Literature / Pollyanna

If you're looking for the character type, go to The Pollyanna.

Pollyanna, a novel by Eleanor Porter, is the first of a series of thirteen novels known as "The Glad Books", about an orphaned girl living with her aunt in the early 20th century. Young Pollyanna goes by a philosophy called "The Glad Game" where she finds something to be glad about in every situation. Combined with her sunny personality, her presence helps to reform her dismal town and, most effectively, her miserable aunt.

The novel was an instant success, warranting twelve sequels by different authors and passing the name "Pollyanna" itself into the vernacular to describe the archetype she embodies. It was adapted into Movies and tv series several times including a 1920 silent movie starring Mary Pickford, a 1986 Anime series as part of the World Masterpiece Theater series and perhaps most famously made into a film by Disney starring Hayley Mills as much as a 1989 TV movie (and its 1990 sequel) also released by Disney featuring Keshia Knight Pulliam from The Cosby Show as a African-american Pollyanna, still playing The Glad Game.

After Porter abandoned the "Glad Books" series, it was taken over by first Harriet Lummis Smith, then Elizabeth Borton, Margaret Piper Chalmers and finally Virginia May Moffatt. Later books took Pollyanna into marriage, motherhood and war, not to mention living in places as disparate as a tenement in New York, a castle in Mexico, and Hollywood - playing "The Glad Game" and warming others' lives all along.

Provides Examples Of:

