To-day, I would like to talk about one character that I have just come to admire.
Every voracious reader has a favourite author or book, as is the case with me. I do not have a particular favourite book, although I could say that Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is the best I have ever read till date – among many favourites! 😀 See, it is very difficult for me to choose. But, I do have a favourite author – had had, since I was a child. And that was Enid Blyton.
My reader-friends probably read a lot of Enid Blyton’s books, especially Swetha (here, I am referring to my school friend, not my college friend). Enid Blyton had written many books of various genres – from mystery to magic to ordinary day-to-day events – in her time, just for young readers. And her books can be enjoyed even by adults (why, my mother reads those books when she can!). Although Enid Blyton had lived in the early 20th Century and her books are set in such times, nevertheless, those anecdotes are relevant even to to-day’s life.
An example is mine.
In this article, I would like to focus on the characters from Malory Towers, one of the three school series that Enid Blyton had written (not including the books that other authors added to the series later; only the originals).
Malory Towers is a fictional girls’ school, situated on the border of the Cornish Sea. It has four towers—the North, South, East, and West Towers. Most of the action takes place at the North Tower, where the main characters stay.
The very first character that we come across in the very first book (First Term at Malory Towers) is Darrell Rivers. She is quite strong and energetic. She loves sports, but has the temper of a bull. Like a bull, she is very quick to see red when anything irritates her. But, throughout the series, she works to keep her temper in check. She even loses her form-headship once because she could not keep it down.
Her best friend is called Sally Hope. Like her name, she gives hope to Darrell, along with any advice she might want, and also helps keep Darrell’s temper down as much as possible. The two of them make a great team. At first though, Sally had been very sulky, but it was ultimately Darrell who had understood her situation and offered to help her. That was how the legendary friendship began. However, where Darrell’s friendship is concerned, Sally can get jealous, which Darrell can never understand, never having been so herself. But, as time passes, Sally overcomes this feeling and is thus happier.
Then, there is Gwendoline Mary Lacy. Her mother is a spoilt woman and even spoils her only daughter by admiring her yellow-coloured hair, and her general beauty, alongside Miss Winter, Gwen’s old governess, and giving her practically everything she wants. Her father, though, is very strict and tries to knock some sense into his only child. Gwen is very vain and loves her own voice. She loves talking about herself and her family.
Then, there are Irene and Belinda, best buddies and well-suited, too—the most hilarious duo of the entire form (a combination of girls of the same age from all four towers). The former is brilliant in Math and music (how those two go together, the girls never know), while the latter is a genius at drawing; Belinda can draw anything in just a few seconds—from small mice to big horses. But, when it comes to such ordinary things as dressing to go downstairs for breakfast, they turn up without some article of clothing or another! The case of Irene’s Health Certificate is a standing joke in the whole school. She is continually forgetting to bring in her Health Certificate to Matron, who is very particular to isolate anybody without that most important document. And Irene almost becomes a victim of such a treatment, just before the paper suddenly shows up!
Then, there are Alicia Johns and Betty Hill. They are very clever, their brains work at the speed of lightening, and they have a great stock of tricks up their sleeves. Alicia, having had a parrot-memory, had never had to work as hard as any normal girl in her form, and had always laughed at the others, when she saw them breaking their heads over their lessons. This goes on till she suddenly succumbs to measles and does very bad papers. Betty always backs up everything that Alicia says.
Then, there is silent, shy little Mary-Lou, who is very considerate where others are concerned, and even listens attentively to Gwen, when the latter is narrating boring tales of her and her family. She loves to help people. In the entire form, Mary-Lou is the only girl who learns to speak and write French fluently by the time she comes to the third form. I shall come back to this cute little girl later, as she is the main focus of my article.
Then, there is Wilhelmina “Bill” Robinson, who joins Malory Towers in the third form. She is crazy about horses. She has seven brothers and thus, quite manly in character. Till the end of the fourth form, it appears to everybody else that Bill is incapable of making any human friends – she is so fond of horses – (except her teacher-counterpart, the third form mistress, Miss Peters). However, in the upper fourth, another new girl, Clarissa Carter, slowly makes friends with her. It turns out that Clarissa is also mad about horses. And so, they take to riding together and talking horses all day long, when they are not studying.
Lastly, there is Mavis. She joined the school as a third former. She had a beautiful voice and when she sang, every person nearby listens spellbound. However, she knew of this too early in her life and takes to boasting about it. Her favourite phrase during the entire term had been “When I am opera-singer…”, which the other girls made fun of. However, under certain circumstances, she loses that beautiful voice, and, broken-hearted, she realises that all this time, she had only been a Voice and not a Somebody. She gradually gets in back and even sings in a pantomime the class presents two years later.
