In Malory Towers- and in St. Clare's, if I remember correctly- Enid Blyton explores the idea and constructions of friendship quite well. Not just in how people make friends (Darrell and Sally Hope, for example), but issues of first impressions (Sally Hope!), power relations within friendships (Darrell and Alicia in the beginning- Darrell is so in awe of Alicia), loyalty (Darrell and Alicia as contrasted with Darrell, Sally Hope, and Mary Lou in Book 1), and camaraderie that come into play. What struck me, in particular, was this idea of ownership in friendship- it's exactly how you are at that age, where you see someone as *your* friend first; before everyone else, where you place value on this particular friendship/person over all the others. Darrell wanted that with Alicia at first, and was utterly despondent when she realised Alicia and Betty were BFFs. She found that with Sally Hope instead, with poor Mary Lou tagging along. In the construction of Darrell's friendships: 1. Sally Hope. 2. Mary Lou. 3. The others. Dead Last: Gwendoline Mary. We've all had friendships like those, I think; especially when we were little. That isn't to say that they aren't all friends in a big 'mucking about together' sort-of-way, of course they are. It's just interesting to see how 'best friend' is understood- it isn't just someone you have a laugh with, but someone who tempers the worst of you, who champions and chastises you when you deserve it, who will be loyal and steadfast, who understands you more than you know, and who will push you to grow and evolve; as you do the same for them. It's, as we see through Darrell and Sally Hope, about equality in your relationship. On being sensible:
Again, one of the things that's quite important to my life and how I approach things now: being sensible. I don't know how much of that is because it's something my parents value, and how much is from multiple sources- including examples of Darrell and Sally being sensible versus the wretched, crying Gwendoline Mary- but it's so refreshing to read this positioned quite firmly as a positive thing, something to aspire to. I think today's YA often positions 'sensible' as 'boring', or as something you are out of necessity, rather than a valuable quality to possess.
I also like how much Blyton emphasised working hard at school, almost as much as she rewards cleverness and intelligence- Irene, for example, is brilliant at maths (again, something quite rare these days) and the girls are in awe of her for it rather than treating her badly for her skills. She's also a gifted musician. Darrell, while quite clever, learns that she needs to work hard at school to do well- and it's important to her to do well. Same with Gwendoline Mary- we see her work hard at school when she realises that she isn't quite as clever as she's been told she is all this time. To value education and intelligence- without snobbery or a big flaw/head is something quite.. charming. “Ellen, the little line deepening on her forehead and giving her a worried look. “I mean—I can work and work and work, and remember things all right—but I'm not brilliant like some girls. Some don't need to work hard at all—they're top because they're so clever, and they can't help it. I have had to work for everything. Still—I badly wanted to come to Malory Towers, and here I am, so the hard work was worth it!”Excerpt From: Enid Blyton. “Second Form at Malory Towers.” iBooks. On the value of kindness, being just, and helping others:
This passage on why Sally Hope was picked as head of form pretty much encapsulates things:“Sally Hope, the steady, loyal, kindly, sensible Sally. Darrell's best friend. Sally might not be top of the form, but she would always listen to anyone in difficulty. Sally would not do brilliantly in exams, as Alicia would—but she would always help a younger girl at games or lessons. She would be completely fair and just as head-girl of the form, and she wouldn't stand any nonsense.” Excerpt From: Enid Blyton. “Second Form at Malory Towers.” On sports:
Oh, I LOVED that the girls were competitive (but fair, always fair) and played sports with such joy and abandon. I played a lot of sports as a girl and while we had amazing teams, it was still fairly (contextually) rare to compete and to be so completely involved in it, especially as a girl. I like that they were swimming and diving and challenging each other to dive from greater heights and swim faster, or play lacrosse or field hockey- it isn't something you see written about girls specifically: this competitive spirit, this natural; exuberant love of sports. General Character Building“We all have good and bad in us, and we have to strive all the time to make the good cancel out the bad. We can never be perfect—we all of us do mean or wrong things at times—but we can at least make amends by trying to cancel out the wrong by doing something worthy later on. Daphne has done quite a bit of cancelling, I think—but her heroic deed doesn't mean that she can never do a small, mean one.”Excerpt From: Enid Blyton. “Second Form at Malory Towers.”
Of course, there's a huge class and race analysis* to undertake here. It's very.. middle class (at the very least, I'd go so far as to say upper middle class) and white,
but I think it explored some interesting gender-specific concepts and constructs; not to mention more valuable (and likely class-constructed) ideas of 'fairplay' and 'friendship'. In this book we have Ellen the scholarship student who feels responsible & overwrought by the weight of parents' sacrifices and her own expectations, Gwendoline telling Daphne off about not understanding the value of money, unkind statements from Alicia about how they can't have 'those kind of girls' at MT- by extension only a 'select sort' are allowed, and Daphne, who, in an attempt to overcome class difference, makes up stories about her wealthy lifestyle and background; hiding her true circumstances partly out of a misplaced sense of shaming and partly out of wishing to re-write her past.
*as I said in my last Malory Towers review, I'm happy to read and learn more about this but I don't know if *I* can actively engage and cast childhood loves in a different light. I'll just have to learn to be a fan of problematic things. Reply