Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Following the opening chapter of Anna and the King of Siam, which gives an account of Anna Leonowens’ arrival in Siam, Margaret Landon provides background information concerning what had led to Anna’s decision to come to Siam and teach at the king’s court. A widow who had lived more than fifteen years in the Orient and who was unaccustomed to working, Anna was faced with the necessity of supporting herself. The remaining thirty-nine chapters focus on particularly significant people or events that affected Anna during her stay in Siam beginning in 1862. Interesting and important cross-cultural insights are provided as the reader shares Anna’s reactions to this new culture. For example, the Kralahome asked questions that were taboo in England, and the women were shocked that Anna did not wish to join the king’s harem.

After keeping Anna waiting for weeks, King Mongkut finally sent for her. She found him to be temperamental and sometimes cruel, but at other times childlike, generous, and kind. In spite of his capriciousness, she recognized his intelligence and his willingness to try advanced ideas.

While she recalled her reception as “callous,” Anna gradually developed relationships with ladies at court, especially with the king’s wives and children. Through these contacts, Anna was amazed at the acceptance, even by royal wives, of slavery, persecution, and unjust death. As time passed, Anna crusaded to abolish the...

(The entire section is 402 words.)