Summary (Masterplots: Revised Category Edition, British Fiction Series)
Mr. Polly sat on a stile and cursed. He cursed the world, his wife, and himself, for Mr. Polly was thirty-five years old and buried alive. He hated his slovenly wife, his fellow shopkeepers, and every other person in the world. He felt that his life had been nothing but one frustration after another, from babyhood into his middle thirties.
Mr. Polly had been the usual adored baby, kissed and petted by his parents. His mother had died when he was seven years old. After the routine sketchy schooling of his class, he was apprenticed by his father to the owner of a draper’s shop.
Although Mr. Polly was ill-suited to work in that shop or in any other, he served out his apprenticeship and then began a progression from one shop to another, being unable to hold one position for very long. He hated the bleak life in dreary dormitories. He also hated being told to hustle when he wanted to dream beautiful dreams about adventure and romance. He spent most of his money and all of his spare time on books that took him away from the humdrum of socks and neckties. He did not know what it was that he really wanted, but to anyone who might have studied him, the answer would have been simple. He wanted companions.
When his father died, Mr. Polly found himself in possession of several useless bits of bric-a-brac and three hundred and ninety-five pounds. It seemed at first that a whole new world was open to him with this new wealth. Various relatives...
(The entire section is 1028 words.)
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The History of Mr. Polly (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
The Historian, an anonymous first-person narrator, brisk, pleasantly jocular, and rather Dickensian. Although he has no part in the action, he provides humorous commentary on it.
Mr. Alfred Polly
Mr. Alfred Polly, a sensitive, dyspeptic petty tradesman, given to romantic dreams, mispronunciation, and pungent phrases. After starting as a draper’s assistant, he was left some money by his father, and acquired a shop and a wife. Fifteen years later, Mr. Polly is bald and chubby, and imagination and good will have been stifled by his neighbors and his wife. He bungles a suicide attempt but unexpectedly becomes a hero when he saves an old woman from the fire he has started. A short time later, he runs away. He wanders until he finds a wayside inn kept by a plump woman who is threatened by her worthless nephew, called Uncle Jim. Mr. Polly shows his pluck by standing up, rather quakingly, to Jim and defeating him in a series of comic fights. Five years later, he returns home, finds himself unneeded, and goes back to the inn for good.
Mrs. Miriam Polly
Mrs. Miriam Polly, his dowdy, unimaginative wife, a poor housekeeper and a worse cook, whom Mr. Polly married on the rebound from an abortive romance. Under the illusion that she would be tidy and affectionate, he soon learns otherwise. After he disappears and his supposed corpse is found, she...
(The entire section is 716 words.)