  • Adaptation Name Change: The book's Mr Pendelton and Thomas Chilton become Mr Prendergast and Edmund Chilton in the Disney film. Likewise the town was Beldingsville in the book - and becomes Harrington Falls in the film.
  • Age Lift: The other way around. Aunt Polly and Dr Chilton are younger in the Disney movie than in the book, and have not spoken in fifteen years (as opposed to just five).
  • Beneath the Mask: After Dr Chilton gives Polly a "Reason You Suck" Speech, the servants note that it didn't faze her at all. Cut to Polly in her room, where her Proper Lady façade breaks and she cries into her mirror.
  • Bitch Alert: Movie version: Angelica the maid. Also Mrs Tarbell, whose first scene is her complaining about the arrangements on the train.
  • Blithe Spirit: The first book revolves around the title character reforming her town and its inhabitants by teaching them her philosophy.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Movie example. The women in Aunt Polly's household - Nancy (blonde), Polly (brunette), Angelica (redhead). And Tilly adds some grey hair to the equation too.
  • Break the Cutie: Well, the Universe seems to be trying... At the end, almost succeeding.
  • Brick Joke: Movie: When Pollyanna and Jimmy are in Mr Pendergast's house he randomly feels Jimmy's hair and says "don't they ever cut your hair in that orphanage". This then shifts to a dramatic scene with Aunt Polly and about 20 minutes later we see Jimmy and Prendegast in the barber shop.
  • Canon Foreigner: The Disney film adds in a sour maid called Angelica in Aunt Polly's house, as well as a cook called Tilly. Likewise Nancy is given a sweetheart called George that Polly wishes to suppress.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': In the movie, Pollyanna falls off the roof and paralyzes herself while sneaking back into the house from a town gathering Aunt Polly forbade her from going to. Crosses over with Too Dumb to Live because she was safe but went out to fetch a prize she won at the fair only to fall off the roof.
  • Cheerful Child
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Three main examples. There's Mrs Snow, the crabby old woman convinced she's ill and who is rude to everyone. Also, in the movie only, Angelica, the cynical maid in the house. And of course Aunt Polly herself. Pollyanna defrosts them all.
  • Despair Event Horizon: When this happens to Pollyanna, just about the whole town tries to help. She eventually gets past her Heroic B.S.O.D..
  • Floating Head Syndrome: The Disney version's DVD case.
  • For Happiness: Pollyanna likes everyone and wants them to be happy. She seems to accomplish this goal without realizing the size of her role.
  • Foreshadowing / Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Pollyanna's father taught her the Glad Game when a missionary barrel they received contained a pair of crutches instead of a much-wanted doll. He said she could be glad she didn't need to use them. Near the end of the book (and movie) she finds herself severely crippled, with warnings that she may never walk again...
    • Also, the reason she fell in the first place, resulting in her injury, is because she dropped a doll she won, and overreached herself trying to retrieve it.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Hayley Mills's portrayal of Pollyanna. Hair colour isn't mentioned in the book and she's been portrayed by brunette actresses in other adaptations.
  • Happily Adopted: Several individuals in the series.
  • Happy Ending: Well, duh.
  • Heartwarming Orphan: two in the first book.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Pollyanna can make this happen to anyone. Most notable is Aunt Polly. It's downplayed but the first person Pollyanna sees in the crowd of well-wishers is also the snobby Mrs Tarbell - who had been opposing the bazaar. This time Mrs Tarbell sincerely wishes Pollyanna a recovery.
  • Henpecked Husband: Mr Tarbell, whose wife is a crony of Aunt Polly's.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Pollyanna herself, in the most winsome possible way. She sees everyone as a potential friend, assumes everyone's motivations are all good — and instead of being victimized, she transforms the town as everyone tries to live up to the good she sees in them.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: In Pollyanna Grows Up; for numerous characters.
  • Kissing Cousins: Not literally but, in the movie, Nancy lies saying her lover George is actually her cousin Frank. Pollyanna is not fooled when she sees them kissing.
  • Large Ham: In the movie, Karl Malden as a preacher butchering Jonathan Edwards' "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God".
  • Letting Her Hair Down:
    • In the 1960 movie, Dr. Edmund Chilton says that Aunt Polly was so much nicer when she used to wear her hair down. After an emotional conversation with him, Aunt Polly goes upstairs and lets it down for a moment.
    • In the book, Pollyanna persuades Mrs. Snow and Aunt Polly to let her style their hair and put flowers in it, with much the same effect.
  • Licked by the Dog: Some people find Pollyanna's friendliness to be this, at least at first.
  • Literal-Minded: Pollyanna, as the innocent that she is.
  • Moral Brick: The talk about God throughout the film.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Reverend Ford says this after talking to Pollyanna. He realises how silly he was for listening to Aunt Polly and making people feel horrible at the sermons every week. He resolves to read from 'the happy texts' in the Bible every week from then on.
    • Aunt Polly especially in the movie. Rather than an automobile accident in the book, Pollyanna is crippled while climbing back into her room. Her attic room, that Polly gave her. Sneaking back from a bazaar that Polly forbade her from going to, and actually refused to take her to.
    "That child lies up there because of me!"
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: We see an earlier moment of Pollyanna's cheerful disposition slipping when she finally calls out Mrs. Snow for wasting all her time planning for her death when she should be enjoying life. When she runs out of the room clearly distraught over what just happened, both Mrs. Snow and the undertaker she was having a discussion with felt terrible after seeing the look of despair on Pollyanna's face. This snaps Mrs. Snow out of her fatalist mindset.
  • Plucky Girl: Pollyanna merges this with her own trope and manages to transform an entire town of sourpusses into happy people.
  • The Pollyanna: The Trope Namer.
  • Pre-Approved Sermon: In the 1960 Disney movie version.
  • Remaster: A featurette on the DVD of the Disney version reveals that during The '90s, Disney's film preservation team discovered two problems with the original film elements: the negative suffered color crush due to a faded yellow layer, and the reel containing the Shopping Montage only had separation masters in red and blue, as opposed to red, blue, and green. In order to restore the colors as close as possible to their original appearance, the team had to create their own green separation master, from the un-faded green layer of the negative.
  • Slice of Life: The first two acts of the story don't have much of a plot. It just involves Pollyanna going around meeting various people in the town and winning them over with the Glad Game. The Nostalgia Chick pointed out that this is all very important build-up for Pollyanna's crippling accident and Despair Event Horizon, as well as Aunt Polly's Heel–Face Turn.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Heavily on the idealistic side.
  • Spoiled Sweet: Aunt Polly deconstructs this. She doesn't flaunt her wealth and does try to use it to do good things. However she only does good things out of a stuffy sense of obligation - she feels she has to because she's the wealthiest woman in town. As such the people resent the 'false charity' and it's seen as just another way for Polly to control them. Polly does however learn the true meaning of kindness and is arguably a proper example by the end.
  • Stepford Smiler: While Pollyanna's cheerfulness is mostly genuine, she occasionally shows signs of struggling to maintain that cheerfulness, most notably when she cries while praying to her dead father about how hard it is to be glad all the time and when she gets crippled in an accident and learns that she may never walk again.
  • Sugar and Ice Personality: Angelica the maid in the movie. Although Pollyanna does defrost her, she still remains slightly aloof with the occasional Pet the Dog moment.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Subverted as hard as a trope can be. 12 year old Pollyanna is nothing like your average teenage girl, even your average teenager in an era before there was a concept of adolescence. The "worst" thing she ever does is sit and feel sorry for herself after shattering her legs.
  • Think Happy Thoughts: Pollyanna's "game" involves finding a bright side to even the saddest situations.
  • Tsundere: Mrs Snow and Mr Pendelton (book)/Pendergast (movie) are harsh and cold initially but eventually become good friends with Pollyanna.
  • Villainy-Free Villain: Aunt Polly never does anything evil in the story. At first she merely scolds Pollyanna for her behaviour. She does oppose the town bazaar but not maliciously. Ultimately the entire story is setting up a Heel–Face Turn.
  • When She Smiles:
    • Mrs Snow is initially grumpy and cantankerous. But after Pollyanna tells her off, she goes to work on a patchwork quilt for the bazaar. Her daughter catches her doing it, Mrs Snow smiles at her and Millie doesn't quite believe what she's just seen. We see Mrs Snow smiling a lot more at the bazaar too.
    • Mrs Tarbell spends most of the movie acting as a snobby Proper Lady. As such it's a huge contrast when she's smiling sincerely at the end.
    • Aunt Polly smiles plenty of times in the movie, but it's always slightly vapid and just another relic of her Proper Lady image. However there's a big difference when she sincerely smiles at Pollyanna in the end.