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Young Peyton Bragg wants to be a hero, but everyone won't stop treating her like a zero. She's like Rodney Dangerfield transported into the body of a little girl: she gets no respect.
Gender roles circa 1959 play a big role in this. Ben Franklin, as a boy, is given tons of opportunities to prove himself. Hunting? That's for boys. Fishing? That's for boys too. At one point, Peyton even teaches Ben how to hunt armadillos.
And guess what? She gets no respect:
Ben Franklin was credited with discovering a new source of food, and was a hero. Peyton was only a girl, fit for sewing, pot washing, and making beds. (12.56)
Later, when they run low on armadillo, Peyton discovers yet another food source for the group, snagging several massive bass from the river despite everyone else struggling to catch a single fish. This earns her a stiff spanking from Helen instead of the praise she had expected.
Peyton only becomes a hero in the adults' eyes when she finds a treasure trove of household goods hidden in the attic. This is indeed a godsend, as it includes everything from razor blades to oil lamps. But weren't Peyton's other feats more impressive? Don't they show more of her natural ingenuity and intelligence?
We'd say so, but the novel seems to be arguing otherwise. Peyton becomes a hero only once she does something domestic, something within the house, something that girls are supposed to do. That's more than a little icky. Then again, we can't help but wonder if author Pat Frank wanted us to think about this double standard. It could go either way. Where do you land?