In her introduction, Swift declares as her goal to capture in the narrative of From the Eagle’s Wing “even a fraction of the passionate zest for life, the love of beauty, or the dedication to his own sense of mission which characterized John Muir.” Success in that goal will, she infers, best motivate her readers to care for the wilderness, for what she calls in her dedication “our most priceless American possession.” It is for that reason that Swift has dramatized the narrative in her attempt to go beyond the totally objective relaying of facts, statistics, and events. In the storytelling tradition, her efforts are focused on establishing between the subject, Muir, and the young reader an intimacy that creates empathy and involvement on the part of that reader.
The book is intended chiefly for a juvenile readership, and its primary value for young readers lies in the conservationist ideals it espouses. The book’s continued topicality seems assured in the light of increasing concerns in the United States over environmental issues. Swift repeatedly reminds the reader that the consequences of the actions of one generation drastically affect the next. It is her stated wish that this idea be conveyed successfully to the young reader.
Swift’s admiration for Muir is quite evident, and occasionally her partiality to Muir shades her perception of the principals and of certain events. Thus, the book’s objectivity, and a certain sense of accuracy, is slightly diffused when the lively, animated writing style persistently emphasizes only the positive aspects of people and events. For example, the rift between Muir and his father was a serious one;...
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