Esther Forbes William Soskin

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William Soskin

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

New England is traditionally the home place of the American humanists, the American conscience troubled by its appetites, heckled by its morality, crucified by its intelligence. Its stern Puritan fathers have never successfully concealed the essential physical yearnings and the lusts which made begetting patriarchs of them and scandalous males, even as they erected their picket fences of respectable morality and visited Old Testament wrath upon unconventional sinners, witches and adulterers….

[Rarely] has the conflict been so dramatically presented in terms of historical fiction as it is in Esther Forbes's novel of the early days of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, "Paradise." An accomplished artist in psychological fiction dealing with the eccentrics, witches, fanatics, romancers and other types characteristic of New England communities, Miss Forbes is an excellent historian as well, a student of detail of the type which has made Margaret Mitchell's "Gone With the Wind" historically unassailable and dramatically powerful….

Fenton's sister, Jazan, is the most appealing woman in the story, a symbol of the sturdy, passionate, fine-grained woman who had the patience to bear and the understanding to love [the] men of New England. With infinite pains and good imagination Miss Forbes reveals the drama of frustration in Jazan's marriage to the young preacher, Forethought Fearing, a man whose intense religious vision destroys natural passions. In Fearing, the brave idealist who stands up on the Common to defend Bathsheba and Christopher as Jesus defended an adulteress, but who cannot apply tolerance and understanding to the emotional needs of his own and Jazan's life, we have an excellent if not startlingly original portrayal of the New England dualist.

Miss Forbes has woven many romances, many strange tales of the Indians and their friendship and hatred for the white settlers, many glowing pictures of the farming...

(The entire section is 462 words.)