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Eleanor H. Porter'sPollyanna

Eleanor H. Porter'sPollyanna: A Children's Classic at 100

Roxanne Harde
Lydia Kokkola
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Eleanor H. Porter'sPollyanna
    Book Description:

    Appearing first as a weekly serial inThe Christian Herald, Eleanor H. Porter'sPollyannawas first published in book form in 1913. This popular story of an impoverished orphan girl who travels from America's western frontier to live with her wealthy maternal Aunt Polly in the fictional east coast town of Beldingsville went through forty-seven printings in seven years and remains in print today in its original version, as well as in various translations and adaptations. The story's enduring appeal lies in Pollyanna's sunny personality and in her glad game, her playful attempt to accentuate the positive in every situation. In celebration of its centenary, this collection of thirteen original essays examines a wide variety of the novel's themes and concerns, as well as adaptations in film, manga, and translation.

    In this edited collection onPollyanna, internationally respected and emerging scholars of children's literature consider Porter's work from modern critical perspectives. Contributors focus primarily on the novel itself but also examine Porter's sequel,Pollyanna Grows Up, and the various film versions and translations of the novel. With backgrounds in children's literature, cultural and film studies, philosophy, and religious studies, these scholars extend critical thinking about Porter's work beyond the thematic readings that have dominated previous scholarship. In doing so, the authors approach the novel from theoretical perspectives that examine what happens when Pollyanna engages with the world around her--her community and the natural environment--exposing the implicit philosophical, religious, and nationalist ideologies of the era in whichPollyannawas written. The final section is devoted to studies of adaptations of Porter's protagonist.

    eISBN: 978-1-62674-072-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-1)
  4. [Illustration]
    (pp. 2-2)
  5. Introduction. Glad to be 100: The Making of a Children’s Classic
    (pp. 3-24)

    Eleanor H. Porter’sPollyannawas first published as a serial in a weekly journal, theChristian Herald, from 27 November 1912 until 19 February 1913.² Later in 1913,Pollyannawas published in book form. This story of an impoverished orphan girl, who travels from America’s western frontier to live with her wealthy maternal aunt, Polly Harrington, in the fictional East Coast town of Beldingsville, went through forty-seven printings in seven years and remains in print in its original version, as well as in various translations and adaptations today. The story’s lasting appeal lies in Pollyanna’s enduringly sunny personality and in...

  6. Part I: Pollyanna’s World

    • 1 “Then just being glad isn’t pro-fi-ta-ble?”: Mourning, Class, and Benevolence in Pollyanna
      (pp. 27-43)

      As early as the tenth short chapter of Eleanor H. Porter’sPollyanna, the novel’s eponymous hero has moved from profound loneliness to being so thoroughly contented that she “often told her aunt, joyously, how very happy [her days] were” (86). Pollyanna’s joy has come, in the main, from the effort she has put into her new community, from her benevolent actions on behalf of its less fortunate members, an effort born of the work of mourning. Even at this early stage of the novel, her glad game has made a difference to several people, and playing it has helped Pollyanna...

    • 2 “Aggressive femininity”: The Ambiguous Heteronormativity of Pollyanna
      (pp. 44-57)

      InSecret Gardens: A Study of the Golden Age of Children’s Literature(1985), Humphrey Carpenter laments the appearance of Louisa May Alcott’sLittle Womenon the literary scene, not because it is inferior in his eyes, but because it begot a generation of “happy happy” girls’ stories. He suggests that the later writers created “a kind of aggressive femininity, which allowed their heroines to charm hearts and get their own way without playing traitor to their sex. This produced the ‘Pollyanna’ or ‘glad girl’ school of writing, featuring girls of unbearable cheerfulness” (98). In a footnote to this sentence, he...

