What are the roles of the four loves in Adam of the Road?

In Adam of the Road, the life of the young minstrel Adam centers around four loves: his father, Roger; his dog, Nick; his friend, Perkin; and his role as a minstrel. We can also see the four loves identified by C. S. Lewis operative in the story as Adam enjoys affection, immerses himself in friendship, witnesses romance, and learns charity.

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Let's look at this question from a couple different angles. First off, Adam, in Elizabeth Janet Gray's novel Adam of the Road, places four loves at the very center of his life: his father, Roger; his dog, Nick; his friend, Perkin; and his role as a minstrel. Each of these loves drives Adam's choices and actions.

At the beginning of the story, we see Adam waiting and longing for Roger to return for him. When Roger finally comes, Adam is thrilled to be back at his minstrel father's side as they travel together. When they are separated, however, Adam misses Roger fiercely, searches for him diligently, and wonders if he will ever see him again, but at the same time, Adam uses the skills and common sense Roger has taught him to survive on his own. He practices his minstrel craft. He is honest and brave (just think about how he escaped from the robbers and then went back to rescue the merchant!). For an eleven-year-old boy, he usually does a good job of keeping his head firmly on his shoulders, and much of that can be attributed to his love for Roger and his respect for the ideals his father has instilled in him.

Adam is also devoted to his dog, Nick. He first houses the little red spaniel at Dame Malkin's cottage near St. Alban's, but he visits Nick as often as he can, bringing him treats and lots of pets and play time. Nick follows Adam and Roger loyally on their journeys, never running too far and always responding to Adam's call. When Jankin steals Nick, Adam is heartbroken and can think of nothing other than getting his dog back. At Guildford, Adam catches sight of Jankin and Nick and runs off after them. Although he swims across the river in his attempt to catch up to them, all he manages to do is get lost and separated from Roger. Adam's joy when he is finally reunited with his dog, however, is unmatched except by that of Nick himself.

The cause of that joy, at least in part, is Adam's best friend, Perkin, who keeps Nick safe after the dog returns to Dame Malkin's home. Adam first meets Perkin at St. Alban's, and while the two have different interests and goals, they become fast friends who are devoted to each other. Even after the two part, Adam often thinks of Perkin, and he never develops such a deep friendship with Hugh or any of the other boys. Even after months of separation, when Adam and Perkin are reunited, they pick up their camaraderie right where they left off.

Adam's fourth love is not a person or an animal but rather his role as a minstrel. While he likes school at St. Alban's (to a point), he cannot wait to get back out on the road with his father, singing, performing, and doing all the wonderful things that a minstrel does. Throughout his entire journey, Adam fulfills his role as well as he can for someone so young, and he is never satisfied with anything else. Even when he stays with Master Walter and Dame Prudence, who care for him tenderly, Adam misses his life as a performer. He leaves comfort behind to travel with a family of minstrels as soon as he can (even though it turns out to be a bad idea). Adam also turns down the chance to study at Oxford with Perkin. “I am a minstrel,” he tells his father firmly. “I want to be on the road with you” (316).

When we think about four loves in Adam of the Road, we might also remember the four loves identified by C. S. Lewis: affection, friendship, romance, and charity. Adam experiences affection for John and Jill, who care for him after his swim across the river; for Master Walter and Dame Prudence; for Dame Malkin; for Perkin's family; and for several other people during his journeys. Perhaps his love for Nick is also in the realm of affection, although Adam would certainly call it friendship.

He shares a deep bond of friendship with Perkin and, of course, with Roger (although the love between a father and son is more than what we would normally think of as friendship). Adam is too young to know romantic love, but he sees it in Simon the squire, who loves Emilie. Finally, Adam learns true charity as he goes along his journey. He learns to put the needs of others before his own when he risks his own life to save the merchant from the robbers. He witnesses the simple but love-filled life of Perkin's family, who treat him as one of their own, even sacrificing their own comfort for him and sharing their possessions with him (remember the new shoes and the minstrel's outfit Perkin's mother makes for Adam?). As the story progresses, Adam grows in love and truly earns his father's simple praise, “You have done well, son” (317).

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