//by Harriet Lummis Smith//published 1925//
In the fourth of the Glad Books, a few years have passed since we last saw Pollyanna and Jimmy. The young couple are now parents of three children (Junior, Judy, and “Baby”), and, in the opening chapter, are settling into a new home in the suburbs of Boston. Like the other Pollyanna books, this one is a quiet little tale of domestic adventures. Pollyanna continues to strive to find the silver lining in every circumstance, and her good nature and industry enable her to help many other people around her.
Pollyanna, of course, is a product of her time. Throughout the story, we see other women choosing paths different from the traditional one (in the 1920s anyway) of homemaking. Feminists sniffing around this book would probably keel over from a heart attack, as Pollyanna is quite outspoken in her views that a woman’s primary place is taking care of her children and husband, and that a family whose mother works away is a family in danger of collapse.
“Mrs. Pendleton,” [Mrs. Richards] said intensely, “for generations men have been striving to keep women in an inferior place. It’s sickening to think of the brilliant personalities that have worn themselves out sweeping and dusting and preparing three meals a day. Talk of waste! The most fearful waste of all time is the squandering of the abilities of women on what has so long been called women’s work.”
“But we mustn’t forget,” Pollyanna reminded her, gently, “that we’ve been trusted with the most important job of all.”
“I suppose you mean making men comfortable. They like women to believe that’s the most important work in the world.”
“No, I don’t mean that at all. I mean raising the children. Building a sky-scraper isn’t nearly as important a thing, is it, as bringing a boy up to a splendid manhood?”
While Pollyanna’s views may be a bit extreme (and Smith definitely makes Mrs. Richards a very negative character, a selfish and self-centered woman who cares very little for her husband and whose daughter runs wild), the concept that the home should be a stable, safe, welcoming place for children and parents alike is one I think everyone can agree to. And while I doubt that Smith (or Pollyanna) would go so far as to say all of our current problems stem from women working outside of the home, one has to admit that that has been one of the great stepping stones to the undermining of the family unit, in the sense that familial roles are not so clearly defined as they once were, meaning parents can come and go from a child’s life without a lot of social repercussions.
But I mustn’t leave you with the idea that Pollyanna’s Jewels is just a preachy book. The stories themselves, of the many misadventures of children and pets, are delightful. Pollyanna is by no means perfect, but she is someone who doesn’t see perfection as an unattainable goal – I don’t really know how to say this, but it seems to be a common thing nowadays for people to say, “Well, I can never be perfect, so why bother even trying?” and then just go along doing whatever they want to do. Pollyanna strives to make herself a better person, by learning new skills, making new friends, serving those around her, listening, and sharing. Pollyanna is a learner, and I think that that is a large part of what makes her such a delightful heroine.
Pollyanna and Jimmy continue to learn to work together, reminding the readers that the work of keeping a marriage strong is never done. I really have a fondness for Jimmy, who works hard and comes home to his family every night. He is so open in his admiration of Pollyanna, not just when she’s the only one around, but in all sorts of company he holds her up as an ideal wife and friend. I’ve said it before, but I will say it again – their teamwork is delightful to watch.
[Pollyanna] had resented [Jimmy’s] words, but now she admitted he was right. Their mistake had been in not recognizing the problem as a mutual one, and joining forces to find the best solution.
Pollyanna and Jimmy learn the lesson anew that they are on the same team, and a problem that faces one faces both. United, they are able to work through everything life throws at them.
The Glad Books have been, so far, a very enjoyable journey, and I’m excited to see what is next for the Pendleton family.