In Which I write About A book

Sigh. Why does wordpress like to eat my posts? No, really, this always happens. I had a LONG post about this and now it’s gone. Swearing would follow if I had promised that this post wouldn’t be positive. I guess it’s my fault for not periodically saving it, but I still feel it’s wordpress’s fault, and wish to start throwing things.

So, as always, I’ve been reading. If I don’t manage to get a job, I will be doing a lot MORE reading. (seriously, pray that I get a job.) Most recently I just finished a book called Pollyanna Grows Up.

For those of you who might not be aware of the book Pollyanna, and have never seen the movie, here is a brief plot summary from wikipedia:

The title character is named Pollyanna Whittier, a young orphan who goes to live in Beldingsville, Vermont, with her wealthy but stern Aunt Polly. Pollyanna’s philosophy of life centers on what she calls “The Glad Game”, an optimistic attitude she learned from her father. The game consists of finding something to be glad about in every situation. 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 hit by a car and loses the use of her legs. (In the movie adaptation, she falls off a tree after sneaking out of the house). At first she doesn’t realize the seriousness of her situation, but her spirits plummet when she was told what happend 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 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.

Sigh. Even Wikipedia is decidedly in favor of Pollyanna’s ways. Let me tell you something: This girl has no tact or manners at all. I think the plot summary also edited out Jimmy Bean. See, Pollyanna loves adopting stray cats. Aunt Polly doesn’t like this but puts up with it because…. I don’t know. Anyway, one day, instead of a stray cat, Pollyanna brings home a stray child. In the book, Aunt Polly is portrayed as mean and nasty for not immediately taking Jimmy under her wing. I personally don’t think Aunt Polly is overreacting –having a child is a huge responsibility, and I believe it is every woman’s right to decide that she doesn’t want that.

So, apart from not liking how Aunt Polly was portrayed, Pollyanna’s lack of tact and manners, and the infantilization of women on the part of the author (even though Pollyanna is supposed to be 10-13 as the book progresses, she comes off as 8-10 throughout.) I enjoyed the book.

Pollyanna Grows Up is the book I actually just finished reading. I only included the above paragraph for backstory so you’d all know what in hades I was talking about. When I first read the title, I was doubtful about the “Grows Up” part. You see, it was common at the time this novel was written (1915) to portray women and girls as much younger than they really were. I don’t blame the author, therefore, for doing this. I blame society at large and patriarchy. And you know what, yes. Yes I do blame the author for this, even though she was influenced by society. Because books like this that portray the stereotype? They encourage the stereotype. But I suppose that is another rant.

What bothered me most about Pollyanna is that she had no manners or tact. I’m sure you all know people like this. You know what I’m talking about, those people who are all roses and cupcakes and sunshine and daisies –even when the situation doesn’t call for it.

I am not trying to condemn positive thinking here. That’s not what I’m doing at all, don’t misunderstand me.

However, there are times when a situation calls for it, and when it doesn’t. This world is sinful and ugly. Bad things happen. It’s unavoidable. And, here’s what to some people is a new revelation: it’s OK to be sad! When something bad happens to you or someone else, it’s ok to be sad about it. In fact, I’d say it’s a GOOD thing to be sad about such things. When Lazarus died, Jesus wept. And this even knowing that Lazarus would be ok in a moment. When Mary and Martha went to Jesus for comfort, Jesus wept. He did not plaster a smile on his face and joyfully exclaim, “oh, but we should be GLAD about it! Because Lazarus’s suffering is over now and the next thing he’ll see is my face when I come again!” (This, by the way, is similar to something Pollyanna actually said.)

Jesus Wept.

People, when they are sad, do not want someone to come up to them and be all happy happy joy joy. It is not merely because, “oh, misery just loves company and they want me to be miserable because they are.” Er, sorry, no. Maybe there are SOME people in the world like this, but, I think they’re a minority. No, the proper way to respond to someone who’s going through a hard time is to be sympathetic. Empathetic, if you can manage it. I’m still working on how to do this, but there are some people who don’t even try.

Especially do I hate those people who insist that I not focus on the negative but rather the positive. I get what they’re trying to do, really, these people may be sincere, but they come across as hard hearted jerks. To put it mildly. Wanna know what these people are really saying? They’re saying that my only value is in my ability to put a smile on my face even if the world is crashing around my shoulders. Even if that’s not the intention, that is what they are implying.

