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 18-21 vs 1960 Ch 15-17
These chapters offer the greatest contrast between the original and revision storytelling styles, as they cover Nancy’s escape from the bungalow and pursuit of the fleeing Stumpy Dowd.
Abandoned to starve in the basement, Nancy keeps her head and methodically sets about trying to free herself, working at the ropes to loosen them enough to get out. She’s able to unchain Jacob Aborn because, in typical Scooby Doo criminal fashion, Stumpy left the key to the padlock behind in plain sight to torment them. The fiend!
At this point, the versions diverge as Nancy is rewritten to be more restrained, more dependent on law and the menfolk, and to add a lot of convoluted plot elements and accommodate all the unnecessary new characters.
1930 Nancy helps the debilitated Jacob back to his house, finding it ransacked with Stumpy gone with all of Laura’s money and all of Jacobs money. There is no phone at the cottage. Jacob is too weak to go further so Nancy leaves him here and takes off to get him a doctor, notify the police, and pursue Jacob.
“The rough forest road held Nancy to a slow pace, but when she reached the lake thoroughfare she stepped on the accelerator, and the little car begin to purr like a contented cat.”
What happens next is pure 1930 Nancy and had no chance of making it into the 1960 revision. When Nancy gets to the fancy hotel, she parks illegally, storms into the lobby looking like a wild woman with her hair in disorder and her clothing in disarray, and seeing that the telephone booths are all in use, she sprints to the main desk and snatches up the clerk’s private telephone. Everyone there is scandalized, but Nancy couldn’t care less.
She tries phoning home to warn them but nobody is there. She has hotel clerk start calling all the police stations between there and River Heights and also the radio stations asking them to put out public alert before running back out and haring off after Stumpy. I have no idea if the radio stations would do such a thing in 1930, but they certainly wouldn’t do it today.
Back home in River Heights, Laura has been worrying about Nancy all day, and when Mr. Drew gets in from out of town and learns what Nancy is up to, he loads his revolver and races off to find her, taking Laura with him.
1960 Nancy also helps the debilitated Jacob back to his ransacked house, but is stuck there because Stumpy has disabled her car and cut the phone lines. Then suddenly all the extra characters show up and the plots all converge: Mr. Drew, Laura, and Nancy’s ex-boyfriend Don arrive, then the Donnell kids that helped Nancy with the fallen tree way back in Ch. 4 show up with their parents and everyone sits around talking and giving complicated explanations of bank embezzlement and people calling each other and misunderstandings, etc. Nancy puts all these clues together with her own story and everyone is amazed and admiring at her bravery and cleverness. The police are called, and Mr. Drew’s good buddy the River Heights police chief sets a patrol car and 4 men to guard the Drews home. I guess the 1960s were nice if you were a rich prominent citizen.
Considerations – Violence and gore:
The 1960 revision continues to tame down the more exciting and explicit elements into blandness. Although both Nancys calmly work to get loose of the ropes, the 1930 version describes her abraded and bleeding wrists and the original Jacob rages against his chains and vainly tries to break the padlock against the cellar floor. When 1930 Mr. Drew discovers that his daughter may be in danger, he loads and pockets his revolver before dashing off in his sedan, but 1960 Mr. Drew is just so worried that “he could barely restrain himself from breaking the speed limit”.
Considerations – Active vs passive plot events:
This part of the story is very action-oriented in the 1931 original. We follow along with Nancy’s thoughts as she puts clues together and rushes wildly to stop Stumpy Dowd. The 1961 revision is far more static, where people gather in one place and explain to one another how the various plot elements fit. The reader doesn’t know that Nancy has even put it all together until she tells her admiring audience.
Dated Plot Points - Telephones:
Again, much of the plot depends on an inability to communicate with others or call for help. Even Nancy’s flashlight battery problem would have been solved with an iPhone. A modern retelling of this story would have to depend on a mobile phone getting broken or being out of service range.
The Cult of Domesticity – Nancy is smart but testicles take charge:
The 1931 Nancy does not wait around for help from anyone. She charges about and gives orders to everyone – Jacob, the hotel clerk, the radio stations, the police. 1961 Nancy is just as smart – we are even told that she had taken a class in auto mechanics and so was able to look under the hood of her convertible and figure out how Stumpy had tampered with it. But when her father and the police show up, she steps back and lets them make the decisions and lead the discussion. She offers her input, but makes suggestions and asks about taking action rather than just doing it.
The Cult of Domesticity – Laura is girly and Hannah is motherly:
1931 Laura spends her day worrying about Nancy, chafing at the inaction and unable to distract herself, but 1961 Laura happily goes off to a BBQ with Nancy’s ex-boyfriend and has a lovely time socializing. 1931 Hannah the housekeeper is an almost invisible servant, but 1961 Hannah has motherly concern for Nancy’s safety and frets over her continuously, when she’s not in the kitchen cooking up and serving yummy things to eat.
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