    • 3 “Matter out of place”: Dirt, Disorder, and Ecophobia
      (pp. 58-76)

      At first glance,Pollyannamight not seem like fertile ground for an ecocritical reading. The novel’s focus is very domestic, and “writing nature” as such is conspicuously absent. The literary motif of nature, however, is often seen in novels of the latter part of the nineteenth century and into the early twentieth century. Novels such as Frances Hodgson Burnett’sThe Secret Garden(1911) foster an idealized representation of the countryside as being a “natural” space for the child, utilizing an idyll of the cultivated garden as a safe and controlled space, a space of healing for children and adults alike,...

    • 4 “Ice-cream Sundays”: Food and the Liminal Spaces of Class in Pollyanna
      (pp. 77-95)

      At the beginning ofPollyanna, Nancy is sent to retrieve Pollyanna from the train station and, intrigued by the impression that her aunt may be wealthy, Pollyanna asks Nancy, “Does Aunt Polly have ice-cream Sundays?” (20). Pollyanna equates wealth with luxurious foods such as ice cream sundaes, and at this moment, food transcends its prominent role as basic human sustenance and takes on a deeper social meaning. Pollyanna’s understanding of socio-economic status is interconnected with aspects of food, and these social aspects of food continually surface throughout the novel.Pollyannais a text that is rather restrained in terms of...

    • 5 At Home in Nature: Negotiating Ecofeminist Politics in Heidi and Pollyanna
      (pp. 96-118)

      There is a tradition in children’s literature of connecting orphan girls to redemptive and healing qualities to effect positive social change. Johanna Spyri’s Heidi as the progenitor of such a character is often ignored, perhaps because of the privileging of Anglo-American girls’ texts in the canon of children’s literature.¹ But there is a tradition spanning Western literature, from the SwissHeidi(1880) forward, including, in addition to the AmericanPollyanna(1913) by Eleanor H. Porter, such famous orphan heroines in the girls’ classics asRebecca of Sunnybrook Farm(1903) by American author Kate Douglas Wiggin,Anne of Green Gables(1908)...

  7. Part II: Ideological Pollyanna

    • 6 The “veritable bugle-call”: An Examination of Pollyanna through the Lens of Twentieth-Century Protestantism
      (pp. 121-136)

      Eleanor H. Porter’sPollyannais a text that reflects the United States at a crossroads: the conservative 1800s had ended and the secularizing influence of the world wars was yet to come. The so-called Golden Age of Anglophone children’s literature with its abundance of “quality” texts, written in the latter half of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, was creating a rich foundation upon which children’s novels could build. Children’s books were no longer constricted to specific genres or certain religious or moral expectations, or at least not to the same extent as their predecessors, for example...

    • 7 Pollyanna, the Power of Gladness, and the Philosophy of Pragmatism
      (pp. 137-155)

      What struck me upon readingPollyannaagain as an adult is how the glad game resonates with the philosophy of American pragmatism. Pragmatism is widely considered to be the only philosophy indigenous to America, and it continues as a significant philosophical school beyond those national boundaries. As such, it would not be surprising if there are a number of themes in this classic American novel that resonate with an American philosophy. However, such an exploration has not been done to date, possibly because, despite a small number of recent studies, we rarely expect or look for philosophical insights in a...

    • 8 When Pollyanna Did Not Grow Up: Girlhood and the Innocent Nation
      (pp. 156-171)

      When Eleanor Hodgman Porter publishedPollyannain 1913, the United States was attempting to alter its international role and, in order to do so, its image. In political rhetoric and in literature, the nation had long been portrayed as the offspring of European countries, Britain’s rebellious son. With the 1904 Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, the United States government shifted its role to that of a kindly brother by sanctioning a policy of international interventionism; it labeled the nation closer to if not quite like imperial England but also above “heathen” India or “savage” Latin America. With the 1898...

