Clarence Darrow for the Defense Critical Essays

Irving Stone


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Stone has been credited with creating a unique way of combining the events of an individual life with the history of the times in which he or she lived. This “biohistory” approach goes beyond biography, since it emphasizes events of the times, but it is not exactly a history of the times, either, since its focus is on an individual. This biography of Darrow is an excellent introduction for young readers to this style of writing, which Stone has used in other nonfiction books as well as in novels dealing with famous people.

As a result of Stone’s approach to biography and history, the reader learns much more than the facts about Darrow’s life. In early chapters, considerable attention is devoted to the labor movement in the United States, including railway workers, the American Federation of Labor, and radical groups such as the Industrial Workers of the World. Relations between employers and employees and conditions for labor in the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are also dis-cussed. In later cases, readers learn about opposition to World War I, the controversy over the teaching of evolution in the United States in the 1920’s, and racial problems in Northern cities after World War I. These are some of the great issues of the times from the 1890’s to the 1930’s, and Darrow was a central figure in all of them.

Darrow’s best-known cases involved liberal or radical causes. As Stone shows,...

(The entire section is 579 words.)