I recently posted about finding a copy of Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace at the library.
It only took me an hour or so to re-read it, which isn’t surprising since it was written for thirds graders. Nor is it surprising that I saw different things in the book than I did when I was eight.
This time I was overwhelmed by the way introverted Tacy was portrayed.
Since reading Susan Cain’s Quiet, I have become proud of the introvert label. I often identify myself as such, out loud, and defend introversion when I perceive slights against the qualities that introverts tend to posses.
When we first meet Tacy in Betsy-Tacy, she has just moved into a new house in a new neighborhood. She ventures outside in the snow and is happily standing on a bench, surveying the landscape when a noisy little girl bounds up to her and demands to know her name.
Tacy, a true introvert, runs for cover and it’s only from the safety of her door that she calls out her name.
At least this is the way I read it. In truth the book, which is written from Betsy’s point of view, make Tacy seem a bit freakish for taking off when Betsy came running up to her, unable to control her excitement at meeting a new little girl just her age.
“She brushed past Betsy on her headlong flight down the hill. She ran like a frightened rabbit, and Betsy ran in pursuit.”
Later Tacy attends Betsy’s birthday party where she hung on her sister’s hand “as though she were afraid she would be drowned if she let go. She wouldn’t join in any of the games. She wouldn’t even try to pin the tail on the donkey.”
And when she attends school, she practically has a breakdown. She even runs away at recess and vows never to return to school again.
In her defense the stupid teacher made her sit beside her desk thinking it would make her feel better. Like an upset introvert would be comforted by having the entire class staring at her.
If you can get past the misrepresentation of introverts as shy, socially awkward agoraphobics who hide their face with their hair when they meets new people, the book is actually a nice representation of an introvert / extrovert friendship.
Betsy takes the lead socially, like when they meet Tib at the end of the book, and makes up stories to entertain the pair while Tacy is a thoughtful, calming influence on the rather excitable Betsy, when Betsy freaks out at the birth of her new sister for example.
Of course I didn’t see any of this when I read the book as a child. It was a simply a story about two little girls; one with dark hair, the other with red curls.
But I did always identify with Tacy instead of Betsy and it wasn’t just because I wanted curly hair.