Nancy Drew Project continued: Reading the 1930 & 1959 versions of The Secret of The Old Clock simultaneously, comparing differences in the story and characters, and pondering dated plot points. Spoilers: full plot description below.
1930 (Ch14-17) vs 1959 (Chs11-13)
Nancy leaves camp and takes the back roads to the Topham lake cottage. She finds the cottage deserted and nearly empty of furnishings, and, analyzing the clues of wheel ruts in the road, the state of the cottage, footprints and marks in the dirt outside the cottage, etc., deduces that the Tophams have been robbed and that the thieves will likely be returning. She suddenly realizes that she’s out in the deserted woods alone and nobody knows where she is. The robbers return and Nancy hides in a closet while they finish removing all the furniture, but she’s caught when she can’t suppress a sneeze. After a struggle and defiant exchange with the robbers, who have all the manners of Tolkien’s quarrelling trolls, the leader locks Nancy in the closet and leaves her to starve. Nancy alternates between screaming for help, despair, and determinedly trying to escape by various methods. Finally, she uses a clothing rod as a lever in the crack at the bottom to tear the door off the hinges. Although the 1959 book is sure to tell us how cool and courageous Nancy is, in case we couldn’t tell from her actions, the books here are pretty similar.
When Jeff Tucker shows up just as Nancy breaks out, we have the next major example of character cleanup. The 1930 Jeff Tucker is a horrible caricature in the style of the time, played for comic relief. The “colored caretaker” is childishly foolish, his speech written as stereotyped vernacular. The thieves lured him away from his duties with promises of whiskey and leisure, then robbed the house while he lay passed out. Nancy treats him with amused condescension.
“I was just all fed up bein’ a caih-taker and takin’ caih o’ all dis truck from mornin’ till night. It ain’t such an excitin’ life, Miss, and while I’s done sowed all mah wild oats, I still sows a little rye now and den.”
“Yes, Jeff – I can smell that on your breath right now.”
The 1959 re-write transforms Jeff from a caricatured black man to a caricatured rural/lower class man of unspecified race who was lured away from his duties with a fake story about trespassers on another property, then locked in a shed. This Jeff Tucker speaks like a Grand Ole Opry reject. Although Nancy is still a little condescending, she doesn’t berate the man for neglecting his duties.
“I was plain hornswoggled by those critters, Miss Drew.”
Dated plot points: No mobile phone, obviously, so neither Nancy nor Jeff could get themselves out of their predicament by just calling or texting for help. Although I suppose that in a current day version of this story, the lake cabin could be so rural that there’s no mobile service.
...To be continued.
Index of posts for The Secret of the Old Clock: