Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Favorite Fictional Character --- Frank & Joe Hardy


When I first decided that I was going to pick The Hardy Boys for this weeks feature, I wasn't sure what direction I was going to go in.  At first I thought I would be all intellectual about it.  I was going to delve into the hidden meanings and racial controversies that have sprung up over the years.  I was going to examine, in minute detail, the cultural significance they have come to symbolize.  Then I realized I have no frickin clue about any of that, most of which I think is dreamed up by people who have nothing better to do with their time.  So instead I'm just going to explain why I liked, and still do, them so much.


I don't quite remember in what grade I first discovered The Hardy Boys series.  I'm going to assume, for the sake of argument, that it was around the same time I first came across Nancy Drew.  And while I loved the Nancy Drew books, I fell in love with Frank and Joe Hardy.  You could probably say that as a little kid, I had my first literary crush on them.

Here were these two young men who not only had a great family life, but got to live out these amazing adventures that most of us could (and still do) dream about. They have a world famous detective for a father.  A father that encourages them in their capers, and always seems to need their help.  Because of that the boys kinda get the best of both worlds.  They get to show their father up a bit and earn his approval at the same time.  Their mother is that paragon of virtue, the content housewife and mother.  She stays home and makes sure that all three of the men in her life are taken care of and supported in whatever fashion they need.  She has no problem packing a picnic lunch for her boys to take out on a case and will even throw in extra food for their friends.  It would be impossible to not love a mother like that.

But it's those adventures, some of which take them far from home, that makes Frank and Joe Hardy childhood icons.  They get to do things that and visit places that I could only experience through their eyes.  Now of course, as I've gotten older, I've come to understand a few things about those adventures.  For starters, the boys never seemed to be in school, despite attending Bayport High School.  So I'm not sure if their principal was that understanding or that they were such excellent students, that they always made their work up.  The other aspect I've come to understand is that I can't imagine the money it would have taken for these two young men to do what they do.  So the only assumption you can come away with is that Fenton Hardy was such a world class detective, that he made killer money.  It's either that or they just got everything for free.

The major realization, the one I actually understood to an extent at the time, was that no matter what their adventures, the two boys were going to come out of it just find.  No matter how scary or unpredictable the situations they found themselves in, no real danger was going to land on their doorsteps.  They were never going to be shot through the end by the thief they were trying to expose.  They were never going to have their dead bodies dropped into the river because they got to close to solving a case.  It's that almost sterile sense of "danger" that made the books so hospitable to my young mind.  I don't think I would have enjoyed them as much if these adventures were really that dangerous.  Even in the world of fantasy, my young mind needed massive safety nets.

As an adult, I still value the cleanness of it all.  There are time, as a mystery lover, that I don't want to read something dark and somber.  I need that little bit of lightness to bring me out of that funk that a truly dark book can put you into.  As a father, I rejoice in the idea that there are still fun books out there for younger readers that don't explore the seedier sides of life.  I love the fact that I can turn these books over to my son and know that he will get just as much enjoyment out of them that I did, without his psyche being traumatized.

13 comments:

carol said...

I never cared about the Hardy Boys. I did love Nancy Drew though.

Staci said...

I remember exactly when I read this series...the summer between 4th and 5th grade. I had already read every Nancy Drew that my public library had so I went to the Hardy Boys next...devoured every one and then moved on to Trixie Belden!! Great feature this week, Ryan!

neer said...

You brought back memories of those sunny school days.

Simcha said...

I've never read the Hardy Boys books but I've been thinking that my son would probably really enjoy them. I just really want to start him off with the first book which I've been having trouble finding.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Ryan, thanks for a great post on Hardy Boys. You took me back three decades...to Bayport, to Frank and Joe Hardy and their father, investigator Fenton Hardy; to best friend Chet Morton; girlfriends Callie Shaw and Iola Morton; friends Tony Prito, Biff Hooper and Jerry Gilroy. I read Hardy Boys from the seventh standard (grade). My friends and I would pick up one book from the local circulating library and take turns reading it throughout the day. I thought Franklin W. Dixon was a swell author till I realised, much later, that it was a pseudonym for many writers. I'm delighted to see the hardbound reprints of HB in bookstores.

Michelle @ The True Book Addict said...

I read the Nancy Drew books (some of them) when I was a kid, but I never read the Hardy Boys. I sure did love the TV show though. I was head over heels for Shaun Cassidy back then so I never missed an episode. Plus the stories of the shows were so spooky and entertaining. Along with the Nancy Drew shows with Pamela Sue Martin (I think she was the one who played her then), these shows were the highlight of my Sunday nights. Great choice for FFC, Ryan!

Blodeuedd said...

I liked the Hardy Boys :D I liked the books where they met Nancy too

Melissa (My World...in words and pages) said...

You know I never read the Hardy boys or the Nancy Drew books. These sound like some great characters in the Hardy boys. :) Thank you for sharing!

StephanieD said...

"Then I realized I have no frickin clue about any of that, most of which I think is dreamed up by people who have nothing better to do with their time." - This is one of the reasons why I love your blog!

Man of la Book said...

That and Encyclopedia Brown were favorites of mine.

http://www.ManOfLaBook.com

LoriStrongin said...

You know, I've never actually read any Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew. Criminal offense, I know, but somehow I skipped right over them and went from young reader books right to the fantasy works of Piers Anthony and Jane Yolen. I kind of feel like I missed a vital part of the childhood reading experience.


Smiles!
Lori

Alexia561 said...

I'm another one who didn't read Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys books. I remember watching the TV shows, but don't remember reading the books. One thing I never cared for was that their dad always needed their help. If he was such a great detective, why would he need his son's help? Yes, I was an obnoxious child. :)

Lisa said...

I will always have a place in my heart for Frank and Joe. When my brother was learning to read, the school had done away with phonics and whatever they were using didn't work for him. He hated to read and struggled in school. Then he discovered the Hardy Boys. While I wouldn't say that he's a big reader now, he did read all of their books and the more he read the better he did in school.