Meindert De Jong demonstrates the impressive capacity not only for remembering a child’s mental and emotional geography but also for reexperiencing that internal state. This talent allows him to render Siebren’s physical and psychological journey with absolute authenticity.
Fear and confusion constitute a significant part of a child’s growing up. This is particularly true for Siebren, who has lived a restricted, sheltered life. Once he leaves the confines of Weirom behind, he enters into an unfamiliar world that constantly reinforces his feelings of limitations and vulnerability. The fierce dogs of Nes make him feel as if he is about to enter the gates of hell. The dispute over seventeen cents confuses him about the maturity and wisdom of adults. A woman with a shotgun, the eerie dangers of the marsh in the dark, the Gothic creepiness of the monastery, the strange giant uncle he has never met, the roaring tornado that swallows everything in its path—all these encounters disturb his mind and shake his spirit. Although Siebren is young for an archetypal journey of initiation, this journey from the too-familiar world of Peppermint Street in fact initiates him into a level of experience and understanding that yields maturity.
The journey changes Siebren. He overcomes his fear of dogs through love for the stray, which he aptly names Wayfarer. He notes that silly disputes that bring alienation need not be permanent when his Grandpa sees the...
(The entire section is 539 words.)