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“Betty Wales, Senior” is a classic coming-of-age novel by Edith K. Dunton that was first published in 1915.
The book follows the titular character, Betty Wales, as she navigates her final year of college at Harding, a fictional women’s college in the Northeastern United States.
At the beginning of the novel, Betty is a confident and popular junior, well-liked by her classmates and admired by younger students. She is also an accomplished musician, with a particular talent for singing, and is a member of the college’s glee club. However, as her senior year begins, Betty begins to feel the weight of her responsibilities as a student leader and the pressure of preparing for life after college.
One of the main themes of the novel is the transition from college to adulthood, as Betty and her friends grapple with the question of what comes next. For Betty, this means deciding whether to pursue a career in music or to follow a more traditional path of marriage and family. She is torn between her love of music and her sense of duty to her family, who expect her to marry and settle down. Through her interactions with her friends and mentors, Betty begins to realize that there is no one “right” path, and that the most important thing is to follow her own passions and interests.
Another important theme of the novel is friendship, as Betty and her friends navigate the ups and downs of their relationships with each other. One of Betty’s closest friends is Mabel Chapin, a shy and studious girl who struggles to fit in with the more outgoing members of their class. Betty takes Mabel under her wing and helps her to become more confident and assertive, even as Mabel helps Betty to stay grounded and focused on her goals.
The novel also explores the role of women in society, as Betty and her friends grapple with the limitations placed on them by their gender. Although the college provides a supportive and empowering environment for its students, the wider world outside of Harding is not always so welcoming to women who aspire to careers and independence. Betty must contend with the expectations of her family and society at large, as well as the limitations of her own gender, as she tries to carve out a path for herself.
Overall, “Betty Wales, Senior” is a charming and thoughtful novel that explores the challenges and triumphs of young adulthood. Through Betty’s experiences, the novel grapples with some of the most important questions facing young women of her generation, and offers a glimpse into the hopes, dreams, and fears that defined the early 20th century. Whether read as a historical artifact or a timeless coming-of-age story, “Betty Wales, Senior” remains a beloved classic that continues to resonate with readers today.