When I was a little girl, according to my mother, I was a sweet, cute girl. I highly disagree with that, as even she knows. I was very selfish and cunning, and did everything to make sure I got what I wanted. And my poor, unsuspecting parents yielded, because I was “cute and sweet”. Oh, I was a horrid monster, just like Gwen, but two times as selfish and three times as proud. That’s it, like Jo March, my pride had always been my bane. Come to think about it, I was a cross between Gwen and Mavis (strictly characters only)—a vain, selfish, silly, and proud little girl.
And I am still so, if lesser of all these traits, for which a sarcastic nature has taken place of. (To me, I had always been sarcastic…)
I have read all the six books of the Malory Towers series twice by now; of all the characters, I think Mary-Lou has grown the best. Mary-Lou is the youngest of her form and, although she grows taller and taller by the year, she is a weak little creature. However, she does love helping others and always sees only the good in everyone, even in people like Mavis and Gwen. She started out as a girl who was scared of the dark, scared of her own shadow, a helpful girl, though rather timid and easily led into doing wrong things by wrong-minded people, like Gwendoline, without her knowledge.
However, as the years fly by, Mary-Lou begins to shine, shedding her flipside slowly but surely, as she learns some life-lessons from her experiences at Malory Towers. She is good friends with Darrell and Sally in the first book, then, in the next, she adds Daphne to her circle of friends, and so on. But, all the things she learns from being with them she never forgets. One best thing about Mary-Lou is that, she always finds ways and means of bettering herself. At first, she clings onto Darrell, when the latter had rescued her from a certain danger; but later on, Sally and Darrell, in order to get Mary-Lou to have confidence in herself in doing things, hatch a plan – which, much to Alicia’s surprise, succeeds. This incident makes Mary-Lou so happy; it is the beginning of her reformation.
In the second form, she is shown to be a very loyal friend, especially when she risks her life to do Daphne a favour. Daphne, originally as vain as Gwen, realises Mary-Lou’s true worth, and the two become friends.
The third book shows how Mary-Lou is still a timid and scared little creature. She is at first scared of Bill, because the latter is a horse-rider – and Mary-Lou was scared of horses. She is also known to be afraid of crossing Alicia because of latter’s sharp tongue that could make anybody feel small. However, she is unusually sympathetic to Zerelda Brass, a British-American girl who joins the school for a year. Being a very helpful and compassionate girl, she even offers to do Bill’s duties for her, which the latter often neglects in the beginning (like watering the plants in their classroom). Also, when Bill first announces that her horse, Thunder, is unwell, nobody but Mary-Lou believes her.
In the fourth book, Mary-Lou seems not to have changed very much, although we see that teachers give good remarks about her. She is shown to be scared of the swimming pool, but enjoy tennis and school-walks. Here, we see that Mavis, now humbled, often hangs out with Mary-Lou and Daphne.
Mary-Lou’s biggest challenge comes in the Fifth Form, when the class is told to do a Christmas Entertainment. Moira, the head-girl of the form then, arranges a meeting, wherein the form is put forward the question of what they would like to do for it. After much debate, they choose to do a pantomime and, for some reason, “Cinderella” seems to be preferred by the Fifth Formers. A committee chosen for writing the script, directing, and so on; among them are Darrell and Sally. Darrell, the writer of the form, is told to write the pantomime; she does and the committee chooses Mary-Lou to take the part of Cinderella.
Mary-Lou simply cannot imagine why the committee had chosen her – of all the people to play a major part in the pantomime; but, Darrell and Sally encourage her to accept it.
Darrell says, “We want someone sort of pathetic-looking – a bit scary – someone appealing and big-eyed – and it has to be someone who can act and someone who can sing.”
Sally adds, “And you’re exactly right for the part. That’s right – make your eyes big and scared, Mary-Lou – you’re poor little Cinderella to the life!”
This cheers up the little girl considerably and she accepts the role. Indeed, she does turn out to be a wonderful actress in Darrell’s pantomime. Here, Mary-Lou’s biggest challenge is that, she has many lines to learn and recite on a stage with hundreds of people, including her own parents, watching her every move and listening to her every word. In the end though, Darrell is very proud of her, as well as the other actors.
By the time we come to the last book, we realise that Mary-Lou has turned out to be quite a mature girl; she even manages to reproach Gwendoline, when the latter narrates a spiteful thing that she had done in the holidays. Even Miss Grayling remarks to Darrell:
“You are one of our successes, Darrell. One of our biggest successes. Sally is another, and so is Mary-Lou…”
This comment plus her general behaviour throughout the term tells us that she has turned out for the better.
When I was re-reading about this one character in the Last Term at Malory Towers this week, I could not help admiring Mary-Lou and thinking that she is the finest even compared to Darrell and Sally, having come out of being scared of the dark to a confident, decent, and a fine adult (whereas, Sally and Darrell had already been like this since the beginning; hence, I think that them being Malory Towers’s successes is not a great achievement, compared to her).
Hence, given a choice, I think I would like to be like Mary-Lou.
Sayonara! See you in my next article! 😉