James D(ouglas) Forman John W. Conner - Essay

John W. Conner

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Resistance to militarism has become a relatively popular theme in books for adolescent readers. However, books about current social trends tend to be expeditiously written and often fail to achieve literary merit. In the midst of this current trend, James Forman's [Ceremony of Innocence] stands out because it presents an actual conflict between real people who denounced or supported Nazi activities in Germany during World War II in excellent prose which succeeds in portraying human elements of conflict despite the overriding presence of a national social conflict in which the characters lived….

Ceremony of Innocence is a moving testimonial to the search for truth despite consequences. Adolescent readers will easily identify with the efforts of the pamphleteers, and the honesty with which the pamphleteers see their effects on the state. James Forman portrays the German people as patient, often humble human beings who are horrified at the extent to which the powerful Nazi force controls their lives but feel powerless to upset it. Hans, Sophie, and their friend have the temerity to speak against the state and the fortitude to lose their lives fighting for freedom of thought. Ceremony of Innocence concerns the epitome of personal and national conflict. It is an enormous tribute to the author that his words present that conflict in realistic terms. Forman's characters are believable, his plot is carefully structured to preserve the possibility of acquittal until the very end of the novel. Tension mounts as the web of events Hans narrates exposes the pamphleteers.

Ceremony of Innocence is possibly the best adolescent book about this theme ever written.

John W. Conner, "Book Marks: 'Ceremony of Innocence'," in English Journal (copyright (© 1971 by the National Council of Teachers of English; reprinted by permission of the publisher and the author), Vol. 60, No. 5, May, 1971, p. 668.