Friend Essay - Critical Essays

Jane Yolen


A popular writer of more than eighty books for children and young adults, Yolen wrote Friend specifically for a juvenile audience, which, she believed, would be especially receptive to Fox’s message. She relies heavily on Fox’s journal as a historical source, and her narrative sticks closely to the events of Fox’s life and to his point of view.

This technique has advantages and disadvantages. A distinct advantage is that the reader is given a close-up view of what it was like to be George Fox—to be a young man and a religious leader in seventeenth century England and to endure such ordinary events as travel and worship and such extraordinary events as imprisonment in a very different time. The reader is given a deep appreciation of the hardships of daily life and of the fortitude of early modern people, Fox in particular.

Another advantage to this close attention to Fox is that Yolen captures for her readers the elusive nature of faith, spirituality, and the religious experience. She convinces the reader that Fox was an extraordinarily powerful and charismatic religious leader who deeply aroused the fears, joys, and uncertainties of his audience. Fox’s message of the “inner light” in the heart of each individual touched, and still touches, an archetypal yearning for spiritual fulfillment.

In addition, Fox applied his faith to everyday life. To him, Christianity was as much a matter of public practice as private worship, and Yolen explains well how Quakerism penetrated every aspect of life, from dress and demeanor to social attitudes and political positions. Fox’s emphasis on social equality stemmed from...

(The entire section is 680 words.)