    • 9 Pollyanna: Intersectionalities of the Child, the Region, and the Nation
      (pp. 172-188)

      When the orphaned Pollyanna Whittier first sees her ugly attic bedroom in the beautiful Beldingsville, Vermont, mansion where she has come to live, she somehow overcomes her initial disappointment by being “glad” (15). Even though the room is unadorned and unbearably hot, she is enchanted by “the beautiful view from the window,” which “she mentally designated” a “picture” (15). This brief scene from Eleanor H. Porter’s 1913 novelPollyannademonstrates not only the unsinkable optimism that has come to be associated with the novel and with the word “Pollyanna,” but also the novel’s melding of two distinct genres: children’s literature...

  8. Part III: Adapted Pollyanna

    • 10 The Gospel of Good Cheer: Innocence, Spiritual Healing, and Patriotism in Mary Pickford’s Pollyanna
      (pp. 191-210)

      The first movie adaptation of Eleanor Porter’s successful novel (and its Broadway adaptation by Catharine Chisholm Cushing) was released in 1920. The film was a financial success and its critical reception was predominantly one of praise. A review of the picture byMoving Picture Storycritic Frederick James Smith ended with the gushing words: “we need more of Mary Pickford, and more Pollyannas” (“Letter” 103). Smith’s article, which made no discernible distinction between the film’s star and the literary character she played, appears to have unambiguously advocated a particular type of picture—a nostalgic and pastoral evocation of a world...

    • 11 “Almost a golden glow around it”: The Filmic Nostalgia of Walt Disney’s Pollyanna
      (pp. 211-226)

      The 1960 film adaptation of Eleanor H. Porter’sPollyannaby Walt Disney Productions can be regarded as a work of recovery. The late 1950s was a period infused with nostalgia for turn-of-the-century American life and a desire to reconnect with a sense of innocent fun and community coherence in a period in which social, economic, and cultural shifts had created anxiety about families and the state of the nation itself. The film’s creators reveal their nostalgia through a focus on play in the film’s form and narrative, which, in conjunction with period details such as costumes and songs, creates a...

    • 12 Pollyanna: Transformation in the Japanese Context
      (pp. 227-245)

      Eleanor Hodgman Porter’sPollyannawas introduced in 1916 to Japanese readers through Tsuchiko Hironaka’s translation, entitledPareana[Pollyanna]. Published by a Christian publisher soon after its original publication in 1913, it was a complete translation, but the circulation and initial popularity of the story were limited.¹ Published during the short Taishō period (1912–26), which was characterized by wide-ranging political and socio-cultural democratic movements, this translation appealed especially to well-educated, urban young people of the upper- and middle-classes who were beginning to enjoy Western philosophy and cultural material in their daily lives. After freedom of religion had been promulgated in...

    • 13 Pollyanna in Turkey: Translating a Transnational Icon
      (pp. 246-262)

      Over the past eighty-five years, Eleanor Hodgman Porter’sPollyanna(1913) has become one of the most popular, yet debated, American children’s novels in Turkey. In the English-speaking world, the protagonist has been embraced as an advocate for female children who mimics the admirable qualities of the traditional boy-hero—honesty, trustworthiness, bravery, resourcefulness, rationality, and resilience (Goulden and Stanfield 193–94). In Turkey, Pollyanna has similarly gained social currency as an empowering icon who, over a number of generations, has conveyed a message of acceptance, optimism, and forgiveness that has provided young Turkish readers with personal motivation and inspiration.

      Like the...

  9. Afterword. Lessons from Pollyanna
    (pp. 263-266)

    I first readPollyannawhen I was nine, while my family was spending the summer in a borrowed Victorian rectory high on a hill in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. A verandah wrapped around the house, a comfortable apple tree hugged up against it, and inside, in a warren of dark corners and unused bedrooms, there were a thousand places to lie and read. Crammed bookshelves lined the children’s rooms where my siblings lay suffering with measles, one after another; healthy and ignored, I read my way through the days and nights all summer. After our own utilitarian city rectory, this was...

    (pp. 267-270)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 271-278)