Polly Milton, growing up in a difficult time where her peers are shallow and care only about fashion and marriage, brings joy to another family's life, convicting them with her modesty, good character, and selflessness, and grows up to be a virtuous woman who even influences the man she loves for the better.
A teenage boy thinks a teenage girl is pretty and says so on multiple occasions.
A teenage girl and boy ride on a sled together even though it's considered improper..
A teenage girl teases another girl about flirting with a teenage boy. (She was not and is hurt by the notion.)
A five or six-year-old is encouraged to have a boyfriend and so she pretends to be engaged.
A teenage boy gently strokes a teenage girl's wrist where he hurt it.
A teenage boy gives a teenage girl a picture of himself.
A teenage boy and girl dance together.
An old man kisses a woman's hand and younger girls' cheeks. (No sexual intent.)
People cheer, "Hurrah for the pretty girls!"
Teenagers are said to flirt with each other at a dance.
A young man desires to kiss a young woman on the cheek. (He only shakes her hand instead.)
A young woman is said to have been engaged four times and still flirts with everyone she meets.
Young people talk about "sparking."
A young man says a young woman won't let him kiss her on the cheek, only an "unsatisfactory peck on the lips."
A young man catches a young woman by the waist and dances with her.
A young woman buys a bonnet with pale pink roses because she knows a young man will like it.
A young man says a young woman would be a "raving beauty" if she were dressed up in finery.
A young man tells a young woman, "You're gorgeous!"
A young woman is said to flirt with two men during an opera. They talk to her about unrequited love. One is dissatisfied with his selfish and shallow fiance and the other begins to fall in love with her. (The narrator reproaches the young woman for her flirting and explains how dangerous it is.)
A young man and a young woman are jealous over people they are falling in love with.
A young woman thinks that friendship between two girls will fall apart if a lover comes in between them.
A young woman caresses the head of a young man that she loves.
A girl asks a young man to marry her.
A young man takes a young woman's hand and suddenly surprises her by kissing her. (No description of the kiss.)
Young women talk about the men they love.
A young man tells a young woman he is in love with her and then holds her.
A young man and woman keep momentos of each other.
A couple's embraces are called "refreshments."
A young woman walks down the street observing romances, which include small children.
A young man holds a young woman's hand.
A young woman asks if another young woman has run off with someone.
Teenage siblings fist fight with each other.
A boy falls off a bicycle and gets a near-fatal bloody cut on his head that needs stitches. A girl has to hold his head down.
A teenage girl talks about her brother who died because of a sledding injury and was in much pain.
A teenage boys sprains a teenage girl's wrist while trying to wrestle a key out of her pocket.
A girl falls out of a tree and gets a large bump on her head (She is otherwise uninjured.)
Girls get burned cooking.
A boy wishes for a pistol to shoot cats in the yard.
Two little girls slap each other.
A woman is said to be dying of consumption.
A teenage girl is said to have tried to commit suicide by drinking laudanum. (She does not succeed and is later adopted by someone who loves her.) Her suicide attempt is discussed often.
A young man set fire to a professor's chair and burned his own pants.
Young women darken their lashes with burnt hair pins and try arsenic for their complexions.
A young man is asked if he has horsewhipped or shot anyone.
A young man admits to punching someone.
A young man is so depressed he says he "came pretty near blowing my own brains out."
A boy calls his father, "governor" and "buffer" disrespectfully.
Many times "gay" is used to describe something happy. Children may be confused by this.
Gender is called "sex."
"Sly little puss."
A girl calls her sister, "Miss Lazy Bones."
"Fagged," which means tired, but might confuse children of this generation reading it.
A young couple's engagement is referred to as an "affair," but the word just means "situation" in this book.
Christian Principles: Good
The entire last half of the book centers around romance, so while the innocence of the characters and the morals in the story make the book appropriate for children age nine and up, the critic does wish to warn parents of daughters who may not want them reading romance stories.
While Polly is a character that exudes Christlike character, Biblical principles, and a wholesome innocence that every parent would wish in their daughter, it is important to note that she seems to behave in her godly fashion without Jesus Himself. Church is not even mentioned until more than halfway through the book. Polly's brother is being trained for ministry, but when Polly gives a "sermon" of her own, it is full of life analogies - and not a speck of God's Word. Jesus is never mentioned, Polly only prays once, and she could pass as a member of almost any modern-day cult. Polly's religion seems to be work-based. While reading it in a Christian light could lead to many, many object lessons that would be highly beneficial to all children, and while Polly seems like the perfect unmarred homeschooler, people will not be led to Jesus' work at the cross in salvation. That is the reason the Christian Principles section only received a Good rating. We need to make sure that children know they cannot simply "choose to be good" as Polly does, but that they need to be on their knees and in the Bible, crying out to Jesus to save them from their sins and using the Holy Spirit's help to bring about righteous living in their lives and hearts.
Polly ends up affecting all around her with her selflessness, love, and godliness. She is a model friend, daughter, sister, and teacher. But she seems to throw that all away in her choice of men. Tom, the man she loves, is a lazy, good-for-nothing, easily-provoked, vain, self-absorbed, immature, and unwise gambler. He can't keep money in his pocket, he engages himself to the worst and most selfish and immoral girl on the block. He hurts his siblings, teases others, is disrespectful to his father, and almost "goes to the devil" at the end of the book before deciding to mend his ways. Indeed, he does turn around in the end, by spending a year out west doing hard work when he's left with no other option, but it seems like Polly has made the worst choice possible. There is this concept of marrying only who you love, which appears good, but it also seems that one has no say in who one loves. That if you love someone, you should marry them, regardless of whether or not the person is even a godly person to marry or could possibly be a spiritual leader in any way. Instead of ruling her heart, Polly seems to be enslaved by it. You receive hope that Tom can and will change, but Polly had no guarantee of this before she gave her heart to him. He was still living in a selfish, hedonistic state when she decided she loved him, but she would only marry him. This advice seems misguided at best and the critic could never shake the frustration that Polly threw her piety away expecting to change her spouse.
A little girl has a boyfriend (It is portrayed as a silly thing).
Clothing - contentment and happiness are better ornaments than outward garb
Children can do good in a family's life.
Love others and help them be kind and patient.
Siblings should love each other.
Take care of your parents and grandparents.
Hard work leaves you no time to worry
One's religion should be all throughout the week, not just on Sunday.
Follow the guide within you. (This guide is not named as the Holy Spirit. It could mean that an individual knows what is best and can be their own god.)
Principles worth having can bear to be laughed at and given a cold shoulder
Feminism - woman can stand alone, no man, no baby, the right to vote (Vague. It is not clear if this is portrayed as right or wrong.)
The question: Do you show a man that you don't love him to save his heart getting attached?
How many boyfriends have you conquered? (Shown as selfish)
Marry for love. False idea of self-sacrifice in marriage for money for family
Poverty isn't disgraceful, but dishonesty is.
Exaggerate faults, pathetically humble.
Dependance of his mother is Tom's salvation.
Tom almost went to the devil. (Meaning, giving up.)
Polly loves Tom for his faults - instead of a man who is better or wiser
You can change a husband.
Race of angels extinct.
There is mention of a mischievous little god ruining our plans.
A boy threatens to drink all the family's wine. He has a glass of it when he gets stitches on his head. Children are said to have gotten drunk at a party. A man is said to be "tipsy."
Something boring is said to be better at putting one to sleep than opium.