Actor in Exile Critical Essays

Mary Malone


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Malone’s purpose in Actor in Exile is to give a factual and informative biography that also points out the lingering bigotry of Western social systems and offers a positive role model for young people of all colors.

To achieve these goals, she adopts a tone that is direct and upbeat, criticizing without condemning. At only one point, in a discussion of Aldridge’s final acceptance by fashionable London society, does a hint of sarcasm creep in. Otherwise, facts are related and societies profiled without comment, and young readers are left to judge for themselves. While Malone’s sympathies are apparent, she successfully avoids propagandizing or moralizing. As a result, the bigotry reflected subtly in social institutions and personal anecdotes forms an underlying thread through the text; when the politics of racism surfaces through Aldridge’s experience, it is neither overpowering nor inappropriate. Specific incidents, such as the outrage of the racist actress Madame Celeste in Dublin or the acceptance accorded Aldridge’s interracial marriages, are included to maintain and guide the reader’s awareness of race as it affected Aldridge directly.

In Aldridge, Malone presents an imaginative and determined individual who achieved success and fame through ambition, hard work, ingenuity, and courage. He is portrayed with a total sympathy that tends toward adulation; the only possible characteristic for which he might be faulted is a...

(The entire section is 588 words.)