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First edition cover
Author Eleanor H. Porter
Publisher L.C. Page
Publication date
OCLC 33897078
Followed by Pollyanna Grows Up

Pollyanna is a best-selling 1913 novel by Eleanor H. Porter that is now considered a classic of children's literature, with the title character's name becoming a popular term for someone with the same very optimistic outlook.[1] Also, the subconscious bias towards the positive is often described as the Pollyanna principle. 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, including Pollyanna Plays the Game by Colleen L. Reece, published in 1997.

Pollyanna has been adapted for film several times. Some of the best known are Disney's 1960 version starring child actress Hayley Mills, who won a special Oscar for the role, and the 1920 version starring Mary Pickford.


  • Plot summary 1
  • Influence 2
  • List of Pollyanna books 3
    • Glad Books 3.1
    • Further sequels 3.2
  • Adaptations 4
    • League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 4.1
    • 1920 film 4.2
    • 1960 film 4.3
    • 1973 serial 4.4
    • 1986 TV series 4.5
    • 1989 film 4.6
    • 2003 film 4.7
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7

Plot summary

The title character is named Pollyanna Whittier, a young orphan who goes to live in Beldingsville, Vermont, with her wealthy but stern and cold spinster Aunt Polly, who does not want to take in Pollyanna, but feels it is her duty to her late sister. Pollyanna's philosophy of life centers on what she calls "The Glad Game," an optimistic and positive attitude she learned from her father. The game consists of finding something to be glad about in every situation, no matter how bleak it may be. 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 didn't need to use them!"

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 is struck by an automobile and loses the use of her legs. At first she doesn't realize the seriousness of her situation, but her spirits plummet when she is told what happened to her. 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 at least has had her 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 and unable to walk.


"When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will."[2]

Although a quote similar to this was attributed to Abraham Lincoln and inserted by the director into the 1960 Disney movie version of the story, it is actually, as written here, from the original book and not attributed.[3]

As a result of the novel's success, the adjective "Pollyannaish" and the noun "Pollyannaism"[4] became popular terms for a personality type characterised by irrepressible optimism evident in the face of even the most adverse or discouraging of circumstances. It is sometimes used pejoratively, referring to someone whose optimism is excessive to the point of Ira Gershwin song But Not For Me: "I never want to hear from any cheerful pollyannas/who tell me fate supplies a mate/that's all bananas." (performed by Judy Garland in the 1943 movie Girl Crazy)[5]

The word "pollyanna" may also be used colloquially to denote a holiday gift exchange more typically known as Secret Santa, especially in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas. [6]

Pollyanna is still available in reprint editions.[7] At the height of her popularity, Pollyanna was known as "The Glad Girl", and Parker Brothers even created The Glad Game, a board game.[8] The Glad Game, a type of Parcheesi, was made and sold from 1915 to 1967 in various versions, similar to the popular UK board game Ludo.[9] The board game was later licensed by Milton Bradley but has been discontinued for many years. A Broadway adaptation was mounted in 1916 titled "Pollyanna Whittier, The Glad Girl".[10] Helen Hayes was the star [11]

Author Jerome (Jerry) Griswold analysed Pollyanna together with juvenile 'heroes' in several well-known children's books, e.g., Little Lord Fauntleroy, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and The Secret Garden from the era known as the Golden Age of Children's Books (approximately the American Civil War to World War I). With reference to the Theory of the Three Lives of the Child Hero, he posits that, in Pollyanna, clear oedipal tensions exist, albeit in disguised or projected forms, in the relationships between the child, her Aunt and the principal male adult characters, which are only resolved by the Aunt marrying Dr. Chilton at the end of the story. He calls Pollyanna 'a complex novel replete with disguises' and sees Pollyanna, not as a naïve child but, rather, as a gifted individual with the ability to direct her extreme optimism and good-naturedness (for the good) towards the manipulating of the negative, worldly, cynical or disillusioned emotions of the adults that inhabit her life.[12]

"Glad Clubs" appear to have been popular for a while; however, it is questionable if they were ever more than a publicity gimmick. Glad Clubs may have been simply a means to popularize The Glad Game as a method for coping with the vicissitudes of life such as loss, disappointment, and distress. Nevertheless, at least one "glad club" existed as recently as 2008, in Denver, Colorado.[13]

In 2002 the citizens of Littleton, New Hampshire unveiled a bronze statue in honour of Eleanor H. Porter, author of the Pollyanna books and 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.[14]

