Monday, July 20, 2015
'Pollyanna + Pollyanna Grows Up' by Eleanor H Porter
2015 Reading Challenge, Week 29 - A Book which is more than 100 years old.
I went nostalgic for this week's challenge. What clinched this choice for me is the publication date, 1915. This just qualifies it, assuming that 'more than' can be inclusive.
My volume includes both Pollyanna and Pollyanna Grows Up, which were both published in 1915.
These were the only two in the series written by the original author, Eleanor H Porter, although other authors, such as Harriet Lummis Smith, did a great job on future Pollyanna titles.
These two are, in fact, among the only titles which can still be found. When I was 13, I had a frustrating time, coercing my parents to drive me around to several antique bookstores across the city, looking for out-of-print copies, to no avail.
Many people have a fair idea of Pollyanna's life philosophy, (see 10 Characters we know without even reading the books), so I'm always keen to encourage friends to read the actual books, to see if their opinions change.
This book deserves its position as a children's classic.
The little orphan girl, Pollyanna, is sent to live with her gruff Aunt Polly after the death of her father. What a potential set-up for a sad life outlook, but she manages to transform not only her aunt but many other townspeople with the 'Glad Game' her father taught her. Always look for the silver lining in every cloud and you'll be bound to find it.
I've noticed Pollyanna has been given a bit of a bum rap in recent years. She's almost always poked fun at as an unnaturally, over-the-top optimist, and very rarely do people point us to her as an ideal example of how to live our lives. I think people assume that she refuses to acknowledge the bad side of life at all, choosing to live in a delusional world of denial. Most people probably haven't read the book. That's off track.
Pollyanna doesn't deny the bad. She just chooses to accentuate the good, which seems a healthy way to live. So many people who acknowledge the benefits of this attitude are the same people who say, "I'm not suggesting that you become a Pollyanna." As a matter of fact, I believe they are.
There are other characters with good supporting roles. Aunt Polly was surely a product of the austere nineteenth century. I'm glad I don't come across such sourpusses in the twenty-first century. I like the laugh we got when Pollyanna asked Mr John Pendleton if she could see the skeleton in his closet. And one of my favourite scenes is one which Pollyanna wasn't even in. It's when little Jimmy Bean goes to explain to Aunt Polly why she must let Dr Chilton see Pollyanna.
If you follow modern labels, she's obviously one of those sunny, sanguine children, a true extrovert who gets her energy from rubbing shoulders with other people. But even those of us who are introverts and more on the melancholic or phlegmatic scale can take on board the main theme of Pollyanna in our own way.
Pollyanna Grows Up
This is a fairly entertaining sequel to 'Pollyanna', full of characters from the first book, including Aunt Polly, John Pendleton and Jimmy Bean, who is now Jimmy Pendleton.
In the first half of the book, Pollyanna is sent to stay with Mrs Ruth Carew, a lady in deep depression because her beloved little nephew was taken away by his eccentric father. Even though her brother-in-law has passed away, little Jamie's whereabouts are still unknown. These days he'd be on the missing person files. Ruth can't bear not knowing whether he's suffering, or even dead.
There in Boston, Pollyanna continues her tradition of helping people transform their lives, including Jamie, a crippled boy in a wheelchair, who might even turn out to be Mrs Carew's lost nephew. Although Jamie plays his own version of Pollyanna's 'Game', he's not as good at it as she is. Possibly because he seems to have the typecast despondent, creative temperament of a literary author.
In the second half, Pollyanna is in her early twenties. Jamie and Jimmy have grown up too, of course, so there is plenty of romance in the air. Aunt Polly is now a widow, and back to her crabby old self. All sorts of lovers' tangles and mix-ups take place. There were so many, "So-and-so is madly in love with So-and-So's" which were way off track, while it's probably clear to every reader how the three couples are going to end up being paired off.
Pollyanna turns out to be a very dutiful girl, who will defer to her elders when it comes to choosing a spouse. It's a dated outlook (thankfully), which I doubt modern young readers would go for or understand. She ends up with the man her heart chooses, but only after clearing it with Aunt Polly, then Uncle John first! It wasn't easy.
There are a few loose ends, which tighter, more modern editing might have addressed. When the identity of Ruth's nephew is finally revealed, nobody seems to think of telling her sister, Della the nurse, who surely deserved to know the truth as much as Ruth. It bothered me that she wasn't on the very small list of people who would learn the secret.
Still, I was glad Pollyanna ended up with the guy who was perfect for her, which says a lot for him, as Pollyanna is such a super-heroine. If I'd been Pollyanna, I would have been tempted to rub it in with Aunt Polly. But being Pollyanna, and being a wholesome, early twentieth century plot, she found a way to please her aunt and get her man at the same time.
Overall, it's the sort of book which can get away with being extreme and predictable in its plot based on its vintage, which modern novels can't.