April 2007 Whispered Watchword
Doris Force, Adventurous Orphan
There are only 4 books in the Doris Force Series. Mildred Wirt wrote Doris Force at Locked Gates and Doris Force at Cloudy Cove. Walter Karig wrote Doris Force at Raven Rock and Doris Force at Barry Manor. Doris Force is an orphan in the Pollyanna tradition. She is always the happiest and most helpful person in the room. She lives with her bachelor uncle, Wardell Force. He is often away on business trips, so her day to day guardian is Mrs. Mallow, who keeps house for Uncle Wardell. Doris is a great friend with Mrs. Mallow's son Marshall, known as Marshmallow. Doris and Marshmallow, along with her other friends, Kitty Norris and Dave Chamberlin form an adventuresome quartet. In Doris' world, you don't need a mother and a father to be happy. She makes the most of the people around her and creates her own family unit wherever she is-at the Gates sister's Mansion, out west at Raven Rock, or at her boarding school, Barry Manor.
A recurring theme in series books is the restoration of the family. Lost and estranged relatives returned to the family unit feature in almost every series written in the early part of the 20th Century. Babies are abandoned on doorsteps, adventurous young men disappear in the Congo, and young women marry beneath their station and are disowned by stern fathers. These story lines crop up again and again and Doris is no stranger to these types of problems.
In the first book At Locked Gates, Doris is immediately involved in the mystery of her long lost Uncle John Trent. She investigates a possible inheritance from this uncle. Doris Force at Cloudy Cove continues Doris' quest to settle her Uncle John Trent's estate. Doris finds that her Uncle John was not dead, but only in hiding for many years. Instead of an inheritance, she gains another family member! In Doris Force at Raven Rock she restores the brother of famous opera singer Lolita Bedelle to her. When Doris encounters elderly Mrs. Tindell in Doris Force at Barry Manor, She takes the old lady under her wing and Mrs. Tindell is thought to be Doris' own grandmother by her classmates.
In Doris Force at Barry Manor, Doris restores another orphan, Violet Washington, to her family... sort of. The young man who Violet always thought was her brother is found to have been adopted by her parents. His real grandmother, Mrs. Tindell, was looking for him and at the resolution of the story, Violet gets her brother back and acquires a new grandmother in the bargain! From Page 217 of Barry Manor, "'Let us leave the reunited family together,' Doris whispered-'When Mrs. Tindell first told me that her grandson was Buddy Washington, and that he was not Violet's relative at all-my first thought was what a shock it would be to the poor girl, but she seems happier than if he were really her own brother who had come back.'"
I was struck by the differences between Doris and Violet. Both are orphans with only an uncle or aunt left to care for them. Both are sent off to Boarding School. But Violet is a shrinking violet! She is not the same sunny smiling orphan that Doris is. She cries and mopes and is so unhappy, where Doris is jolly and helpful and a pleasure to be around. Doris says to Violet on page 27 of Barry Manor, "You can't stay up here weeping, so you might as well be as cheerful as you can." There is a lesson here that even if your life or family is less than perfect, you should look on the bright side and make the most of your situation. Being proactive like Doris, rather than reactive like Violet is a much better and more entertaining way to live. With her sunny personality, Doris can claim many members of her surrogate family, from her blood relatives, Uncles Wardell Force and John Trent to Mrs. Mallow, Marshmallow, Kitty Norris and Dave Chamberlin. By accentuating the positive, Doris is surrounded by people who love her.