For other uses, see Pollyanna (disambiguation)

Pollyanna is a best-selling 1913 novel by Eleanor H. Porter that is now considered a classic of children's literature. The book was such a success that Porter soon produced a sequel, Pollyanna Grows Up (1915). Eleven more Pollyanna sequels, known as "Glad Books", were later published, most of them written by Elizabeth Borton or Harriet Lummis Smith. Further sequels followed, the most recent of which, Pollyanna Plays the Game by Colleen L. Reece, appeared as recently as the mid-1990s.

Pollyanna has been adapted for film several times. Some of the best-known include Disney's 1960 version starring child actress Hayley Mills, who won a special Oscar for the role, and the 1920 version starring Mary Pickford. The most recent incarnation of a Pollyanna character is Poppy, the main character in the 2008 Mike Leigh film Happy-Go-Lucky.

Plot summary

The title character is Pollyanna Whittier, a young orphan who goes to live in Beldingsville, Vermont, with her wealthy but stern Aunt Polly. Pollyanna's philosophy of life centers on what she calls "The Glad Game", an optimistic attitude she learned from her father. The game consists of finding something to be glad about in every situation. It originated in an incident one Christmas when Pollyanna, who was hoping for a doll in the missionary barrel, found only a pair of crutches inside. Making the game up on the spot, Pollyanna's father taught her to look at the good side of things—in this case, to be glad about the crutches because "we don't need 'em!".

With this philosophy, and her own sunny personality and sincere, sympathetic soul, Pollyanna brings so much gladness to her aunt's dispirited New England town that she transforms it into a pleasant place to live. 'The Glad Game' shields her from her aunt's stern attitude: when Aunt Polly puts her in a stuffy attic room without carpets or pictures, she exults at the beautiful view from the high window; when she tries to "punish" her niece for being late to dinner by sentencing her to a meal of bread and milk in the kitchen with the servant, Nancy, Pollyanna thanks her rapturously because she likes bread and milk, and she likes Nancy.

Soon, Pollyanna teaches some of Beldingsville's most troubled inhabitants to 'play the game' as well, from a querulous invalid named Mrs. Snow to a miserly bachelor, Mr. Pendleton, who lives all alone in a cluttered mansion. Aunt Polly, too— finding herself helpless before Pollyanna's buoyant refusal to be downcast—gradually begins to thaw, although she resists the glad game longer than anyone else.

Eventually, however, even Pollyanna's robust optimism is put to the test when she gets hit by a car and loses the use of her legs. At first she doesn't realise the seriousness of her situation, but her spirits plummet when she accidentally overhears an eminent specialist say that she'll never walk again. After that, she lies in bed, unable to find anything to be glad about. Then the townspeople begin calling at Aunt Polly's house, eager to let Pollyanna know how much her encouragement has improved their lives; and Pollyanna decides she can still be glad that she had legs. The novel ends with Aunt Polly marrying her former lover Dr. Chilton and Pollyanna being sent to a hospital where she learns to walk again and is able to appreciate the use of her legs far more as a result of being temporarily disabled.


The quote is not actually anything that Abraham Lincoln ever said. The quote was made up by the Writer/Director of the 1960 Disney Film (David Swift.) The inscription was imagined by Swift in order to really hammer home a Theme of Redemption and the "Good People," in the scene with Reverend Ford.

Despite mixed perceptions of its literary merit, Pollyanna has proved to be both enduringly popular and, in unexpected ways, influential.

The novel's success brought the term "" (along with the adjective "pollyannaish" and the noun "Pollyannaism") into the language to describe someone who is cheerfully optimistic and who always maintains a generous attitude toward the motives of other people. It also became, by extension—and contrary to the spirit of the book—a derogatory term for a naïve optimist who always expects people to act decently, despite strong evidence to the contrary.

The word "pollyanna" may also denote a holiday gift exchange more typically known as Secret Santa. This term is used in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas of Pennsylvania. It can instead mean a gift exchange rotation in which several families each give gifts to one other family in the "pollyanna" each year. This is often done when siblings in a large family begin to have children of their own.

Pollyanna is still available in reprint editions. At the height of her popularity, Pollyanna was known as "The Glad Girl", and Parker Brothers even created The Glad Game, a board game based on the book and character. The Glad Game, a type of Parcheesi, was made and sold from 1915 to 1967 in various versions, including: "Pollyanna - The Glad Game"; "Pollyanna - The Great Home Game"; "Pollyanna - Dixie"; and "Pollyanna". The board game was later licensed by Milton Bradley but has been discontinued for many years.

"Glad Clubs" appear to have been popular for a while; however, it is questionable if they were ever more than a publicity gimmick. The Glad Clubs may have been simply a means to popularise the use of The Glad Game as a method for coping with the vicissitudes of life—loss, disappointment, and distress. Nevertheless, at least one "glad club" exists today, in Denver, Colorado.

In 2002, the citizens of Littleton, New Hampshire unveiled a bronze statue in honour of Eleanor H. Porter, one of the town's most famous residents. The statue depicts a smiling Pollyanna, arms flung wide in greeting. Littleton also hosts a festival known as "The Official Pollyanna Glad Day" every summer.

