Reading, for me, is entertainment and an escape from the real world. But it can also inform and stretch the boundaries of the life I live.
1930 Chs 9-11 vs 1960 Ch 5-7; 9-10
These chapters are where our teen sleuth gets down to some serious investigation. Her father is still out of town on business, so 1930 Nancy takes off alone to confront Jacob Aborn. Driving along the lane to his lake cottage, she catches a glimpse of him walking through the woods with a small bundle under his arm and sneaks after him until he disappears inside an apparently abandoned old bungalow. She’s undeterred by the posted Keep Off sign. “Nancy studied the warning a trifle uncertainly, and then shrugged her shoulders. ‘I’m not afraid! It will take more than a sign to scare me away!’”
Unfortunately, Aborn comes out while she’s standing on a box and trying to peer through the boarded up window and angrily orders her to go away and stop sneaking around. With remarkable dignity, considering she was actually caught in the act, she warns him that he had gone too far and she would not permit him to call her a sneak thief. Nancy gives him Laura’s letter and Aborn tries to convince her that Laura is unbalanced and just telling wild tales about being mistreated, claiming that she stole valuable jewels from him. Nancy can spot the gaslighting from a mile away and their argument escalates. When Aborn threatens her with a stick, she beats a retreat.
The 1960 revision is similar in essentials, but minimizes or eliminates any violence. Instead of the confrontation between Aborn and Nancy ending with a threatened beating, Nancy tries to trick him into giving away information under the pretense of innocent ignorance, then leaves when he starts getting suspicious.
The revision also adds two extra (unnecessary!) subplots and other drama so that every chapter can end on an artificial cliffhanger. For example, her father forgets his house key and decides to climb in through a window rather than just waking the family up to let him in. Luckily, the police don’t shoot him on sight after Nancy has called to report a burglary in progress. One subplot has Nancy helping her father investigate a bank embezzlement case by doing character checks on various suspects, one of whom will show up again later. The other subplot seems to exist only to reinforce The Cult of Domesticity (details below) but adds another new character: Don Cameron, an old “friend” (who took her to Spring Prom!) happens to be driving by while she’s walking down the street and invites her to a barbecue that week in honor of his sister’s wedding.
Considerations – Nancy’s sleuthing: There’s a more deliberate approach in the 1960 revision than in the original. 1930 Nancy is impulsive and hot-headed, and the writing style puts us more in Nancy’s head, so we are mulling over the clues and her intuitive leaps together with her. 1960 Nancy is equally resourceful and intelligent, but is cool and collected. She takes the time to alter her appearance to present an image of an older, businesslike woman for her sleuthing expedition. She plans ahead for the confrontation with Laura’s guardian, using her letter as a pretext. When he finds her snooping around the bungalow, she probes him with questions designed to catch him lying, rather than just arguing until he finally threatens her with bodily harm.
Dated Plot Points: None, really. I had some thoughts about long distance calls and an enthusiastic description of an ultramodern building that (wow!) had a self-operated elevator with gleaming aluminum doors and carpeting, but I ran out of energy for researching. Are long distance calls even a thing anymore? But it did strike me that I no longer give any thought the cost of calling someone several hundred miles away, when it used to be a financial consideration when you had to call someone in the next town over.
The Cult of Domesticity – Caregiving and meal preparation: There are two pages of descriptions of 1960 Nancy putting together dinner for herself and Hannah complete with description of dinner (chicken casserole, a crisp salad of lettuce and tomatoes marinated with tangy French dressing, and milk), complete with presentation (on trays decorated with doilies, with napkins and silver). Bonus description of Nancy helping get Hannah to bed. Several other meals are described, though not in the same excruciating detail. Breakfast: pancakes, sausage, and fresh squeezed orange juice. Lunch: fresh salad and hot rolls. None of this exists in the 1930 original text – only one meal is alluded to, and Hannah (the servant, not the 1960 motherly housekeeper) does all the preparation and cleanup.
The Cult of Domesticity – Woman’s destiny: The 1960 revision continues to add new elements to introduce the virtues of courtship and marriage. When new character Don Cameron encounters Nancy, their relationship is explained as not just old friends (which is how they interact with one another), but that he had taken Nancy to the Spring Prom, and he promptly asks to take her to a barbecue. More unnecessary background on Don assures the reader that he would be a suitable future mate: educated, hardworking, and able to support a family. Also, another wedding! Don’s sister is getting married, and a few sentences are wasted on Nancy enthusing over it.
1960 Nancy’s modesty is displayed for the reader as she blushes and changes the subject when her father’s secretary (an unmarried woman, naturally, because married women need to be caring for their husbands and households and making babies) tells her how pretty she looks.
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