Friday, July 27, 2007

The Satanic Subtext of Pollyanna

© Copyright 2007 Ray X

Pollyanna. I’ve heard the term a few times but I really didn’t grok its meaning.

I had to go straight to the source. Time to read the novel. A trip to the library and soon I was grokking. (And gagging.)

I never knew that the novel Pollyanna spawned a series, The Famous Pollyanna [TRADE MARK] Glad [TRADE MARK] Books. Now I am forewarned.

When the book was written, it was a simpler time. 1912. Good and evil. Black and white. No troubling shades of gray. Along came a simple writer, Eleanor H. Porter, who wanted to give hope to the world.

In Porter’s day characters didn’t speak dialogue; they ejaculated. For example, there’s a scene where Pollyanna meets a sour stranger on the street and tries to cheer him up. In response, the man reacts this way:

“Well, of all the—" ejaculated the man, with an oddly impotent gesture. (Page 52 in my edition. Porter doesn’t specify the form of the gesture.)

When they weren’t ejaculating, characters of that era sighed, crooned, scoffed, and breathed dialogue.

But I’m not here to criticize dated writing styles. The objective of this essay isn’t so trivial.

Brief plot summary: Pollyanna is an eleven year old girl who ends up living with her aunt after her poor father, a minister, dies. Pollyanna is an orphan: her mother had already been dirt napping for some time. The aunt is a bitter woman who is caught off guard by her niece’s positive spin on the bad. But she and the other cynical people in the town soon fall under the upbeat charm of Pollyanna.

Before her father died, Pollyanna learned how to play the ”just being glad” game. Pollyanna wanted a doll and her father had written for one from a charity. But when the missionary barrel arrived, no doll, just some little crutches for a sick child. Her father pointed out how that she should be grateful for the crutches because she didn’t need them.

Now do you grok “Pollyannaism?”

Even though the reader can eavesdrop on Pollyanna’s thoughts, one senses that her innermost feelings are being concealed. What would her id tell us? What sinister shadow lurks behind the light?

Throughout the book Pollyanna warps reality inside out, always finding good aspects to terrible situations. As I mentioned before, every hard-bitten bastard or bitch she encounters becomes enchanted by her personality. Mean, cynical people are transformed into angels.

But is it enchantment or ensorcellment?

Using my own brand of acumen, what I call Hyper-Logic [TRADE MARK], I see what really underlies this story.

As explained in the first chapter, Pollyanna was the last baby born to Jennie, her mother; the other babies had all died. So why didn’t Pollyanna perish like her siblings? Her mother must have entered into a ghastly pact. After all, demon spawn is a lot tougher than a mere human baby. [Paragraph corrected and revised 10/20/08.]

Lucifer is known to deceive with light, with beauty, blinding wayward souls to the ugliness behind his lies. Promoting unbridled optimism could be a clever trap, a scheme to keep victims naïve until evil finally reveals itself.

There is a dark moment (or is it really a bright one?) towards the end of the novel when Pollyanna is seriously injured; it appears she will never walk again. As Porter explains:

It was on the last day of October that the accident occurred. Pollyanna, hurrying home from school, crossed the road at an apparently safe distance in front of a swiftly approaching motor car.

Just what happened, no one could seem to tell afterward. Neither there was anyone found who could tell why it happened or who was to blame that it did happen…

A mysterious car accident. No one is at fault. What some would call an Act of God.

“But you’re just reading a lot of twisted BS into the novel,” scoffs a skeptic. Really. Note the date of the accident. The last day of October. All Hallows Eve.

And keep in mind that the devil’s weakness is iron. And in the olden days, motor cars had plenty of metal. But apparently not enough to keep rid the world of a deceiving demon child.

Alas, the psychic vampire that is Pollyanna will not be stopped by retribution directed from Above. She manipulates the fools around her to regain her health, to walk once again.

To stride across the world, ensnaring more in her pretty web, making sure that all will suffer abysmal despair when facing the greatest disappointment: death.


X. Dell said...

(1) I remember the Disney version of Pollyanna starring Hayley Mills. I wouldn't think of casting aspersion on either of the Mills sisters (or Mills brothers, for that matter), but I can see Disney as the spawn of Beelzebub.

(2) You're being flippant, a bit, but I don't think you're reading anything into your analysis of the novel. It's consistent with an authority who tells you never to complain.

At this time in history, however, we have the Wobblies and other labor movements, all of whom were doing a lot of complaning then.

Ray said...

X. Dell:

A bit flippant? Man, writing satire is harder than I thought.

By "authority," do you mean that of men on earth? Or did you have The Authority (up in heaven) in mind? [G]

Seriously, I can see how making people into non-complaining sheep works for The Powers That Be. The message - blindly accept crap from above (either government or heaven) and in the end you'll be happy - prevents mobs from forming in the streets. The scam of look to the future, tolerate the present.


Doug said...

What are these... books... of which you speak? I am fascinated by the thought.

[Unless one can get in The Onion, one's attempts at satire will be misinterpreted. Accept it.]

Ray said...


Have you not heard of the legends about printed matter bound together into convenient reading units? If you dig deep inside your grandfather's closet, you might find one of these "books" next to a "buggy whip."


Anonymous said...

Pollyanna wasn't named after dead sisters. She was named after her two aunts. The aunt that Pollyanna goes to live with is Aunt Polly. She was the youngest of the three sisters while Pollyanna's mother was the oldest.

Ray said...


You're right; I goofed. I found an online copy of Pollyanna, checked for that detail, and have revised that paragraph as noted. ThanX.

At least I didn't get the part wrong about her satanic connection. [G]