A(rchibald) J(oseph) Cronin 1896–1981
Scottish novelist, dramatist, and nonfiction writer.
Cronin's internationally best-selling novels examine moral conflicts between the individual and society. His heroes, who include doctors, missionaries, and small-town newspaper editors, are idealists in pursuit of justice for the common citizen. Although Cronin's novels are set in the twentieth century, they remind critics of works by the Brontë sisters and Thomas Hardy. Like those earlier novels, Cronin's are moralistic and feature dramatic plots, powerful themes, and memorable characters. Some of his novels have been made into films.
When in his thirties, Cronin abandoned a lucrative medical career to become a writer. His literary debut, the novel Hatter's Castle (1931), was a popular and critical success. Percy Hutchinson proclaimed it "a restoration of the English novel," having "the stuff of greatness." Other early successes included the novels The Stars Look Down (1935), The Citadel (1937), and The Keys of the Kingdom (1941). The Stars Look Down recounts the struggles of miners during a strike in a Welsh coal town. Cronin draws an unsentimental picture of the losses suffered by both the workers and the company when basic human values are neglected. The Citadel was controversial among the British medical community due to its examination of the conflict between medical ethics and what must be done to survive in a competitive field. The Keys of the Kingdom is the story of a priest who must temper his individuality in order to fulfill his commitments to the church.
In addition to The Stars Look Down and The Citadel, Cronin wrote several other novels that are based on his personal experiences. The Green Years (1945) and its sequel, Shannon's Way (1950), recount the life of an idealistic young man who, upon entering medical school, is supervised by an unscrupulous department head. The young man later begins to practice in a clinic in a rundown urban area and finds his work unexpectedly rewarding. A Song of Sixpence (1964) is an autobiographical novel that, according to Cronin, comes closest of all his work to representing his true literary aspirations.
(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4, rev. ed., Vol. 102 [obituary]; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 5; and Something about the Author, Vol. 25 [obituary].)