People get sad. And that’s ok. If you take away nothing else from this blog entry, learn that.

So, I was truly surprised to find out that Pollyanna does actually grow up. Mentally. But we’ll get to that.

It is actually quite common (or was at one point, anyway) in children’s literature to have a happy, spunky, talkative orphan (or child) move into a home where the parent is mean/gloomy/strict/whatever. Anne of Green Gables springs to mind, along with Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. In the first book, Pollyanna moves in with “gloomy” aunt Polly. The second book starts out no different than the first. Except that this time, Pollyanna is toted as “the best medicine!eleventy!” Basically Mrs. Carew’s sister, Della, thinks that Mrs. Carew needs some cheering up, and arranges for Pollyanna to stay with her and go to school while Aunt Polly and Uncle Doctor whats-his-name flitter off to Germany. (It’s unclear why they couldn’t just take her with them, as that’s a GREAT opportunity for a child… maybe it was just something so understood back in 1915 that it didn’t bear mentioning.) The started purpose of this is so Pollyanna can go to school.

And that’s another thing that stood out to me in these novels: Even though we’re told Pollyanna goes to school, we never actually see her do it. We never really see her make friends with anyone her own age except Jimmy Bean. Pollyanna is supposed to be a character who loves people. Why, then, do we never see her running around with Children her own age? For the most part, that trend continues into the second book, except for when she meets Jamie, but that doesn’t count because it’s only for a plot device.

Anyway, Mrs. Carew is deeply depressed because her Nephew, Jamie, has been missing for years and she can’t find them. This is a legitimate reason to be depressed. The loss of a child, in any circumstances, is horrific, and does bad things to the child’s parents/guardians. I don’t blame Mrs. Carew for being depressed.

As I read that, I thought, hmm. I wonder if Mrs. Carew’s long lost Jamie is the same person as Jimmy Bean in the last novel? It turned out I’d have to plow through 1,000 pages and ten years (there’s a ten year time skip in the middle of the book) to find out.

Seriously, When I (and 99% of readers, probably) can figure out how the book is going to end in the first chapter, that’s BAD. Even for 1915 it’s bad, I think. And in the 1800s and 1900s, plotlines are always predictable.

So Pollyanna moves in with Mrs. Carew, and we get a repeat of the first few chapters of the first book with Pollyanna being rude and having no tact, all in the name of positive thinking.

Pollyanna meets a boy named Jamie in the park. Jamie is in a wheelchair, and plays the glad game too, only he doesn’t call it that. (Jamie is poor, and yet he shares his food with the squirrels…. which to me was the biggest wtf about the whole book. If you and your loved ones are starving, you DON’T feed the squirrels!) This is really the second time in 2 books where we see her interacting with someone her own age.

Therefore, you know she’s going to marry him. Though I do have to give Ms. Porter credit for having her marry the OTHER Jimmy, because I wasn’t really expecting that one. And, in 1915, in a coming of age novel, you KNOW the girls’ going to be married by the end of it.

Pollyanna then decides that this Jamie is THE Jamie, and rushes off to get Mrs. Carew. Mrs. C isn’t quite convinced, but, 5 chapters later, decides to take him in anyway.

Aunt Polly and uncle doctor whats-his-name flitter off to Germany again, this time taking Pollyanna with them.

Insert ten year time gap.

And… I’m surprised. At the end oft his ten year time gap, Pollyanna actually behaves… how old is she supposed to be now? 23? I’m not sure. The book states she’s either in her 20s or close to it. And she actually behaves like she’s in her 20s. She still plays the glad game, but a much more toned down version thereof. She has tact, manners, and, according to Jimmy, beauty.

But, even though Pollyanna tries to keep happy, aunt Polly doesn’t bother. You see, they returned to America basically because Dr. Chilton, aunt Polly’s husband, died. And the narrative has the nerve to show that Pollyanna is stressed at having to deal with Aunt Polly’s gloom. Um, yes, her husband just died. I might be aromantic and totally don’t understand romance at all, but I do know that when one’s life partner dies, It’s A Big Deal. Some form of depression is natural. Aunt Polly’s In Mourning. (I’m not sure how big a deal that was in America in 1915, but in some time and places, being officially In Mourning was a trial in and of itself completely aside from the death of the actual person. In fact, if I ever had to go into Mourning, I would mourn about having to be in mourning. So I’m not sure if aunt Polly is just mourning, or In Mourning. KWIM?)

