Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Dennis Wepman’s biography of revolutionary Mexican leader Benito Pablo Juárez is a book with two parallel themes: the rise to independence of a man and of a nation. Benito Juárez comprises five chapters that generally discuss Juárez’s life chronologically, from his early days as a runaway to the final battles of his political career.

Instead of beginning with Juárez’s birth, Wepman opens his book with an incident that led to Juárez’s first prison term. These nine days, according to many historians, “forged the will that rocked the Church from its foundations, destroyed one empire and helped bring down another.” The character of Juárez is immediately made apparent, as is his political mission: that all people, regardless of their race or class, should be equal under the law. Throughout the work, Wepman maintains this balance between the personal and the political, describing how one man helped to shape a nation and how the nation shaped a true “man of the people.”

The biography traces, in narrative form, the key passions in Juárez’s life. The desire for education, which prompted the independent young man to run away from home at a young age, led Juárez to become a lawyer—the first Zapotec tribal member to have achieved this distinction. In the reform movement that he later led, Juárez established a health system, built roads and bridges, opened ports for foreign trade, and built public schools that all...

(The entire section is 422 words.)