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.

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:

  • Bitch Alert: Movie version: Angelica the maid.
  • Blithe Spirit: The first book revolves around the title character reforming her town and its inhabitants by teaching them her philosophy.
  • 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.
  • 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 BSOD.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • OOC 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
  • 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.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Heavily on the idealistic side.
  • 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.
  • 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.