The Pollyanna Effect

I loved the movie Pollyanna when I was a kid and I confess that I still do. When Hayley Mills spouted her precocious wisdom, bringing enlightenment to the crusty adults in her orbit, she was fulfilling every child’s fantasy – to bend adults to her tiny will. She was Tinkerbell and Buddha in one shiny blue-eyed package.

My favorite part, of course, was the wall of rainbows. The magic of those prisms strung across the window, casting brilliant colors everywhere remains with me. Here’s a description from the book:

Pollyanna had not hung up three of the pendants in the sunlit window before she saw a little of what was going to happen. She was so excited then she could scarcely control her shaking fingers enough to hang up the rest. But at last her task was finished, and she stepped back with a low cry of delight.

It had become a fairyland… Everywhere were bits of dancing red and green, violet and orange, gold and blue. The wall, the floor, and the furniture, even to the bed itself, were aflame with shimmering bits of color.

“Oh, oh, oh, how lovely!” breathed Pollyanna… “Oh, how I wish I had a lot of those things! How I would like to give them to Aunt Polly and Mrs. Snow and–lots of folks. I reckon then they’d be glad all right! Why, I think even Aunt Polly’d get so glad she couldn’t help banging doors if she lived in a rainbow like that. Don’t you?”

Mr. Pendleton laughed.

“Well, from my remembrance of your aunt, Miss Pollyanna, I must say I think it would take something more than a few prisms in the sunlight to–to make her bang many doors–for gladness.”

I still can’t resist a prism and I still get excited when it rains on a sunny day. I’ve been known to run outside barefoot, darting up and down the street looking for the rainbow that I’m sure will be there if I just look in the right spot.

Central to the story of Pollyanna, of course, is the “Glad Game.” Pollyanna’s financially challenged family often receives donations from the church charity baskets. When her wish for a doll is met with a pair of crutches, her father tells her to be glad she doesn’t need them. Thus begins the game of finding the silver lining, which Pollyanna shares with the townspeople in her new home. And, like so many bowling pins, they topple – singly and in groups.

Recently, I encountered an updated version of the Glad Game in the form of a web site: ButterBeeHappy.com. On this site, readers are encouraged to begin a daily journal listing 5 things for which they are grateful or that give them happiness. The theory is that conscious acknowledgement of the positive events/thoughts in our lives will move us gradually to a happier attitude.

What the heck – I’m going to try it for the month of June and see how it goes. To keep track of my happy moments, I’ve created a special page on this blog, the Pollyanna Page. On it, I will record each day’s five thoughts (which I am also posting on the ButterBeeHappy (BBH) site, as they are the originators of this particular “game.”) BBH has a section where you can see what you might have in common with the happy thoughts others post.

Returning to Pollyanna for a moment, one of my happy thoughts for tomorrow (all filled up today) will be that in writing this entry I came across the text of Eleanor H. Porter’s original book. I realize that I never actually read it, so I’ve just ordered a copy. What’s more, I discovered that she wrote a sequel, Pollyanna Grows Up, which I have also ordered. (Hmm, is that one happy thought or two?) The description of the sequel hints at troubles ahead for our Pollyanna:

Her crippled legs cured, Pollyanna takes her glad heart to cheer new friends in Boston before travelling to Europe with Aunt Polly and Dr Chilton. But growing up brings sorrows as well as joys, and when she returns after six years, with Dr Chilton dead and Aunt Polly fallen on hard times, even Pollyanna has trouble maintaining her usual cheerful outlook.

I’m not worried. The woman who wrote of rainbow walls and the Glad Game will not blindside me with a miserable ending. I am sure I can count on a lovely summer afternoon following the exploits of Pollyanna and friends. If there are storm clouds, they will be the real ones overhead. In which case, I can look for my own rainbows.

4 comments

  1. I love Pollyanna people simply because we need such optimism in this world of today. Its why my favourite childrens’ book is Anne of Green Gables and all the others that followed by L.M.Montgomery. I read them every couple of years and have a sense of calm, peace and contentment as I read.

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  2. Scribbler59

    Because of your blog post, I went and did a little research on Pollyanna, too. Did you know that there was a film version made in 1920 with Mark Pickford? I’ll have to see if I can dig it up. Clearly no one can do it like Haley Mills, but I’m really curious. And, I’m playing Butterbehappy.com, too!

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    • I didn’t know about that one, but I know that several were made. One starred Keisha Knight Pulliam (from the Cosby Show), with Celeste Holme in the Mrs. Snow role. But nobody can replace Hayley in my affections!

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  3. I’ve been doing some pinning on Pinterest, finding information about Pollyanna…especially the rainbow room, and here I am in 2012. In your article are my sentiments as well. I even have a Pollyanna-room window in my kitchen. Those prism rainbows always bring a smile to my face. It seems so foreign to me when I run into someone who hasn’t seen this movie…almost everybody. In my opinion, it should be required because it’s filled with great actors and an endearing story line…and of course, Hayley Mills. Your description “Tinkerbell and Buddha in one shiny blue-eyed package” was perfect. Fun article, lots of info I’m going to look into.

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