8

SOCIAL MOBILITY AND CONTAINMENT

"'He holds himself in splendidly for a boy,' thought the detective."
- From Young Broadbrim, The Boy Detective, page 23

<em>Deadwood Dick Jr.; or, the Sign of the Crimson Crescent</em> (Beadle's Frontier Series no. 28)

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Compared to their predecessors, Deadwood Dick Jr. and Young Broadbrim offer a more optimistic vision of the world in which social mobility is possible through strength of character. Some of Wheeler’s darker undertones are lost in Deadwood Dick Jr.; instead of critiquing societal institutions, the narrator is more likely to attribute social problems to individual character flaws. In Deadwood Dick Jr., for example, the author writes, "There was work at good wages for everyone who cared to work, but, as usual in every mining camp, there were a number of drones who never made it a point to earn their living by the sweat of their brows - gamblers, fakers and bummers."1 Meanwhile Mr. Hyatt, the mine owner, is portrayed as a benevolent capitalist, who pays a decent wage and rubs shoulders with his employees.

<em>Young Broadbrim, the Boy Detective; or, The Old Quaker's Youthful Ally </em>(Young Broadbrim Weekly no. 52)

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In Young Broadbrim, the boy hero’s radical potential as a detective is contained within a quintessential rags-to-riches narrative. Young Broadbrim, the Boy Detective introduces Harry Wilson as a hard-working, down-on-his-luck Western boy who had to drop out of school to support his widowed mother. Old Broadbrim notices him due to his attractive looks and work ethic and takes him back East to be educated and apprenticed to his agency. Young Broadbrim’s relationship to his mentor ties him to the previous generation, expressing a general nostalgia for the old system of apprenticeship and providing assurance in the face of changing economic realities.2 The relationship also represents, more generally, the domestication of the West by the East. Harry is frequently rewarded for his self-control - "He holds himself in splendidly for a boy,"3 as Old Broadbrim observes - thus validating the ideal of self-controlled manhood put forward by Sumner and others while minimizing social critique.

1. Deadwood Dick Jr.; or, The Sign of the Crimson Crescent. Print. 19.
2. Kett, Joseph F. Rites of Passage: Adolescence in America 1790 to Present. New York: Basic Books, 1977. Print. 145.
3. Young Broadbrim, the Boy Detective; or, The Youthful Quaker's Ally. Print. 23.