Ivanhoe Critical Context
by Sir Walter Scott

Ivanhoe book cover
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Critical Context

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Ivanhoe is not widely read today, either by young people or by scholars. As a romance, the social attitudes are dated, and, as an historical novel, it is too full of romance. While it is interesting as Sir Walter Scott’s earliest attempt to place a novel in ancient history, other works are more successful. For example, his novels set in Scotland, such as Redgauntlet (1824), the story of a failed Jacobite rebellion which is rather reminiscent of Cedric’s dream to overthrow the Normans, or even later works based in England, such as Kenilworth (1821), which is set in the Elizabethan era, have greater critical and reader appeal. Nevertheless, his effort to establish guidelines for the genre of the historical novel and his skill at the imaginative re-creation of a sense of place as opposed to the mere recitation of historical fact have influenced writers to the present day. Unfortunately, the overt racism of Ivanhoe, as well as its disjointed, loosely connected style, make the book a suspect choice for many schoolrooms and young readers.