Weeks ago, I promised readers that one day I’ll compose an essay entitled “I Heart Jamie Fraser, Nat Eaton, Mr. Darcy, and Edward Cullen.” Not one to go back on a promise, I bring you Part I of this, my new Literary Crush segment.
So what better way to kick off this first Literary Crush post with my first literary crush: Nat Eaton from The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare.
When I was 11 years old, Nat Eaton was hands down the perfect man. He was tall and lean, tanned from years spend on shipboard, agile and surefooted, blonde-haired and blue eyed. Sounds like I’m describing Sailor Ken, which is beyond gay, but let’s not go there. I’m talking about Nathaniel Eaton, first mate of The Dolphin and that cocky young seaman in my all time favorite book (do I need to repeat the name of the book again?).
I can’t quite put my finger on the Nat Eaton appeal or why this character keeps popping in and out of my mind during my teen years.
Did Nat Eaton affect my life? Oh yeah.
Did I put guys through the “Nat Eaton test”? Yup.
Did I harbor dreams about naming my first born son Nathaniel? Uh-huh.
So what if I was chasing after some ideal that isn’t real? A girl’s gotta have dreams.
I know you’re all wondering: what is “Nat Eaton” enough for you? I’m wondering the same thing myself. That’s why I started The Witch of Blackbird Pond Project so I can write my way to the bottom of my decade long Nat Eaton obsession.
Nat Eaton appeals to me in many ways, but I guess his primary appeal is his contradictory character. In the book, Nat is forever infuriating Kit Tyler. Remember when she jumped into the river to save Prudence Cruff’s wooden doll and Nat jumped in to save her, unaware that she could swim? When he climbed on board the rowboat, he was fuming pissed about the dunking and treated Kit like crap after that. Well, not exactly like crap, he remained aloof, was careful to avoid her on board the ship, said smartass things that didn’t make her transition to the New World any smoother.
This was early on in the story, yet still, I never bought Nat’s ‘tough guy’ act. I’ve always seen him as a good guy trying his hardest to show the world he’s a jerk while we, the reader, knew he was the good guy and the right guy. We’re just waiting for Kit Tyler to figure it out.
One thing I remembered about the Nat Eaton character was that he was always performing random acts of kindness and keeping it hush hush—kind of like a superhero. He chopped firewood for Hannah Tupper, he helped teach little Prudence Cruff how to read, and he saved Kit Tyler at least three times in the book and never once claimed recognition. Moreover, there was this line in the book that said he stood up and spoke on Kit’s behalf “with a dignity that she never gave him credit for.” Kit was also puzzled to learn that under that aloof, offhanded way of his, there was a nobility to his character that took her off guard.
Doesn’t that just make you weak in the knees?
A silent dignity? Random acts of kindness under a seemingly indifferent exterior?
Is he the perfect fictional guy or what?
Okay, confession time. I am hung over on this concept of ‘silent dignity.’ When I was in high school, I’d ask myself: how come I can’t meet a boy who secretly performs good deeds on the sly and not report it as another notch on his college applications? What gives?
Nat Eaton wouldn’t give a damn about the system, there’s no bribe in this world that could compromise his integrity.
I’m beginning to think I crushed on Nat Eaton because his character represents the possibility that there are people out there doing good things behind the scenes. Or maybe there’s good in even the most unlikely suspects.
Even as I write this, I’d just like to point out that nowhere in the book does it mention that Nat Eaton is especially handsome. We know that he has sun-bleached sandy hair, blue eyes, is tall, lean, and nimble and that’s pretty much it. Hey, it’s possible someone might have hit him in the face with the ugly stick. Nat Eaton’s attractiveness is anyone’s guess.
Then why do I have this image of Nat Eaton as being the hottest guy in the American colonies? Why do I see washboard abs in the shirtless firewood chopping scene?
It just goes to show that hotness is 10% physical attractiveness and 90% character. Of course, shirtless firewood chopping doesn’t hurt.