Form and Content
In constructing Columbus Sails, a dramatic biography of Christopher Columbus for young adult readers, Cyril Walter Hodges made two significant initial choices. First, he chose to employ narrators who are eyewitnesses to the action but are a generation younger than the fortyish Columbus. Second, he chose to confine the narrative to the months before Columbus’ departure, the time of the voyage, and the discovery of the New World, with a brief account of the return voyage and its subse-quent effects. The young narrators are close to the action of their respective sections, but each is more an observer than a participant. The compression of time into two significant years in Columbus’ life concentrates the action, producing a narrative and dramatic line that is full of tension and power.
The book is divided into four sections. Part 1, “The Monk’s Story,” is narrated in 1528 by Antonio de la Vega, who recalls 1491, the time of his novitiate at the monastery near Palos, Andalusia, where he was later prior. His account deals with the philosophical and financial opposition to Columbus’ proposed project and with the political and social connections that finally enabled Columbus to reach the ear of Queen Isabella herself through her former confessor, Prior Juan Perez of La Rabida. The section ends with Columbus knighted, made first admiral, financed, and supported by the Spanish crown, as well as by the merchant community of Palos.
(The entire section is 434 words.)