The Riddle of the Revised Novels: Nancv Drew in the Depression and Cold War
Generations of American girls have come of age reading Nancy Drew mystery stories. The first Drew books came out during the 1930s, in the thick of the Great Depression. The series' publishers revised them as the Cold War raged in the late 1950s and early 1960s. A careful study of what changed and what did not suggests that the revisions were designed to transform books whose attitudes were informed by the progressive early 1930s into stories that fit the very different tempo of the strait-laced 1950s and early 1960s. Such a study provides a vivid example of the ways in with American popular culture picks up on and reflects changes in the society at large. Moreover, Nancy Drew novels were aimed at impressionable young girls, who depended on such books for a picture of what the world was like and for help in finding their place in it. Thus, the books' role as barometers of societal change grows even more significant. To demonstrate how completely the Nancy Drews were designed and redesigned to reflect the prevailing cultural winds, it is necessary to compare and contrast the content of both editions of several of these novels with respect to how well they illustrate the broader social climate of their times.