Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle is an adventure story set on the high seas that begins with “an important warning” in which Charlotte explains to the reader: “If strong ideas and action offend you, read no more.” She goes on to explain that as a result of her voyage on the Seahawk, she is a much different young woman from the one who stepped aboard the ship in England.

Because her father and the rest of Charlotte’s family have had to return home to Providence, Rhode Island, before Charlotte was finished with her schooling at the Barrington School of Better Girls in England, he has made arrangements for Charlotte to travel on one of his company’s ships, along with two other American families. The two families are delayed, however, and the Seahawk sets sail promptly as appointed. Charlotte finds herself the only girl in the company of a crew of ruffians.

She is somewhat offended by the familiarity of the old black cook, Zachariah, who early on befriends her. When he offers her a small dagger—“in case you need it”—Charlotte is convinced that he is not someone with whom she should spend time. Nevertheless, she accepts the knife and hides it under her mattress. Charlotte knows that she is in a worrisome situation and that there is something amiss on the ship. When she is introduced to Captain Jaggery over a cup of tea in his quarters, however, Charlotte is pleased to find him a refined and charming gentleman, someone worthy of her trust. Jaggery explains to her...

(The entire section is 628 words.)