Faber’s study of Darrow offers a spirited introduction to her subject, one of the greatest Americans who ever lived and certainly one of the best trial lawyers that the United States has produced. She proceeds by first portraying a twelve-year--old Darrow receiving his initial pair of long pants. Faber engages young readers—especially preteens—with the image of a genius in the making acting much as they might act. She portrays the young Darrow as a sensitive yet brave boy who loves both sports and debate.
Fortunately for her readers, however, Faber does not overidealize Darrow: His “warts” show as well as his virtues. Yet it is clear that her young subject has an unusually keen perception of issues and a penetrating intellect. Nevertheless, the young Darrow seems to have been a well-liked child. Thus, Clarence Darrow contains elements for both extroverted and introverted young readers.
The book presents Darrow as a positive person. He is described as an active, intellectually restless, and caring individual who is bored by the pursuit of money, though not averse to fame. Nevertheless, his motives are never in question. There is a danger, however, in this kind of idealistic presentation. Young people reading about the older Darrow—as opposed to the youthful one, who had an occasional fault—find what appears to be a perfect human being. Therefore, it may be a bit hard for many young readers to identify with this portrayal...
(The entire section is 473 words.)
The well-and long-established reputation of Faber’s Clarence Darrow appears to be the result of many factors. Chief among the reasons for the book’s success is its telling of a compelling story about an undeniably fascinating individual in a straightforward, well-illustrated, and engaging manner. This book is accessible to beginning readers because no complicated syntax or ideas bar the way to understanding who Darrow was and what he represented.
Like any competent biographer, Faber possesses the ability to transport readers to a different time and place with little fuss or fanfare. For example, the reader hears a conversation between Darrow and a friend or family member on a village green or in the center of Chicago’s Loop. There is an immediacy to her portrayal that is fetching: Readers participate in events as they unfold about them. The dialogue is realistic, capturing the flavor of another time and place. In addition, Faber does not dawdle: The story moves quickly, never revealing the complete story of any one trial and leaving the reader to investigate the matter further. For example, when portraying the famous Scopes trial in Dayton, Tennessee, Faber gives only a few high points of the battle between Darrow and his legal adversary, William Jennings Bryan. Yet, for young readers’ purposes, it is sufficient for them to grasp who Bryan was and what he represented.
Children need to know about the past, and Faber has done them a service in illuminating the life of an individual who deserves to be remembered for his work in making the United States a better, more compassionate country.