List of Pollyanna books

Glad Books

  • Porter, Eleanor H.
    • Pollyanna: The First Glad Book
    • Pollyanna Grows Up: The Second Glad Book
  • Smith, Harriet Lummis
    • Pollyanna of the Orange Blossoms: The Third Glad Book
    • Pollyanna's Jewels: The Fourth Glad Book
    • Pollyanna's Debt of Honor: The Fifth Glad Book
    • Pollyanna's Western Adventure: The Sixth Glad Book
  • Borton, Elizabeth
    • Pollyanna in Hollywood: The Seventh Glad Book
    • Pollyanna's Castle in Mexico: The Eighth Glad Book
    • Pollyanna's Door to Happiness: The Ninth Glad Book
    • Pollyanna's Golden Horseshoe: The Tenth Glad Book
    • Pollyanna and the Secret Mission: The Fourteenth Glad Book [written out of sequence]
  • Chalmers, Margaret Piper
    • Pollyanna's Protegee: The Eleventh Glad Book
  • Moffitt, Virginia May
    • Pollyanna at Six Star Ranch: The Twelfth Glad Book
    • Pollyanna of Magic Valley: The Thirteenth Glad Book

Further sequels

  • Reece, Colleen L.
    • ''Pollyanna Comes Home
    • Pollyanna Plays the Game


Film, TV, or theatrical adaptations

Pollyanna has been filmed several times. Notable adaptations have been a silent version, starring Mary Pickford, and a Walt Disney film released in 1960 starring English actress Hayley Mills in the title role (which made her a Hollywood star and led to a Disney contract). The 1960 film was shot at the McDonald Mansion (aka Mableton Mansion) on McDonald Avenue in what was then the small town of Santa Rosa, California. It was directed by David Swift.

There have also been several TV adaptations of the novel. The most recent, originally broadcast in 2003 on ITV, starred Georgina Terry as Pollyanna and Amanda Burton as Aunt Polly. Nippon Animation of Japan released Ai Shoujo Pollyanna Monogatari (The Story of Pollyanna, Girl of Love), a fifty one-episode anime TV series that made up the 1986 installment of the studio's World Masterpiece Theater, and had famous singer Mitsuko Horie playing the role of Pollyanna. There was also a modernized version with an African-American cast entitled Polly, which later had a sequel (Polly: Coming Home)

1960 film

The 1960 film was a major hit for the Disney Studios, and gave a tremendous boost to the career of Hayley Mills. It also marked the last film appearance of noted Hollywood actor Adolphe Menjou, who played the hermit-like Mr. Pendergast, who is eventually brought out of his shell by Pollyanna and her friend Jimmy.

The film was quite faithful to the novel. One marked difference from the book (and the 1920 silent version with Mary Pickford) was the treatment of Pollyanna's accident. Originally, she is paralysed when she is hit by a car, while in the Disney film, the accident occurs because she is sneaking home from a local festival she has been forbidden to attend, and falls when she tries to re-enter her room by climbing the tree outside her bedroom window. Additionally, the ending has been altered slightly; it is never made clear whether or not she is able walk again (unlike the original book, the film never had a sequel).

1989 film

Disney's 1989 Made-for-tv musical adaption, originally airing on The Disney Channel (before it began airing commercials). It featured a mainly African-American cast. It was followed by a sequel: "Polly: Coming Home".

References in popular culture

  • In a song by The Kinks, "Pretty Polly" ...
  • In an episode of NPR's Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me, host Peter Sagal refers to Dick Cheney as being a "Pollyanna with a pacemaker".
  • Pollyanna is the second album by the band Northstar.
  • Paul Reubens, in the DVD commentary for Pee Wee's Big Adventure, stated that he originally intended Big Adventure to be a retelling of the Disney movie with his Pee Wee Herman character in the Hayley Mills role.
  • In Sex and the City, Carrie refers to Charlotte as a "Park Avenue Pollyanna".
  • In Six Feet Under (Rainbow of her Reasons [5.6]), Keith nicknames David "Miss Pollyanna" after he offers a Playstation to his adopted kids so that they can have fun and enjoy themselves. "Everything is about fun with you", comments Keith.
  • In the second issue of the first volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Pollyanna appears as a character who has been "mishandled" by the Invisible Man. In spite of this, she still determines to remain upbeat. Pollyanna's appearance is at odds with internal chronology, considering LoEG occurs in 1898. Pollyanna was not born until 1901, being eleven in 1912.
  • In the recent commercial advertising campaign for the Texas Instruments DLP televisions, the " It's the mirrors" scene is used. In fact, the line has been officially adopted as the tag line for the advertising campaign.
  • Alanis Morissette has a song called "Pollyanna Flower".
  • Larry Tagg has a song "Oh, Pollyanna" on his "With a Skeleton Crew" album, which he describes as "a bitter song"
  • Erma Bombeck once used the line "Oh, quit being such a Pollyanna" in her humor column.
  • In Sylvia Plath's novel The Bell Jar, a pleasant, cheery Midwestern farm girl is referred to repeatedly as "Pollyanna Cowgirl" by a more worldly friend.
  • "Pollyanna" is a song from the video game Mother and the tune is also a prevalent theme in its popular sequel EarthBound.
  • "Pollyanna" is a 90's indie guitar 3 piece from Melbourne, Australia.
  • In Doris Day's song Everybody Loves a Lover 1963 she sings "I feel just like a Pollyanna"
  • "Pollyanne" is the fifth track from the 1997 Meredith Brooks album Blurring the Edges.


Further reading

  • Keith, Lois. Take Up Thy Bed and Walk: Death, Disability and Cure in Classic Fiction for Girls. Routledge: 2001.

External links

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