The Violence and Villains of Little Orphan Annie
The Haunted House sequence with Mr. Mack is really the first
story in which Gray makes strong use of intrigue and suspense.
Annie seems as if she is constantly looking over her shoulder, and
with good reason. Mack, we assume, is a ruthless murderer and head
of a ring of gangsters. Gray set up a vigilantly watchful mood
through Annie, who seems to be the only person who suspects Mr.
Mack. It is her suspicions which create our suspicions. Though Gray
permits the reader to see more than Annie can, he nonetheless
maintains our interest as he makes us the voyeur, watching Annie
watching Mr. Mack, who in turn watches Annie. It is as if we, the
reader, are given our own tree or wall to hide behind, allowing us
to watch all of the action.
This is the first story in which Gray portrays the general populace
as gullible fools who are easily won over by the villain. One good
deed seems to be enough to wipe out any suspicions by "simple town
folk." If that villain happens to have money, suspicions never seem
to arise at all, until the end of the story when the villain is
caught or killed. Annie always knows when a villain is a villain,
and the reader always knows when a villain is a villain. But the
simple town folk? They never seem to get it. In the beginning of
a story such as the Haunted House sequence, the town folk
praise the villainous character to the heavens, only to become "I
told you so'ers" by the story's end. This device gave Annie and
Gray a great foil to work against, in terms of rationalizing
someone's behavior. The townspeople became the sounding board for
Annie to bounce her thoughts and ideas off of. Gray's own message
about the fickle general public came out loud and clear.