Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Black Arrow is the story of a young man’s maturation during the mid-fifteenth century, when England was torn by thirty years of civil war, known as the Wars of the Roses. As such, the novel combines several important conventions of historical fiction, as well as those of the coming-of-age novel: The hero learns about himself and his place in a world fraught with danger and violence. The internal narrative of events in the life of the young hero and the external events concerning warfare between two English royal houses are mixed in this complex novel. Ultimately, the two skeins are inextricably tangled, as national events give Dick Shelton the means to discover who he really is and who he wants to be.

The intermingling of personal and national concerns dominates this fascinating novel. Shelton, the son of the former lord of Tunstall Manor, has been reared by Sir Daniel Brackley, to all appearances a virtuous, although stern, nobleman. He begins to learn the truth about Brackley, however, when an outlaw, John Amend-all, vows revenge against Brackley and his followers. Shelton finds a threatening message in which Amend-all pledges to kill the murderer of Sir Harry Shelton, the young hero’s father. After Shelton learns that Brackley may have been responsible for the murder, he is profoundly shaken, having realized that things are not always as they seem.

Shelton begins to look into his father’s murder...

(The entire section is 491 words.)