Clarence Darrow: Defender of the People Critical Context - Essay

Doris Faber

Critical Context

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

The well-and long-established reputation of Faber’s Clarence Darrow appears to be the result of many factors. Chief among the reasons for the book’s success is its telling of a compelling story about an undeniably fascinating individual in a straightforward, well-illustrated, and engaging manner. This book is accessible to beginning readers because no complicated syntax or ideas bar the way to understanding who Darrow was and what he represented.

Like any competent biographer, Faber possesses the ability to transport readers to a different time and place with little fuss or fanfare. For example, the reader hears a conversation between Darrow and a friend or family member on a village green or in the center of Chicago’s Loop. There is an immediacy to her portrayal that is fetching: Readers participate in events as they unfold about them. The dialogue is realistic, capturing the flavor of another time and place. In addition, Faber does not dawdle: The story moves quickly, never revealing the complete story of any one trial and leaving the reader to investigate the matter further. For example, when portraying the famous Scopes trial in Dayton, Tennessee, Faber gives only a few high points of the battle between Darrow and his legal adversary, William Jennings Bryan. Yet, for young readers’ purposes, it is sufficient for them to grasp who Bryan was and what he represented.

Children need to know about the past, and Faber has done them a service in illuminating the life of an individual who deserves to be remembered for his work in making the United States a better, more compassionate country.