Of Courage Undaunted Analysis
By organizing his narrative along the lines of the actual journal entries themselves, Daugherty re-creates the sense of exploration and excitement found in the original documents. The overwhelming odds that the party faced are preserved, while many of the details regarding distance, provisions, and location are condensed without loss to the narrative. The characters of the men behind the historical account become one of the book’s main focuses, and thus a sense of living history is created for younger readers. The doubts and fears of both Lewis and Clark, while somewhat fictionalized, are nevertheless well substantiated, perhaps because the original journals on which the book is based provide rich ground for such treatment.
By beginning with the early lives of each of the principal figures, Daugherty reveals his interest in the individuals themselves. While much of the first section departs from the rest of the book’s close rendering of history, it helps to create characters that are real. Lewis’ boyhood in Virginia is paralleled by Clark’s upbringing in Kentucky, and their mutual role in the army is given emphasis. Daugherty also points out that, while Lewis may not have been the most qualified person for the command of the expedition, Jefferson gave him the job out of respect and friendship. History, in this sense, is shown to be personal.
The party’s journey up the Missouri River occupies a main portion of the book and demonstrates an important sense of geography with which a young audience might not be familiar. An entire year is spent traveling the course of the Missouri, with such close calls as the incident with the Sioux, who followed the barges upriver for miles after a night of wild dancing. A near shipwreck and Lewis’ hair-raising escape from a grizzly bear underscore the group’s difficulties. Wintering at Fort Mandan among the Mandan tribe, the expedition meets Sacajawea, who offers to guide them farther west, across the Rockies and through the country of the Blackfoot and Flathead tribes.
The reproduction of the original journal entries gives Daugherty the opportunity not only to relate details of his narrative to the explorers’ own words but also to reveal their personalities. The language of the entries, although often grammatically incorrect, nevertheless represents the actual thoughts of Daugherty’s subjects: “This little fleet altho’ not quite so respectable as those of Columbus or Capt. Cook, were still viewed by us with as much pleasure,” writes Lewis as the expedition sets out from Fort Mandan.
The descriptions of the unexplored land and the enormous numbers of game animals also serve to construct a sense of what western North America was like before settlement by European Americans. The expedition saw as many as...
(The entire section is 686 words.)