I confess, I've only ever seen the Disney movie of this one--and aren't the Disney versions always different?! It's one I should make an effort to read though, as Pollyanna sounds quite charming.

Kate Midnight Book Girl 5:30 PM  

Wow, this was one of my favorite movies growing up (I was briefly obsessed with Hayley Mills when I was a kid and watched this and Parent Trap endless times), but I didn't even know it was a book! I'll have to track it down, because I believe you when you say it's better than the movie! Thanks for the review and bringing this book to my attention!

Petra 4:58 PM  

I loved Pollyanna growing up--both the book and the film, even if they are different. I read the sequel a year or two ago, though, and found it a little too cliche and melodramatic for my taste. I didn't know other authors had written their own continuations of the story, though.

Carissa 12:05 PM  

I have never read Pollyana but you're making me want to. It does sound very different from Anne of Green Gables. I always liked Anne because of her imperfections, so I'm never quite sure what to do with naturally cheerful, and ideal children. Pollyanna sounds angelic. This one's going on my bucket list. :)

QNPoohBear 2:37 PM  

I read this book when I was a kid and again recently. It's not as good as Anne but I liked it. There are several movie versions. The most faithful is a British TV production that aired on PBS a few years ago. My favorite is the Disney 1950s set Polly starring the youngest Cosby kid and even Felicia Rashad (Claire Huxtable) as Aunt Polly.

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