Study Guide

The Promise of Light

by Paul Watkins

The Promise of Light Essay - Critical Essays

The Promise of Light

Like his previous novels, NIGHT OVER DAY OVER NIGHT, CALM AT SUNSET, CALM AT DAWN, and IN THE BLUE LIGHT OF AFRICAN DREAMS, Paul Watkins’ THE PROMISE OF LIGHT is an adventure story. It takes place in 1921 and centers on the dangerous search for his real father that Benjamin Sheridan, a young Irish American, undertakes.

At a point when his life seems full of hope, Benjamin’s future and his past alike fall apart. He has recently graduated from a university and has been hired by a bank. Moving from his father’s house on Jamestown Island off the Rhode Island mainland, he will now be in charge of his own life.

The moment he returns to Jamestown with the news of his new job, his father, the fire chief, is badly injured in a dockside fire, and then dies from a transfusion of Benjamin’s blood. It becomes clear that Arthur Sheridan was not Benjamin’s real father, and that his dead mother Mae may not be his real mother, either.

Since Arthur and Mae Sheridan both came from Ireland, Benjamin, with the help of Arthur’s old friend, Father Willoughby, sails there, leaving behind his friends, Arthur’s house, and Jamestown—all of which, despite his nostalgia for the past they embody, have become alien to him.

Even before he has set foot on the shore near Lahinch, Arthur’s hometown, Benjamin is sucked into the Irish Rebellion, which is raging at the time. While the British search for him, mistaking him for Arthur whom...

(The entire section is 587 words.)