Esther Forbes Christopher Collier - Essay

Christopher Collier

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Johnny Tremain, with its message of ideologically motivated war, is so much the product of World War II that one who grew up in the 1940's must honor its clear one-sidedness. Younger historians, products of the 1960's who are currently busy reviving the Progressive interpretation of a generation ago, would be less tolerant. But without denying its outstanding literary merit, Miss Forbes' presentation of the American Revolution does not pass muster as serious, professional history. Not so much because it is so sharply biased, but because it is so simplistic. Life is not like that—and we may be sure it was not like that two hundred years ago. Such an event as a war involving the three major European nations, with implications for the western power structure for centuries to come, is bound to be a complex matter. To present history in simple, one-sided—almost moralistic—terms, is to teach nothing worth learning and to falsify the past in a way that provides worse than no help in understanding the present or in meeting the future. (p. 240)

Christopher Collier, "Johnny and Sam: Old and New Approaches to the American Revolution" originally published in The Horn Book Magazine, April, 1976), in Crosscurrents of Criticism: Horn Book Essays 1968–1977, edited by Paul Heins (copyright © 1977 by The Horn Book, Inc., Boston), Horn Book, 1977, pp. 234-40.