3-2 | Polio Comes Home


Polio Comes Home
Pleasure and Paralysis in Candy Land

Samira Kawash


The Candy Land board game has been in production since 1949 and remains one of the best-known and biggest-selling children's board games of all time. Beginning with the fiftieth-anniversary edition in 1998, Hasbro Inc. has promoted the story of how a retired schoolteacher named Eleanor Abbott came to invent Candy Land while recuperating in a polio ward in San Diego. Although Candy Land appears all sweet pleasure and harmless fun, the coincidence of the invention and manufacture of Candy Land with the polio scares of the midtwentieth century suggests an important connection between the discourse of the "endangered child" and the image and ideal of childhood and play given material form in the Candy Land game. This article considers the form of game play and the imagery of Candy Land to show how the fears, images, and experiences surrounding the midcentury polio outbreaks came to shape a new idea of children's play. Play in Candy Land is a therapeutic intervention that separates children from their bodies both to protect them from their bodies' vulnerabilities and to form their bodies and desires into the proper paths.