Young Walter Scott Essay - Critical Context

Elizabeth Janet Gray

Critical Context

As Elizabeth Janet Gray or Elizabeth Gray Vining, this author wrote a number of works for young adults and for adults, many of them set in her father’s native Scotland and some reflecting her mother’s Quaker background and her own later religious commitment to the Society of Friends. Young Walter Scott was written shortly after the accidental death of the author’s husband after a four-year marriage. It can hardly be accidental that Vining saw young Scott as someone who accepts a tragedy, refuses to be defeated, and produces books that reflect moral and ethical values.

When asked why she wrote for young people, Vining suggested that it was because they cared so much about books they liked, reading and re-reading them. Her desire to influence young people for the better is evident in her rationale for accepting a position as tutor to Akihito, the crown prince of Japan, just after World War II: She hoped, she said, to make some contribution toward world peace. In writing Young Walter Scott, which was named a 1936 Newbery Medal Honor Book, Vining drew from the recorded facts of her subject’s life, from her imagination, and from her own experience in order to present young readers with a role model. Whatever their feelings of inadequacy, whatever their problems in gaining the respect of their peers, contemporary young people can identify with the lame Scottish boy who won the respect of his brothers and his schoolmates, while at the same time developing and refining the code of honor that was to guide him throughout life.