It’s ok to be sad if your husband dies, folks. Being depressed afterwards? Is normal.

At least Pollyanna now has enough tact to realize that. But Pollyanna dos not have tact about the financial situation.

See, in addition to losing her husband, Aunt Polly has lost her money. Almost all of it. And I don’t get why Pollyanna is so flippant about this. She grew up dirt poor. She should therefore have more sense than to react like… well, like a Pollyanna.*

Aunt Polly is not just depressed about losing her husband, she is depressed because she has lost her money and doesn’t know how she will live.

I get this part. I sympathize 100% with Aunt Polly. Even though I was never as rich as Aunt Polly, my family was pretty well off during the 90s. Things didn’t really start going downhill until Bin Dumbo (or the government, whichever you believe responsible) knocked down the towers. The Great Recession (which is still ongoing, btw, in case you weren’t aware) didn’t help either.

When I was a kid, I could have things not many girls my age could. I had an American Girl doll (I was the only one in my entire SDA elementary school) I had a laptop (in the 90s, little girls didn’t have those. I only know one other person who did. Most of you are too young to remember those days, I think, but they did exist and very recently.) I used to have my dad telling me not to worry about keeping things, because we were so rich, we could just go out and buy more.

And then there’s now. Now, everything I have is falling apart, and I can’t afford to replace it. Heck, even my DAD can’t afford to buy me a new laptop. That floored me. Things must be a bit worse than he’s letting on, because there has ALWAYS been money for computers. Poor social skills plus bad economy does not lend itself to me getting a job.

As bad as things are for me, though, my family still has income. My dad might not be able to provide me with a new desperately needed laptop, but if something bad happened, I could always go to him for money for things like food, medication, and necessities. Aunt Polly does not even have this. She has no income. Pollyanna is too busy being glad to worry about money, Aunt Polly is too busy worrying about how to get money to eat and pay for the house to be glad. Really, I think the narrative is a little hard on Aunt Polly.

Mrs. Carew and Jamie come to visit. Good time is had by all, until Jimmy thinks that Jamie is in love with Pollyanna. Jimmy leaves Beldingsville to give Jamie a chance (because Jamie is a cripple) I’m going to fast forward through the awkward romance of about 3 couples (no joke) and just say what i thought would happen at the beginning of the novel:

Jimmy discovers he is really Jamie, and marries Pollyanna.

Mr. Pendleton, Jimmy’s adoptive father, marries Mrs. Carew.

Jamie falls in love with and marries other random girl Pollyanna helped out before the ten year time gap.

The end. That’s how it ends.

I think the book could’ve ended better if all this had happened sooner, with the exception of Pollyanna and Jamie and Jimmy marrying. That way, Mr. Pendleton and Mrs. Carew could’ve married while Jimmy and Jamie were still children, and Mrs. Carew wouldn’t have had to have spend 10+ agonizing years wondering if HER Jamie was ok. Even with a replacement Jamie, a mother always wonders. Jimmy and Jamie could’ve grown up as brothers. The time gap could come here instead, and THEN Jimmy could marry Pollyanna.

I think the book was ok. It annoyed me in parts, but it never made me want to throw the ipod against a wall (which is more than I can say for Elsie Dinsmore Dimwit.) So… I guess it was a goodbook, or at least an ok one. I’d give it about 3 stars and recommend it to anyone who likes 1800s/1900s children’s literature.

Boy this post was long. Next time I think we’ll tackle it chapter by chapter. not this book, another book I’m reading.

And that, folks, is this week’s positive post. And it might be the last one in a while because, as noted else where, The Depression is back, and it’s Not Going Away. Woohoo! Yippee! I missed it so much! /sarcasm.

Stay tuned. I promise it’s not all going to be thunderstorms, thorns, and lightening strikes. But, neither are there going to be a while lot of kittens, rainbows, and cupcakes.

Help Me

*These novels are so popular that, when someone is being stupidly positive, sometimes they are said to be “acting like a Pollyanna.”

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