Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Milton Meltzer’s A Light in the Dark: The Life of Samuel Gridley Howe is a more-or-less chronological narrative of Howe’s life, beginning with his childhood and ending with his death. Meltzer divides Howe’s story into various stages: his education, his participation in the Greek Revolution, his experiences as a teacher of the blind and as an educational reformer, his involvement in the antislavery movement, and the end of his life. Meltzer cites the opinions of many who knew Howe and provides extensive bibliographies of Howe’s writings, other books about him, and works on the historical period in which he lived.

The book begins by describing Howe’s childhood education at Boston Latin school, where, even as a youth, he was vocal about his political convictions. As a result, he was often beaten for defending President Thomas Jefferson to his Federalist teachers and classmates. Meltzer explains how Howe’s thirst for education led him to Brown University in Rhode Island, where he rebelled against the boredom and rigidity of the educational system and played jokes on his classmates. While at Brown, Howe determined to become a doctor. Later, he attended Harvard Medical School until his romantic inclinations caused him to join the Greek revolt against Turkish oppression.

Meltzer spends two chapters detailing Howe’s exploits in Greece, which were celebrated in a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier and a history that Howe himself...

(The entire section is 510 words.)