Literary Crush: Nat Eaton

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.

21 thoughts on “Literary Crush: Nat Eaton”

  1. Agreed. I mean, Bronte takes PAINS to inform you that Mr Rochester is whatayacallit…fugly. But I’d still give every hardcover in my library to be his little Jane. Le sigh.

  2. raych:
    When I read Jane Eyre, I took pains for pretend I didn’t just read Bronte’s description of Mr. Rochester’s butt ugliness. I guess I was in denial.

  3. It’s too bad there aren’t many (if any) Nat Eatons or Jamie Frasers out there. Most men are more like Bill Sykes or Owen Meany.

    I don’t sound bitter, do I?

  4. chartroose:
    Bitter? No, banish the thought!
    If this were a perfect world, men would read these books and use them as instruction manuals to what women want, then they’ll start acting like Nat Eaton or Jamie Fraser and the divorce rate will plummett. So maybe girly books are the key to happiness. Wishful thinking? Hey, girl’s gotta have dreams.

  5. Yep, that should be your next project: a how-to manual on wooing girls using literary references. It’s sort of sad that we can only dream about guys like Nat Eaton.

  6. Oh! I have to share this with those who will appreciate it… I just convinced my husband to read Outlander. In desperation I said, “PLease just read this so you will understand what I want in a man!” He agreed and is even enjoying it. Just to make sure he gets it I’ve underlined the specific parts that make my heart ache and my knees weak!

  7. I don’t like Edward.
    He infuriates me! It’s like he’s the opposite of Jacob and all my mates are Obbsessed with the blood sucking leech!
    Just because he’s gorgeous ikyou like his sort.
    Jacob is so upfront, uncontrolling, freedom-loving
    and a hunky Black haired boy.
    I mean come on!

  8. I fell in love with Nat right away. He was so sweet… and then at the end he’s all worried if he was enough for Kit… and I love the way he talks! xD And I love pretending-to-be-jerks-but-really-caring-on-the-inside-but-don’t-want-that-part-to-be-seen guys! It’s so cute.

    I like Ed Cullen! Not just cuz he’s hot, but that helps, but cuz he’s so sweet… and caring… I like Jasper too… Not Emmett too much.
    I hate Bella tho. She’s so whiney…

  9. omg! i just finished the book for school and i swear i am in love with nat eaton. i totally want that love story- minus all the witch stuff even though that was great-. hge is everything i want in a guy and i really want my nat eaton… i kinda saw it coming that him and kit would end up 2gether but i almost cried when i read the end because he is just so amazing…ps i would like 2 know what r the exact thingsyou do in the nat eaton test!!! thank you for writing this page! =]]]

  10. I recently remembered how much I liked The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and wondered why I liked it so much. Why of course, Nat Eaton! First Mate aboard the Dolphin. I loved reading this post! I read over every part of the book with him in it and his contradictory character!

  11. I was also 11 when I read WOBBP, I feel in love with Nat Eaton too. He was the perfect man, and this book was my introductin to the world of Historical Romance. Nat was the perfect hero. I imagined him as being very sexy and I really do believe that Kit had a crush on him, but becuase her life was in such termoil she could not admit her feelings right away. I believe what brough her around to admitting her true feelings for Nat was the day on Hannah’s roof when Nat was telling her his thought on the current political state of the colonies. I think that at that point, not only did she finnally get why the Purtains/colonist were the way they were, but she came to respect Nat for being strong and independant very much like her uncle and grandfather. two men that she admired very much. A man with that much conviction is very sexy….

  12. I am in love with Nat, simply put. he’s so sweet, funny, and sometimes infuriating. He’s handsome…I know he is. Nat has been an object of my fantasies for quite some time it’s exceedingly immature, i suppose, to be in love with a fictional character, but when all the real ones are windbags, it’s hard not to.
    I also hope i didn’t sound sexist, I mean there are some great guys out there, but they few, far between and, thus far, impossible to get hold of. I’m still waiting for my Nat Eaton to come along…

  13. You explain Nat Eaton so well!!!! But at the same time there are no words to explain him! He totally knocks Edward Cullen right off the board! I read The With Of Blackbird pond in 7th grade and I still read it over 4 times a year and never get sick of it! I don’t what it is about Nat… I always just sigh when I think of him… It’s a little funny how we can be so obbsessed over a guy in a book!

  14. My first literary crush was also on Nat Eaton. In fact, I used to like to say that The Witch of Blackbird Pond taught me how to “swoon.” Remember “the good honest stench of horses”?! If we didn’t already know, that line told us that Nat Eaton was a guy of honor.

  15. There’s just something about nat eaton that makes my knees go weak and my heart swell. He’s on my list of what I want a boy to be like.
    P.S. you didn’t mention that part where kit says she didn’t care what that freckled faced sailor/seaman said or thought and how he had such a touchy temper.
    (I already found my nat eaton) 😌

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