Clarence Darrow: Defender of the People Summary

Doris Faber


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Clarence Darrow: Defender of the People, a young adult biography enriched by a lively narrative line and several pen-and-ink sketches of Darrow, is Doris Faber’s successful attempt to establish her subject as an authentic American hero and role model. This easy-to-follow account of Darrow’s life begins in Kinsman, Ohio, and then takes young readers to several other locales where he argued major court cases.

At the book’s outset, the reader overhears the first of many conversations between young Clarence and his father, village eccentric Amirus Darrow, who insisted that his son learn Latin in order to strengthen his mind. Readers are then introduced to the typical nineteenth century Midwestern American town of Kinsman, with its handsome frame houses and provincial ways. Faber emphasizes young Darrow’s unique-ness from the start: He was the brightest boy in the village, and there are hints that he will not be a resident there for much longer.

Darrow enjoyed gathering with friends at an old barn, where weekly debates were held on such subjects as religion and the history of civilization. At these debates, he met his future wife, Jessie Ohl, and Faber describes how Darrow became interested in her. That interest increased after he was forced to attend Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, leaving her behind for a time. Faber then portrays Darrow at law school in Ann Arbor, Michigan, having been asked by brother Everett to attend. Not much is made of this part of Darrow’s life, but Faber does not dwell upon any one episode, instead moving rapidly along in her narrative.

After marrying Jessie Ohl, Darrow decided to move from Kinsman—although, as Faber illustrates, he was not yet ready for anything bigger than Ashtabula, Ohio, a city of only five thousand people. In Ashtabula, he quickly made a name for himself and created a modestly thriving law practice. Nevertheless, bigger cities finally lured him,...

(The entire section is 790 words.)