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The Hardy Boys Guide Article

Thematic Analysis

Guide by Hermione30 posted over a year ago
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The Hardy Boys
The Hardy Boys have been called "a cultural touchstone all over the world". Their adventures have been continuously in print since 1927. The series was an instant success: by mid-1929 over 115,000 books had been sold, and as of 2008 the books were selling over a million copies a year(the first Hardy Boys book, The Tower Treasure, alone sells over 100,000 copies a year). Worldwide, over 70 million copies of Hardy Books have been sold. A number of critics have tried to explain the reasons for the characters' longevity.

One explanation for this continuing popularity is that the Hardy Boys are simple wish-fulfillment. Their adventures allow readers to vicariously experience an escape from the mundane. At the same time, Frank and Joe live ordinary lives when not solving mysteries, allowing readers to identify with characters who seem realistic and whose parents and authority figures are unfailingly supportive and loving.The Hardy Boys also embody an ideal of masculinity: by their very name they "set the stage for a gentrified version of hardness and constructed hardiness as an ideal for modern American males", part of the "cultural production of self-control and mastery as the revered ideal for the American man."Further, according to Meredith Wood, the characters embody not just an ideal of masculinity, but an ideal of white masculinity. She argues that "racist stereotypes are ... fundamental to the success of the Hardy Boys series." In support of this claim, Wood cites the replacement of one stereotype (evil Chinese) with another (evil Latin Americans) in the original and revised versions of Footprints Under the Window and the popularity of the Applewood Books reprints of the original, unrevised texts.

Critic Jeffery P. Dennis argues that one reason for the books' popularity is that they, especially in the early volumes, provide readers with something they cannot get in other media: homoromance. While the Hardy Boys have nominal girlfriends in Callie Shaw and Iola Morton, the boys exhibit little interest in them, planning no individual dates with them, for example.Instead, the Hardys spend time in the early volumes with male friends; "Frank favors chubby, good-natured Chet, who frets over household chores, befriends girls, and eventually goes to art school" while Joe "favors Biff, with 'muscles like steel,' who dislikes school chores, dislikes girls, and plays every school sport."Later, the Hardys no longer have particular friends; they do everything as a group: rescue each other from being tied up, finish each other's sentences, attend the same classes at school despite their age difference, and never argue or disagree with each other. According to Dennis, they "behave precisely as if their bond is romantic", but they are portrayed as brothers because the culture at large demanded that latent homoeroticism be masked by girlfriends and fraternalism.However, critic Gary Westfahl argues that the Hardy Boys are neither heterosexual or homosexual, but asexual, although he and others suggest that Chet is portrayed as a feminine male character.

The Hardys' ignorance of sex and their increasing respect for the law, along with the possibility of homoerotic tones to the books, have led to some negative perceptions and many parodies of the characters. They are "well-scrubbed Boy Scout types"who "fetishized squareness". They have been parodied numerous times, in such works as The Hardy Boys and the Mystery of Where Babies Come From by Christopher Durang, The Secret of the Old Queen: A Hardy Boys Musical by Timothy Cope and Paul Boesing,[114] and Mabel Maney's novel A Ghost in the Closet: A Hardly Boys Mystery. National Lampoon ran an article in 1985 entitled "The Undiscovered Notebooks of Franklin W. Dixon," in which the authors "purport to have stumbled upon some unpublished Hardy Boys manuscripts", including "The Party Boys and the Case of the Missing Scotch" and "The Hardly Boys in the Dark Secret of the Spooky Closet".

Others have pointed to the Hardy Boys' relationship with their father as a key to the success of the series. As Tim Morris notes, while Fenton Hardy is portrayed as a great detective, his sons are usually the ones that solve cases, making Fenton Hardy a paradoxical figure:

He is always there, he knows everything. He is infallible but always failing. When the Boys rescue him, he is typically emaciated, dehydrated, semi-conscious, delirious; they must succor him with candy bars and water. He can take on any shape, but reveals his identity within moments of doing so. He never discusses a case except the one he's working on in a given novel, so that his legendary close-mouthedness turns to garrulousness when a Hardy Boys novel begins, which is of course the only time we ever get to see him. All the same, he only discusses the case in enough detail to mislead his sons and put them in mortal danger. He has systems of information and data-gathering that put the FBI to shame, yet he is always losing his case notes, his ciphers, his microfilm, or some other valuable clue, usually by leaving it in his extra pair of pants, meaning that the Boys have to drive to Canada or Florida or somewhere to retrieve it. I suppose he isn't mysterious at all; he simply embodies what many think of their own fathers: utterly powerful, contemptibly inept.

As a result, the Hardy Boys are able both to be superior to their father and to gain the satisfaction of "fearlessly making their dad proud of them."

In the end, many commentators find that the Hardy Boys are largely successful because their adventures represent "a victory over anxiety". The Hardy Boys series teaches readers that "although the world can be an out-of-control place, good can triumph over evil, that the worst problems can be solved if we each do our share and our best to help others."

credit : wikipedia
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