Diana Lynch: Can a Secondary Character Have Brains as well as Beauty?
by Jenni Johns, submitted for publication
in The Whispered Watchword in December 2001.
back to the Trixie Belden books you’ve read. What do you remember about Diana Lynch?
she was the pretty one. Um… she liked Trixie’s brother Mart.”
else did she do?
well…her family was rich and she had a set of twin brothers and a set of twin sisters.”
what else was there to Diana Lynch? Was it possible for a secondary female character
to have both brains and beauty? In the case of the Trixie Belden series, the answer
is no…and yes.
Diana Lynch was introduced
formally in #4 The Mysterious Visitor although she was mentioned in
an earlier book, #2 The Red Trailer Mystery, as an old friend of Trixie’s.
She was the pretty, unhappy girl who was not coping with her family’s sudden wealthy
status and was befriended by the Bob-Whites after Honey Wheeler noticed how unhappy
she seemed. The reader was told that Diana and Trixie used to be friends until Diana
moved to the Lynch mansion, just down the road from Trixie’s home, and after an
initial visit, Trixie felt too uncomfortable in Diana’s new home to continue the
friendship. No wonder the poor girl was unhappy!
What is ironic is that Trixie quickly
became firm friends with wealthy Honey Wheeler, despite being initially put off
by Honey’s girlish behavior, but maybe her initial attraction to Honey was the stable
of horses Honey’s father owned. But I digress…When Di was introduced as a character
and became a Bob-White, there was no apology from Trixie or an explanation of why
their friendship went bad, they simply became friends. Maybe that happens with 7-year-olds,
but 13-year-olds? I don’t think so.
Diana never played an important role
in solving the mysteries that Trixie and Honey stumbled across, however, she did
sometimes deliver them. Di’s uncle, the impostor and the real Uncle Monty, delivered
two mysteries in the books written by Julie Campbell (#4 The Mysterious Visitor
and #6 Mystery in Arizona).
Additionally, in later books, it was Di’s parents who made it possible for the Bob-Whites—minus
Dan—to travel to Williamsburg, Va., to solve #14 The Mystery of the Emeralds.
It was also Di’s butler’s disappearance that started #26 The Mystery of the Headless
Horseman. However, that was usually the limit to Di’s involvement in the mysteries,
and Di, like Dan, often found herself written out of a mystery because the author
didn’t know how to fit all of the characters in.
For the most, Diana Lynch was portrayed
as the stereotypical female. She was pretty, not terribly bright, couldn’t remember
lines in a school play, liked boys and had dreams of being an air stewardess. She
often frustrated the headstrong and impatient Trixie, although it was obvious that
Trixie felt sorry for her because she gave Di jobs to do as a Bob-White to make
her feel important:
After a vote was taken and everyone agreed to the plan, Trixie asked Di to write
to the Heart Association, offering their services. Di was the quietest member of
the group, and Trixie liked to give her things to do to make her feel that she was
really an important member of the Bob-Whites.
(The Mystery of the Emeralds, p. 34-35)
However, Diana appeared as confident and outgoing as the other Bob-Whites in social
situations. In #9 The Happy
Valley Mystery, Di is happy to
be surrounded by boys after a basketball game, and she laughs and teases them in
a carefree and friendly manner. However, she was portrayed again as the stereotypical
female who did little else but look pretty and bat her eyelashes at boys.
Finally, an author came along who was determined to portray Diana Lynch in a different
light. Joan Chase Bowden is known to have written four books from the Trixie Belden
series under the Kathryn Kenny pseudonym, the first being #26 The Mystery of
the Headless Horseman. In this book, Di is given a more prominent role and the
author sets her up to clash with Trixie on a number of occasions:
Trixie glanced at her sharply. What was wrong with Di? She had a funny lah-di-dah
tone in her voice that Trixie had never heard her use before. It was almost as if—that
was it—as if Di was playing a part on the stage.
