Lessons from Nancy Drew

By Our Literature Contributor, Samantha Audia

Sometimes I sit down and ponder the incredible women I’ve looked up to throughout my life, and how their influence on me has shaped the young woman I have become.

Recently, however, I was cleaning out my childhood bedroom and stumbled upon rows and rows of bright yellow hardcover books – the Nancy Drew mysteries that I haven’t unearthed in years. I tucked one into my bag to bring back to school with me, and upon cracking it open I realized that despite the passage of years and the discolored dusty pages, the ever-courageous Nancy Drew still has some wisdom to pass on to all of us.

It’s easy to understand why as a child I idolized the character of Nancy Drew. After all, the very first line of the first book in the series is, “Nancy Drew, an attractive girl of eighteen, was driving home along a country road in her new, dark-blue convertible.” But even young readers learn quickly that there’s much more to Nancy than her appearance and the convertible she drives. The Nancy Drew authors (of which there are actually many – if you thought Carolyn Keene was a real person, guess again!) illustrate a young woman who handles her difficult family circumstances with grace, remains fiercely devoted to her friends and family, shows courage in the most dire of situations, and most importantly brings peace and closure to those in need of it.

In short, perhaps Nancy Drew is the woman that we all aspire to be.

That’s not to say that she’s perfect. Throughout the series Nancy makes mistake after mistake, resulting in the occasional dangerous situation. After all, events like being kidnapped, locked in a closet, tossed into the back of a car, confronted by a madman, etc. are all normal Nancy Drew scenarios. But readers observe how Nancy handles her own mistakes with grace, and uses the resources at hand to come out on top. Friends and strangers alike can depend on her detective abilities, and she uses her talents to benefit those around her – especially those in need. Nancy’s generous spirit, relentless optimism, and grace when faced with adversity make her a character worthy of admiration.

I think that this is why, after I finished the first Nancy Drew book I had read in years (cover to cover in hours, may I add), I sighed in actual relief. Because how often, in today’s literature, are we confronted with strong, principled female characters, who manage to come out on top without sacrificing their dignity or values in the fray? I would argue, not often. And how frequently do we find characters that appeal to both the six year old picking up the book for the first time, or the college senior picking it up just to reminisce? In all the chaos of university of life, and trying to balance academic success with relationships, friendships, job-seeking efforts, family life, staying informed, and other things college students manage to fill our schedules with, I realized that Nancy Drew was exactly the breath of fresh air that I needed.

So I would encourage all of you to dig out that long-lost Nancy Drew mystery from your stash of childhood belongings, and give it a read. If you don’t happen to have one lying around, hit up a used book store.

Nancy Drew serves as an excellent reminder that if we are to succeed, we must prioritize, rather than compromise, our values. Nancy brings happiness to those around her by making good use of her God-given gifts, yet sometimes in all the hubbub of everyday life, it slips our notice that God calls on us to do the same thing. Maybe not to solve dangerous mysterious à la Nancy Drew, but to exercise our talents and values to make the world around us a brighter place.