Esther Forbes Carl Van Doren - Essay

Carl Van Doren

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Most historical novels are nothing if they are not historical—and they are not historical. In particular, they have a way of finding in the past what the present assumes must have been there. In the ordinary historical novel a character visiting the Salem custom house about 1845 or thereabouts, and finding the surveyor of the port a youngish, shy man, "handsome with his mane of heavy hair and the dark eyes, half-melancholy and half amused," would be certain to recognize Nathaniel Hawthorne and likely to have a premonition that the surveyor was even then writing a novel on some such theme as, say, adultery in early Massachusetts.

Esther Forbes is not an ordinary historical novelist. In "The Running...

(The entire section is 506 words.)