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Nancy Drew’s Character Analysis Essay

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Updated: Jul 14th, 2021


Nancy Drew is a character from a mystery series created by various authors under the name Carolyn Keene. The young girl is a sleuth and a detective that solves mystical cases. Nancy first appeared in 1930 in The Hidden Staircase and was presented in many books, TV series, and films. Over time, the character evolved due to the differences in authors’ perspectives, changes in American culture, and tastes of the population.

The books about Nancy Drew were revised several times; her original personality is different from the one presented in recent publications. This paper provides a discussion on changes in the young woman’s character, addressing her salient traits that remain the same and outlining the differences in her personality across time and media. It refers to the first book about Nancy, a TV show published in the 1970s, and a movie of 2007. The report explains the changes in the character about the historical context and shows why they were necessary.

Salient Traits of Nancy Drew’s Character

Nancy Drew’s character has several notable features that do not change regardless of time and medium. For example, the young woman is very independent, while being a positive role model for others. Nancy has no mother, which gives her the freedom to do what most people of her age cannot do because their parents were against it. In addition, her father and legal agents threaten her like an equal, which allows her to participate in dangerous activities. It is necessary to mention that although Nancy is an independent person, she does not takes advantage of it; the young woman never lies to her father and disobeys him. Nancy is also in good relationships with the police and sometimes collaborates with them to solve complicated cases.

Courage and determination are two other notable traits of Nancy’s character. The young woman receives many threats that do not prevent her from solving cases. She strives to defend innocent people from being falsely accused and is determined to pursue the truth (“The Hardy Boys Nancy”). In addition, Nancy never breaks a commitment; she always upholds her promises and completes all cases she accepts at any cost.

Another salient trait of Nancy Drew’s character is her resourcefulness. The young woman always knows how to save herself and others from seemingly hopeless situations. For instance, she uses specific techniques to free herself from ropes, sends SOS signals with a tube of lipstick, and uses spike heels to break out windows. The young woman never allows criminals and circumstances to stop her from solving criminal cases and helping innocent people.

Finally, it is possible to say that Nancy Drew remains a feminist character throughout all times, books, and movies about her. Her occupation is typically male-dominated; the young woman does not rely on male figures to solve crimes and start new adventures. In addition, as mentioned above, Nancy can always take care of herself. One of the examples of the character’s independence and its relation to feminism is her car.

When The Hidden Staircase was published in 1930, it was uncommon for women, especially young ones, to own and drive cars. During that time, the character’s blue roadster gave her the freedom and mobility many females did not have. Although the situation is different in today’s world, Nancy remains a role model for many women, reminding them that females can succeed in a male-dominated society and a typically male profession.

Differences in Nancy Drew’s Character Across Time and Media

It is possible to say that Nancy Drew’s character evolved through time in response to changes in American culture and public perspectives. In earlier books, she appears more persistent, determined to eliminate evil, and dedicated to solving crimes. At the same time, in more recent works, especially the Nancy Drew movie, the character appears softer, shows self-consciousness, and is less risky (Nancy Drew).

With time, Nancy’s independence softens too; she starts to seek other people’s assistance and shows interest in romance. Today’s Nancy is less different from other teenagers than she used to be; she may be considered less mature than her older versions. Moreover, she is more agreeable with others compared to the character presented in early books. In The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, the young woman works in collaboration with others to solve the mystery about Santa Claus instead of doing it alone.

It is possible to say that the public perspective on femininity dictated changes in Nancy’s appearance. For example, in early books, she was depicted as a blond-haired young girl, while, later, she was presented as a brunette (Keene 2; Nancy Drew). Moreover, when the series was first published, Nancy was shown as a person who is not concerned about her appearance. Her clothes were fashionable and smart but this factor was not significant for a story.

In newer works, however, the young woman shows the signs of self-consciousness; society’s concern about appearance is evident from the changes in other characters’ representation too. For example, her female friends appear more slim and feminine. Thus, it is possible to say that there is a significant shift in the role of Nancy’s appearance with time.

Background of Changes in Character

Nancy Drew’s character in The Hidden Staircase reflects the beginning of the 1930s in America, which was determined by the economic crisis and the Great Depression. During difficult times, the young woman had to remain a role model for the population. As mentioned above, women of that time lacked independence; it is possible to say that people had to be rigid and resilient to survive during the Great Depression. For Americans, Nancy Drew was a role model because she had the traits that were necessary for that time.

With time, however, Nancy evolved to fit the contemporary popular culture. When The Hidden Staircase was published in 1930, it was enough for the character to drive a car and solve crimes to become popular because her story was unique and her personality inspired people. However, with time, her character became less rough and started to resemble today’s teenagers, who can drive cars too and are known as they have free access to information. It is possible to say that this change in a character is productive as the youth can relate to it and be inspired by it. At the same time, this change is limiting as it makes Nancy’s personality-less unique.

The 1970s, when The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries TV series were published, were the era of fighting for social rights and equality. Traditional social values and roles started to decline; women gained more power and independence and began to work in collaboration with men as opposed to being entirely dependent on them. The slight change in Nancy’s character illustrates the problems of this historical period in America. The young woman remains a strong figure but does not refuse to receive other people’s assistance in solving cases and works in collaboration with her friends. This change can be considered productive as it sets an example for readers and viewers and shows that men and women can work together to reach their goals rather than establish inequality in their relationships.

Finally, Nancy’s character in Nancy Drew represents present-day America. This young woman is less rough compared to the original version because her personality allows viewers to relate to her. Nancy Drew of the twenty-first century is strong but may feel self-conscious at times; she is independent but relies on her friends’ help too. In the middle of the 2000s, when the movie was released, America fought against terrorism, and Nancy was a role model for young people that showed that it is necessary to fight against evil. The change in the character’s personality was productive because it allowed people to see that even an ordinary individual can make a change.


Nancy Drew’s character has undergone various changes over time and across media. Her personality traits have become less rough, although some of them remain unchanged. The young woman is independent, courageous, determined, and strong; she shows resourcefulness and the desire to solve any case she accepts. Nancy Drew remains the role model that shows many young people that it is necessary to pursue truth and assist those who need help.

Works Cited

” YouTube, uploaded by lise engen haugan. 2017. Web.

Keene, Carolyn. The Hidden Staircase. Grosset & Dunlap, 1930.

Nancy Drew. Directed by Andrew Fleming. Warner Brothers, 2007.

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