Lone Journey Critical Context - Essay

Jeanette Eaton

Critical Context

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Since the publication of Lone Journey in 1944, Eaton’s picture of Williams as a liberal defender of human rights has undergone considerable revision. Subsequent historians have been more critical in their view of Williams and less inclined to regard him in wholly favorable terms. In fact, few of his contemporaries would have agreed with Eaton’s portrayal of Williams as a compassionate, soft-spoken, and gen-uinely likable man; they tended to view him as a difficult and uncompromising person. Throughout the book, Eaton contrasts Williams’ opinions and attitudes with those of Puritans who held positions of authority in the Massachusetts settlements. She depicts Williams as seeking peace and friendship, while the Puritans practiced intolerance and opposition to religious and political dissent. Yet there is another side to Williams’ personality. He was rash, possessed an authoritarian temperament, and was a vigorous controversialist who frequently argued with those who disagreed with him. Indeed, his later years were marked by several bitter controversies.

Yet Eaton’s absorbing biography of Williams, a 1945 Newbery Medal Honor Book, has long enjoyed a reputation as a well-written and sensitive introduction to its subject for a young audience. Although her assessment of Williams has come to be regarded by many as uncritical and one-sided, her biography will continue to introduce to young readers an important advocate of religious and political liberty in early American history.