Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In Young Lafayette, Jeanette Eaton presents the story of the young French nobleman Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette, who, from an early age, was captivated by the ideal of liberty. Born in 1757, he inherited his title before the age of three, upon the death of his father in the Seven Years’ War. Young Gilbert, as he was called, lived until the age of eleven far from court in the château of his paternal grandmother. Then, in 1768, Gilbert Lafayette was taken to Paris to live with his mother and her relatives, the wealthy and noble de la Rivière family. Lafayette’s formal military education began there, and he was soon one of a group of freethinking young noblemen who shared an enthusiasm for the ideas of Voltaire.

In her narrative, Eaton paints a realistic picture of life in the eighteenth century through her detailed descriptions of fashions, foods, travel, and social customs. Young people are also aided in an understanding of this era by the small illustrations at the beginning and end of each chapter and the full-page illustrations found throughout the book. Such explanations of this earlier time are necessary in order to help young readers understand how Lafayette could be considered an adult at the age of fourteen. In that year, 1770, both his mother and his grandfather died within a short time, and Lafayette became the sole heir to a large fortune. By 1774, his marriage to an heiress of the...

(The entire section is 440 words.)