First impression of the classic story of a girl whose name became a byword for unbearable optimism. Far from being a Panglossian authority figure who believes that all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds, Porter’s Pollyanna Whittier is a prototypical plucky girl orphan whose indomitable refusal to believe in her own misfortunes sharply limits the ability of her guardians to inflict torments upon her.
The bright American twin of that other beloved orphan girl, Anne Shirley, Pollyanna Whittier uses fantasy and dream not as a subversive escape from reality, but as a frontal assault on it; conquering her own spinster aunt not through elfin strangeness but by aggressive piety and relentless cheer. Like Hamlet in the later stages of theatrical madness, Pollyanna knows there’s nothing either good nor bad but thinking makes it so: “When you look for the bad, expecting it, you will get it,” she says, and goes on playing her sinister-sounding “Glad Game” throughout her life.
This philosophy, so resonant with a nation that never tires of counting its blessings, inspired numerous adaptations for the stage and screen-starring everyone from Mary Pickford to Hayley Mills-and even a Pollyanna-branded “Glad Game” board game from Parker Brothers.