Told in the first person some time after Charlotte’s voyage, the story is presented much like the travel narratives popular during the nineteenth century. Early in the novel, Charlotte explains that she is telling the truth as she lived it, suggesting an air of authenticity that adds to the reader’s enjoyment of the melodrama. Charlotte tells her tale using a hyperliterary style common to the writing of that time period. In doing so, she joins the well-established tradition of the woman’s travel narrative, whose roots go back to Sarah Kemble Knight’s Private Journal of a Journey from Boston to New York (1704-1705) and in many aspects to Mary Rowlandson’s Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration (1682), which details her capture by American Indians during King Philip’s War.
“Woman-in-peril,” or perhaps “virtue-in-danger,” is an assertive theme in many historical accounts of travel. Avi builds on this motif as Charlotte finds herself in an all-male society. The “confession” does not belabor any potential sexual threat; however, an underlying element of propriety is what fuels much of the book’s appeal. From the outset, Charlotte finds herself forced by circumstances away from propriety. When she discovers that the traveling companions that her father arranged for her will not be present for the voyage, she exclaims that the situation would not be proper. Charlotte discovers, however, that there is considerably more wrong on the ship than simply traveling with sailors.
“Impropriety” is the watchword as the crew mutinies...
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The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle was named a 1991 Newbery Honor Book. Avi, whose writing has received numerous awards, is a popular author of historical and realistic fiction. His work for young adults includes such novels as A Place Called Ugly (1981), Devil’s Race (1984), S.O.R. Losers (1984), Wolf Rider: A Tale of Terror (1986), Romeo and Juliet—Together (and Alive!) at Last (1987), The Man Who Was Poe (1989), and Nothing but the Truth: A Documentary Novel (1991).