SELF-CENSORSHIP AND ADAPTATION
"We prohibit all things offensive to good taste in expression and incident ... We prohibit subjects of characters that carry an immoral taint ... We prohibit what cannot be read with satisfaction by every right-minded person - young and old alike.”
- From Beadle's instructions to prospective dime novel authors1
Backlash against the dime novel industry led to extensive adaptation to middle-class concerns. After Sumner’s essay religious organizations started publishing their own “respectable” serials, some of which became immensely popular.2 And the major publishing house Beadle issued a set of instructions to prospective writers (see above).
Some dime novel authors assuaged fears of the wild street boy by placing him within optimistic narratives of upward mobility and domestication. Horatio Alger’s “rags-to-riches” books, notably, were didactic rather than rebellious, touting the values of hard work and industry which Sumner claimed boy’s fiction was lacking. Schoolboy novels, like those starring Frank Merriwell, the Yale sports star, also inculcated the working class with admiration for the prep school life and touted middle-class values.3
With these kinds of countervailing forces urging for domesticity and suppression of dissent, even traditionally rebellious genres like outlaw and detective stories adapted. Analysis of Deadwood Dick Jr. and Young Broadbrim will explore how the more radical social critiques of previous heroes are contained in their second-generation counterparts.
1. "An Interesting Chapter in American Literary History," Banner Weekly, VIII, No. 369, December 7, 1889.
2. Neubauer, John. The Fin-de-Siècle Culture of Adolescence. New Haven & London: Yale University, 1992. Print. 87.
3. Ibid. 88.