In his lecture Mind and Disappointment, Mr. Siegel said:
Polly is forty years old now. She has told her
neighbors, who expressed concern about her lonely life, that "she liked
being by herself. She preferred quiet." Then, the plot takes
another turn, when we she's asked by a charity organization to take in
her 11 year-old niece, Pollyanna Whittier.
Many people are spiteful. If, by
the very nature of spitefulness, they attain their end, they are disappointed,
because spite is the insistence on having one’s way even if it makes one
had been poor; her father, Rev. John Whittier, had died recently and her
mother, Jennie, Polly's sister, had died many years before. In contrast
to Aunt Polly, Pollyanna, for whom she's been named, with all the disappointment
she's experienced in her young life, wants to find meaning in the people
and things she meets. When Nancy, the housekeeper, is told of Pollyanna's
impending arrival, she says to Miss Polly "how nice it will be," and there
is this exchange:
I've seen that when
you are looking to be disappointed, you are looking to feel you're superior
‘Nice? Well, that isn’t exactly
the word I should use,’ rejoined Miss Polly stiffly. ‘However, I
intend to make the best of it, of course. I am a good woman, I hope;
and I know my duty.’ Nancy coloured hotly. ‘Of course, ma’am; it was only
that I thought a little girl here might—might brighten things up—for you,’
she faltered. ‘Thank you,’ rejoined the lady dryly. ‘I can’t say, however,
that I see any immediate need for that.’ ‘But, of course, you—you’d want
her, your sister’s child,’ ventured Nancy… Miss Polly lifted her chin haughtily.
‘Well, really, Nancy, just because I happened to have a sister who was
silly enough to marry and bring unnecessary children into a world that
was already quite full enough, I can’t see how I should particularly want
to have the care of them myself. However, as I said before, I hope
I know my duty….disagreeable as the task would be….Pollyanna!—what a ridiculous
despite herself, Aunt Polly comes to care very much for her niece, and
is surprised and affected by all the people in the town whom Pollyanna
has come to know and have a good effect on. One day, there is a terrible
accident: Pollyanna is hit by a car and her legs are paralyzed. Polly
feels awful and seeks out different doctors to see her, except for the
one who has the knowledge that could be decisive in Pollyanna’s possible
recovery: Dr. Chilton, her own former lover. When consultation with
Chilton is suggested, she says absolutely not! In her determination
to continue using him for disappointment and bitterness it almost costs
Pollyanna the ability to walk.
There is a young
man, Jimmy Bean, who lived at the Orphans' home, whom Pollyanna hasbefriended.
He overhears a conversation in which, Dr. Chilton is telling a concerned
neighbor that he must see Pollyanna—he knows something that might
help her. He is beside himself, that because of "some confounded nonsense"
called "pride" this child might be "doomed to lifelong misery." Someone's
got to make her see, he says, but who? As formidable as Miss Polly
is, Jimmy Bean decides immediately he'll do it! As Polly comes into
the sitting room where Jimmy Bean anxiously waits, Jimmy says:
She is shaken--and she changes. Dr. Chilton
does see Pollyanna, and in time she is able to walk again.
What I'm doin',…is for Pollyanna,
and I'd walk over hot coals for her, or face you, or—or anythin' like that,
any time. An' I think you would, too, if you thought there was a chance
for her ter walk again. An' so that's why I come ter tell ye that
as long as it's only pride an' et—et-somethin' that's keepin' Pollyanna
from walkin', why I knew you would ask Dr. Chilton here if you understood—'…"Dr.
Chilton knows some doctor somewhere that can cure Pollyanna, he thinks—make
her walk, ye know; but he can't tell sure till he sees her. And he
wants ter see her awful, but he told Mr. Pendleton that you wouldn't let
him." Miss Polly's face turned very red. "But, Jimmy, I—I can't—I
couldn't! That is, I didn't know!"
Good Will Never
Disappoints; It's What We Want Most
As Michael and I talked over dinner on our
first date, I was affected by his liveliness and thoughtfulness as he asked
me questions about my life, about books I cared for, about what I hoped
to write. I was taken by his keen interest in many things—world events,
his knowledge of and enthusiasm for baseball, his care for popular music,
and his humor—which is something many people care for in him. I had
made mistakes as to love—and felt excited to have this new chance to try
to know a man and to have a good effect on him. As our care for each
other grew, we decided we wanted to live together, and spoke about getting
married and I was very happy! But several months later, we
found that things were not so lively in our apartment—disappointment was
growing between us. Michael felt I was too quiet and self-contained,
and I felt he was too impatient and didn't have just the right touch--and
gave up too soon in trying to understand. In Mind and Disappointment,
lecture, Mr. Siegel said:
This explained what I was doing--I was going
after disappointment! I am one of the most fortunate women for being
able to learn this, and learn, too, what it means to have good will for
a man. In an Aesthetic Realism class Ellen Reiss asked me whether
I "could have more respect for the possibilities of men." And while
I had complained, she questioned how much I wanted to be known by Michael:
"Do you want him really to browse around the inner Abel library?"
I hadn't. In another class, she asked me: "Do you think you need
to like knowing more?" "Yes," I answered. "If we don't like
knowing," she explained, "it is going to show in everything we do and then
in certain things it will show very painfully." "Do you think," she continued,
"if you're being embraced by Michael Palmer, it is a thrilling chance to
know the world and a person and yourself, or to get the sweeping honor
you have been deprived of? What do you want more: for Michael Palmer
to respect himself or for him to show how wonderful you are?" I love
and thank her for these questions. I saw there was an adoration from
Michael I was angling for that I couldn't respect myself for getting, and
didn't want to appreciate the real approval I was getting from his desire
to know me deeply.
The first thing necessary to avoid
disappointment is to ask if we're not going after it….I have seen people
complain about their not being understood by others. I've asked,
"What have you done to be understood? Have you really tried to show
yourself as you are?" "No, I don't think so." "So, what are
you complaining about?" People conceal themselves, and then complain that
they are not understood.
I began to take good
will seriously, and am grateful to feel that knowing my husband, the many
ways he's affected by the world, and the way the opposites are in him—logic
and feeling, sweetness and strength, fact and imagination, humor and seriousness--add
so much to me. Michael is a critic of me, and I love him for it.
He wants me to be warmer to people, and I cherish our conversations, including
about how through our study of Aesthetic Realism we can understand, for
instance, what is happening in the economy right now.
I'm so glad I can
ask myself at any time during the day, "Am I looking to be disappointed
now, or am I hoping to be honestly pleased, to see value in the things
I'm meeting? This is civilization, honest and real!
provides the comprehension people, and nations too, are thirsty for.
It is the education that can teach men and women what they urgently need
to know: that the only thing that satisfies, will never disappoint us,
is the study of good will: "the desire to have something else stronger
and more beautiful, for this desire makes oneself stronger and more beautiful."