Anchor's Aweigh Critical Context - Essay

Jean Lee Latham

Critical Context

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Although a statue of Admiral Farragut adorns the grounds of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, it was doubtful even when this work was published in 1968 that the overwhelming majority of young readers had even heard of Farragut. As unlikely a subject as he seems, Latham has nevertheless woven an interesting tale around him. Indeed, the author’s charm is that she is more interested in spinning a good yarn than she is in historical re-creation replete with an overt message about character development. Thus, she has successfully avoided the pitfalls of many biographies for young readers, even those with subjects who are household names.

For readers with no special affection for ships and sailors, a biography of Farragut might hold no interest at all, as his life was long and uneventful except for a few days of preparations for and actual engagement in battles. Latham’s skillful selectivity, however, has minimized the years of monotonous routine common both to shipboard and shore duties and instead has invested them with a plausible suspense. She has even made it seem that Farragut experienced these lackluster years of uncertainty, personal discomfort, anonymity, outmoded equipment, and interminable waits for promotion as suspenseful. Latham has made a fine tale of what otherwise might have been the dull life of a professional naval officer.