The celebrated American science fiction writer Ray Bradbury described himself as "Janus, the two-faced god who is half Pollyanna and half Cassandra, warning of the future and perhaps living too much in the past—a combination of both".[15]

The video game series Mother and Super Smash Bros. features a song in every game of the series, besides Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64 titled "Pollyanna (I Believe in You)". The song is a reference to the novel and a lyrical version produced and released on a soundtrack CD that reinforces the reference in the lyrics.[16]

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 the game
    • 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


League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

"Polly" Whittier appears in Allan Moore's comic The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume 1. She is shown to retain her optimistic outlook despite being victimised by the fictional character Griffin (The Invisible Man)

1920 film

The 1920 American silent melodrama/comedy film Pollyana starred Mary Pickford and was directed by Paul Powell. It was Pickford's first motion picture for United Artists. It became a major success and would be regarded as one of Pickford's most defining pictures. The film grossed $1.1 million (approximately $12,950,000 today).[17]

1960 film

A Walt Disney film Pollyana was 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.

The film was a major hit for the Disney Studios. 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 only somewhat 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 paralyzed 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. The characters have been altered; in the book Aunt Polly does not run the town and is hardly as ruthless or controlling. The town in the movie is named "Harrington", but in the book is called "Beldingsville". The idea of the orphanage and the bazaar with Dr. Chilton and the townsfolk opposing the charity of the rich are not found in the novel. This movie has Jimmy Bean in a far bigger role than the book does. Mr. Pendergast (Mr. Pendleton in the book) has a much more prominent role. Additionally, the ending has been altered slightly; in the movie it is never made clear whether or not she is able to walk again (unlike the original book, the film never had a sequel).

1973 serial

The BBC produced a six-part TV serial in 1973 starring Colyton Grammar School pupil Elizabeth Archard as Pollyanna and Elaine Stritch as Aunt Polly. This was run on the Sunday tea-time slot, where they often ran fairly faithful adaptations of classic novels aimed at a family audience. However it followed the Disney film by having Pollyana injured in a fall from a tree.

1986 TV series

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.

1989 film

There was also a modernized made-for-TV musical version made by Disney (originally airing on NBC) in 1989 with an African-American cast entitled Polly, which later had a sequel (Polly: Coming Home).

2003 film

A 2003 Georgina Terry as Pollyanna is very faithful to the book, with one or two minor differences that do not affect the accuracy of the plot. It uses the original characterizations and storylines, but takes place in an English village rather than Vermont (only the scenery and accents show this—the town is still called Beldingsville). Like the book, it ends with Aunt Polly and Dr. Chilton married and Pollyanna walking, but the scene is the actual wedding with Pollyanna back for a visit rather than a letter as in the book.


  1. ^ "Pollyanna: Spirit of Optimism Born Out of War". NPR. Retrieved 2010-09-26. 
  2. ^ "Pollyanna (1960) - Quotes". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 10 October 2014. 
  3. ^ - chapter XXII - "When you look for the bad, expecting it, you will get it. When you know you will find the good—you will get that.... "
  4. ^ pollyannaish and pollyannaism: same page of (n.d.). Unabridged. Retrieved March 06, 2015, from website:
  5. ^
  6. ^ Michael Quinion. "POLLYANNA". World Wide Words (Michael Quinion). Archived from the original on January 25, 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-25. 
  7. ^ retrieved 6 March 2015
  8. ^ (c) - retrieved 6 March 2015. Marked as 'Free to Share and Use' by Bing Images
  9. ^ - retrieved 6 March 2015
  10. ^ - retrieved 6 March 2015
  11. ^ - retrieved 6 March 2015
  12. ^ Audacious Kids: Coming of Age in America's Classic Children's Books pub. Johns Hopkins University Press in 1992 - revd. edn. 15 Sept. 2014 - ISBN 978-1421414577 - retrieved 6 March 2015
  13. ^ "The Pollyanna Glad Club". Archived from the original on August 20, 2009. 
  14. ^ 2 (Littleton's Pollyanna Glad Days)
  15. ^ Weller, Sam (Spring 2010). "Ray Bradbury, The Art of Fiction No. 203". The Paris Review. Interview (192). Retrieved June 7, 2012. 
  16. ^ Gann, Patrick (2009-08-07). "Mother (2004)". RPGFan. Archived from the original on 2013-10-02. Retrieved 2009-09-30. 
  17. ^ American Experience | Mary Pickford | People & Events | PBS

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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