Colonial Living Critical Essays

Edwin Tunis


(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Tunis’ tone resembles that of the learned but conversational museum curator presenting a guided tour. The text is liberally sprinkled with names of archaic objects and processes that will be unfamiliar to the general reader, such as a trammel (an adjustable pot hook). Most of these terms are defined in context or clarified by an accompanying illustration. Although the tone is informal, Tunis’ sentences tend to be long and complex in structure. The combination of long sentences, unfamiliar words, abstract descriptions of technical procedures, and small print may render the text difficult for readers at the lower end of the recommended age group. The difficulty is countered somewhat by a skillful use of fictional techniques and humor, which bring otherwise dry passages to life: “The appearance of the slightest glow on the rags was a signal to commence a blowing operation that might succeed in nursing the spark into a small flame. Charles Dickens, who had made a fire that way, said that with luck it could be done in half an hour. That would be a long half-hour on a January morning, with the fire out.” Tunis’ humor most often points out the quirks of human nature, which one suspects he finds not much different from those of his own era. In spite of the fact that Colonial Living includes one long section on the Southern colonies, however, Tunis pays relatively little attention to the lives of slaves in the South and almost totally neglects African...

(The entire section is 559 words.)