Abraham Lincoln Critical Context - Essay

James Daugherty

Critical Context

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Daugherty’s treatment of Lincoln was written during a period of trauma for the democracies of the world. The Axis Powers dominated most of Europe and Asia, and their defeat was still in doubt. Yet Lincoln’s story was one of hope that powers of righteousness would yet be triumphant.

Daugherty wrote a biography that was realistic in its treatment of the subject. Unlike some earlier biographers, he avoided hyperbole. The film industry had discovered Lincoln, often depicting him as more myth than man. Nevertheless, the facts were exciting enough. Lincoln was born into poverty. Self-taught, he became an accomplished lawyer. The lessons, particularly to someone in that generation maturing during the 1940’s, were clear: Through hard work, one could accomplish anything. Right could be triumphant over evil; both the Union in the Civil War and the Allies in the world war were victorious in the end. In both cases, it was the efforts of the common people that made the difference.

Finally, one cannot discount the excitement of military history to a generation that venerated the armed forces. War, to those not old enough to be directly involved, was an adventure. The Civil War, with its bloodshed and battles notwithstanding, was an exciting period. Lincoln’s presidency, and ultimately his fame, cannot be divorced from that conflict. In this respect, Daugherty’s story was a valuable description of both.