And the role she's playing
is Lady Diana of the Lynch estate,
Trixie thought. She was not sure she liked it. (p. 51)
Di suddenly has an opinion and puts her
trust and loyalty to Harrison, her family’s butler, before Trixie. Trixie’s theory
that Harrison is a thief causes a rift between the two girls, and Trixie can’t understand
the change in Di’s behavior. Jim suggests that Trixie might be jealous because Di
is in charge for once and that doesn’t sit well with our super sleuth, who could
handle the attention Di received for being pretty but couldn’t cope when Di took
charge and she had to take a back seat for a change.
The education of Diana continues in Bowden’s next book, #27 The Mystery of the
Ghostly Galleon. Di knows about loans and collateral and explains how they work
when Trixie laments about not being able to ask her father, a banker, for advice
(p. 124-125). Trixie must have forgotten all about loans and collateral from
#5 The Mystery Off Glen Road,
when she used her diamond ring as collateral to hold Brian's car until they earned
enough money to buy it. So was Di’s developing intelligence at Trixie’s expense?
Gone were the throwaway lines of the helpless female character, which were replaced
by meaningful dialogue that showed insight and understanding:
“Maybe it’s the room she’s always
had ever since she was a child,” Trixie said thoughtfully. “And did you notice what
she said downstairs? ‘For once I agree with my brother,’ she told us. It almost
sounds as if the two of them don’t always get along with each other.”
Di smiled. “You should
be able to understand that, Trix. You don’t always get along with yours.”
Trixie’s face went
red. Of course, Di was right.
(The Mystery of the Ghostly Galleon,
Bowden shows another, more vulnerable
side of Di in #30 The Mystery of the
when she writes to the school’s Miss Lonelyheart, fearing that no one would ask
her to the Spring Dance. Now this isn’t the Di of #9 The
Happy Valley Mystery
who knew just how to act with the boys swarming
around her. However, maybe the problem is that in past books Di has always been
portrayed from Trixie’s point of view, and when an author chooses to let the character
speak for herself, the reader instantly sees a lot more depth in the character.
In the last book that Bowden is believed to have written for the series, #32
The Mystery of the Whispering Witch, the reader is treated to yet another side
of Diana. Di is surprisingly brave and levelheaded, and doesn't seem at all perturbed
about visiting the supposedly haunted Lisgard House. She volunteers to accompany
Trixie, Honey and Fay and does a little investigating of her own even after the
witch is heard:
To her surprise, Di said nothing. Then, when Trixie turned her head to look,
she noticed that Di wasn’t even there. She had moved quietly to the study door and
was gazing curiously around the little room.
“Di?” Trixie called.
Di had already taken several steps into the study, but now she retreated hastily.
“I just had to see where the witch died,” she confessed. (p. 152-153)
This is quite unlike the scared, frightened Di portrayed in #25 The Sasquatch
Mystery, and the reader is impressed by her calm, sensible manner. Di also provided
some vital clues by revealing that the furniture in Lisgard House was fake. Was
Honey too scared to notice? It seems strange that the "newly rich" Di would know
more about antiques than Honey. Bowden has Di play the role of the detective for
the first time, which allows Di to make a meaningful contribution to solving the
mystery without antagonizing the main female characters.
Sadly, in the remaining books in the series, Di returns to the role of a secondary
character with little dialogue and no meaningful input into the stories. Bowden
did complete the manuscript for what was intended to be book 41 in the series,
The Mystery of the Flying Mermaid. This may have presented another opportunity
for Di to shine, but unless Golden Books decides to continue the series after a
15 year hiatus, we will never know.
Even Julie Campbell, the author who introduced the character, did not allow Diana
Lynch to ever have the depth or intelligence of her other female characters.
Bowden managed to portray Diana Lynch as another worthy female character who could
contribute as much as the characters of Trixie Belden and Honey Wheeler did to the
books. While other authors struggled to even incorporate Diana into the stories,
Bowden made her role significant and demonstrated that a secondary character with
both beauty and brains can be allowed to stand alongside the female protagonists
without the world coming to an end.