Lois Duncan (Steinmetz Arquette) Mary M. Burns - Essay

Mary M. Burns

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Peggy Shippen] is an intriguing and controversial historical figure, for the exact extent of her influence over Arnold's attempt to betray his command at West Point is, according to at least one source, a disputed issue. The point of view that Peggy was aware of, approved of, and was indeed implicated in Arnold's treachery is the basic assumption underlying [Peggy, a] presentation of a pivotal event in American history. Peggy as narrator of her story from June, 1776, to September, 1780, is revealed as a self-centered yet fascinating, high-spirited girl whose ability to bend men to her desires finds its match in the equally self-serving Benedict Arnold…. Chosen as go-between because of his affections for Peggy during the British occupation of Philadelphia in 1778, the unfortunate Major André is presented as a gentlemanly, artistic, and sensitive officer—an obvious contrast to Arnold—unable to see Peggy's feminine wiles as anything but innocent, womanly charm. The conversational tone of the narrative gives a sense of immediacy to a fictionalized biography of a remarkable anti-heroine, whose unswerving devotion to self is reminiscent of two other famous, although fictional, coquettes Becky Sharp and Scarlett O'Hara, (pp. 622-23)

Mary M. Burns, in her review of "Peggy," in The Horn Book Magazine (copyright © 1970 by The Horn Book, Inc., Boston), Vol. XLVI. No. 6, December, 1970, pp. 622-23.