Nancy Drew, Beloved Heroine

Nancy Drew, Beloved HeroineNancy Drew’s favorite color has always been blue — the traditional color for boys. This is entirely appropriate, given that the daring girl sleuth has from the very beginning posed as much of a challenge to gender stereotypes as she has to criminals.

Nancy Drew is bold, brave, and independent. A University of Iowa conference devoted to Nancy Drew declared that she was a true role model for young girls, citing her “physical courage” as one particularly positive trait.

But, while Nancy Drew tackles situations usually reserved for her male literary counterparts, she is depicted as having the positive traits and interests of both traditional gender roles. She has an inherent talent for auto mechanics as well as cooking, horseback riding, dancing, sewing and athletics. She is brave, confident and daring but also polite, caring, sensitive and kind. In addition, she is a thoughtful daughter, always keeping her father informed of her activities.

Speaking of her father, Nancy Drew never lacks for anything thanks to Carson Drew, a successful criminal attorney. During the Depression, Nancy’s wealth made her an especially intriguing character for less fortunate readers. Whether buying the gas for her lovely blue roadster, or flying in a jet as she does later in the series, Nancy Drew foots the bill without a moment’s hesitation. And when the day’s work is done, she returns home to her lovely brick colonial house in suburban River Heights where she lives with her often-absent father and their full-time housekeeper, Hannah Gruen.

Nancy’s mother died when she was just three years old. This circumstance provides her with an essential element of her appeal to young readers — her freedom from parental supervision. Nancy can investigate an abandoned mansion in the middle of the night without fear of getting grounded. With the full permission of her indulgent father, Nancy hops into her blue roadster or Mustang convertible and drives right into the shadowy underworld of crime.

In her personal life, you won’t catch Nancy Drew passing on a whodunit to spend more quality-time with her steady boyfriend Ned Nickerson. Nancy’s truelove is criminal-hunting. Her girlfriends, George and Bess, who couldn’t be more different in personality are alike in their willingness to pitch in on Nancy’s investigations whenever they’re needed.

Despite her privileged lifestyle and accommodating friends and family, Nancy remains unspoiled. Never rude, even to the surliest criminal, Nancy emerges from stressful situations with her manners intact. Adults generally return the behavior, treating Nancy with all the deference and respect that any reader could wish.

The police, in particular, are almost always willing to help out the young detective. With Nancy Drew in town, the police don’t bother to compete. They have faith that she knows her stuff. And as readers can attest, they’re absolutely right!

   — Lisa Schulman

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