What if Huck Finn had helicopter parents?

Summer is over and you know what that means, right?

No, not the start of school! It’s time for helicopter parents to lift off. Thanks to technology, these moms and dads can track their kids everywhere via numerous apps on their smartphones. They’re already hovering over the school bus, on the monkey bars, the college library, the school bathroom, and every sidewalk between the classroom and home.

As a writer who sees everything through the prism of literature, I lament that this century will not produce the kind of classic books of the past in which lonely, lost, and adventurous children roam freely across the fictional landscape, unencumbered by mollycoddling, punctilious, and fussy parents … who tend to mess up good stories anyway.

I began to ponder what we might have lost—or rather, never had—if helicopter parents had been so pervasive in the past that they influenced all our great literature in which children were destined to be the heroes. (Well, the kids wouldn’t have been heroes, for one, because that sounds terribly dangerous. You could put an eye out.)

Here’s a painfully short list of novels spanning the past 200 years in which helicopter parents are joyously nowhere to be found, thank God:

      Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Mark Twain)
      Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain)
      Catcher in the Rye (JD Salinger)
      Wonderful Wizard of Oz (L. Frank Baum)
      The Outsiders (SE Hinton)
      Lord of the Flies (William Golding)
      A Separate Peace (John Knowles)
      Red Badge of Courage (Stephen Crane)
      To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
      The Yearling (Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings)
      Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll)
      Oliver Twist (Charles Dickens)
      Kidnapped (Robert Louis Stevenson)
      The Jungle Book (Rudyard Kipling)
      Treasure Island (Robert Louis Stevenson)
      The Railway Children (Edith Nesbit)
      Peter Pan (JM Barrie)
      Winnie the Pooh (AA Milne)
      The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
      The Little Prince (Antoine St. Exupery)
      David Copperfield (Charles Dickens)
      Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)
      Nancy Drew (Carolyn Keene)
      The Hardy Boys (Franklin W Dixon)
      Johnny Tremain (Esther Forbes)
      Little House on the Prairie (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
      Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)

Would our literature be something less if these books had never been written because children never slipped the surly bonds of parents in those days? Maybe, but I’m guessing that other great (less adventurous) stories would have been told. But all I can say with any certainty is, thank the Lord and Sam Clemens that Huck Finn didn’t have helicopter parents.


Bestselling true-crime author Ron Franscell is also the author of three novels, including “Angel Fire,” in part about two young brothers free to roam a small town. It was listed by the San Francisco Chronicle among its 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century West.

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