Annie: From Poor Orphan to Billionaire’s Daughter

Everyone knows the little curly red-haired orphan, Annie, who lives in the orphanage run by the awful Ms. Hannigan. But, after receiving the opportunity of a lifetime by staying with Mr. Oliver Warbucks (the BILLIONAIRE, not millionaire) for a few weeks. However, a few weeks turns into forever when Mr. Warbucks decides to adopt Annie as his own daughter. Annie goes from living in poor conditions in a run-down orphanage to a classy, fancy, all-star mansion owned by the richest man in the world in a short amount of time.

In Keywords for Children’s Literature, the keyword “class” is defined as “an order or distribution of people according to their several Degrees” (48). This can mean either a social position (i.e. status) or an economic position (i.e. wealth). Status and wealth go hand in hand in the musical “Annie” because if you are wealthy, you have higher social status. Oliver Warbucks is very wealthy and does very important business with people from local radio stations to the President of the United States. In this case, with money comes higher social status.

Also in the essay on class, Raymond Williams (1983a) stated that it is important to recognize, when it comes to class, that “social position is made rather than merely inherited” (48). This is definitely true in the case of Annie, because even though she is a billionaire’s daughter now, she was not born into the rich life. Her parents were extremely poor and she was raised in an orphanage where she lived a miserable life for a majority of her childhood. She and her friends in the orphanage went hungry often, were forced to do domestic work, and “instead of kisses, get kicked” as mentioned in the hit song “It’s a Hard Knock Life”.

But, when Grace Farrell, personal secretary to Mr. Warbucks, chooses Annie to stay for a few weeks in Mr. Warbuck’s mansion, we see the very quick transformation of Annie going from the lower class to the upper class in a brief amount of time. This proves the point that Williams makes in the keyword essay that social position is not inherited, but made. In the song “I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here”, Annie is in complete awe at how much Mr. Warbucks has that she has never had in her life. For example, when the workers sing “No need to pick up any toys”, Annie states “That’s okay, I haven’t got any anyway!”

People often move to new places in order to make their lives better or move up in social class. This is clearly portrayed in “Annie” where Annie moves from poor living conditions in an orphanage to a classy mansion owned by the richest man in the world. Similarly, in “Little House on the Prairie”, Pa Ingalls moves his family from the Big Woods to a house on the prairie in order to acquire more land, which in turn means moving up in social status. During that time, if you owned more land, you were of a higher social class.

Between “Annie” and “Little House on the Prairie”, even though the situations of moving up from a lower to upper class are different, the idea of class being made and not inherited is consistent in both stories.

1 thought on “Annie: From Poor Orphan to Billionaire’s Daughter”

  1. Your connection between the Little House on the Prairie story and the orphan Annie story is very interesting. It makes me think of Little Women, too, especially when Meg goes to Vanity Fair (chapter 9) and borrows another girl’s dress because hers was deemed unsuitable. While she is not physically moving like the Ingalls were and Annie did, this exchange of a better, fancier physical item (like property for the Ingalls or new clothes and toys for Annie) is a similar sign of moving up in class by making the move, not inheriting it.

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