This fact is perfectly dramatized when one contrasts the “High School English Class” scenes featured in the Carpenter and Craven films. The former is about fate, and the way that fate determines action and destiny.
The latter is about a hero (Hamlet) digging for and excavating the truth against great odds and entrenched power.
One scene is about surviving by circumstance, the other is about actively participating and re-shaping your own future. Nancy is a hero, then, who takes responsibility for her survival in an affirming, powerful fashion.
A national debt of the egregious size we racked up in the 1980s was, similarly, a visitation of the sins of the fathers upon the children. It was the kids who would be faced with paying the piper.
As a protagonist, Nancy Thompson fits perfectly into this discussion of reality vs. symbolism, or surface vs. reality, if you prefer.
She discovers that her parents are murderers, and worse, that they are okay with the fact that they took the law into their own hands. Their protestations of righteousness are hollow-sounding lies. And it is here, in reckoning with those lies, that Nancy realizes no one can help her.
The police are powerless to stop Freddy, because he operates in his own reality.
Her parents are similarly helpless, because they are either alcoholic, are unwilling to listen to their child’s fears.
And at a dream clinic, scientists also prove unable to help Nancy survive against the looming threat to her very survival.
Again, the parents who brought the world to the brink of war might be viewed as culpable for creating that “demon,” while the younger generation, represented by Nancy, had to carry the burden of knowing that death -- apocalypse -- could come at any moment. Freddy -- Craven's "bad father" -- is the avatar for all these generational fears; but particularly the fear that the world is fucked up, that it isn't your fault, and that, without doubt, the world is going to come and kill you.
The death of Tina is one of the most horrifying and remarkable death scenes ever put to film (with Glen’s a close second, perhaps). Tina’s death is violent, irrational, and based on the idea that a reality ignored is a reality that is dangerous, or deadly.
An unseen assailant rips the beautiful teen apart, and razor cuts “happen” to her, because her parents have not been able to help her, or acknowledge the truth about the danger she faces. Future Elm Street films boast far more elaborate death sequences, but for my money, Tina’s remains the most effective in the entire franchise. Her murder galvanizes the senses. It terrifies. It goes so far beyond the pale -- and beyond rationality or Physics -- that viewers realize they have crossed over into a whole new world of terror.
We've all had that terrible dream in which we are being chased, and our feet sink into the ground, delaying and jeopardizing our escape. Craven harnesses that universal image for a chase scene here, in which a staircase turns to goo under Nancy's feet, and Freddy looms nearer.
Long story short: thirty years later A Nightmare on Elm Street is still bloody good.