Stone has been credited with creating a unique way of combining the events of an individual life with the history of the times in which he or she lived. This “biohistory” approach goes beyond biography, since it emphasizes events of the times, but it is not exactly a history of the times, either, since its focus is on an individual. This biography of Darrow is an excellent introduction for young readers to this style of writing, which Stone has used in other nonfiction books as well as in novels dealing with famous people.
As a result of Stone’s approach to biography and history, the reader learns much more than the facts about Darrow’s life. In early chapters, considerable attention is devoted to the labor movement in the United States, including railway workers, the American Federation of Labor, and radical groups such as the Industrial Workers of the World. Relations between employers and employees and conditions for labor in the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are also dis-cussed. In later cases, readers learn about opposition to World War I, the controversy over the teaching of evolution in the United States in the 1920’s, and racial problems in Northern cities after World War I. These are some of the great issues of the times from the 1890’s to the 1930’s, and Darrow was a central figure in all of them.
Darrow’s best-known cases involved liberal or radical causes. As Stone shows,...
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Clarence Darrow for the Defense is an informative work for young readers interested in United States history in the early twentieth century. Readers learn much, for example, about the development of labor relations through a study of some of Darrow’s most important cases. There is also much of relevance to modern readers. Race relations, opposition to war, and capital punishment are important components of the book and of Darrow’s life. Even the controversy over the teaching of evolutionary theories is still alive today.
As for Darrow himself, Stone refers to him as “a great propagandist for humanity.” By examining Darrow’s sensitivity to the problems of others, his willingness to take personal risks for ideals in which he believed, and his belief in his fellow men and women, young readers may be impelled to enlist in the service of others. Darrow is an excellent example to follow in this regard.