Misty of Chincoteague Critical Essays

Marguerite Henry


(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

The primary message of Misty of Chincoteague concerns the mutual need between people and animals. Paul and Maureen have set their hearts on acquiring ownership of an elusive mare “for our very own.” Because Grandpa is one of the few “horsemen” rather than “watermen” on Chincoteague, they have assisted him in the training and sales of all his ponies; parting with their charges has been consistently painful. Their longing for an animal with whom they will never have to sever attachment is a feeling experienced by many people, especially in childhood. In their schemes to obtain Phantom, Paul and Maureen equate ownership with that unbreakable bond.

When Grandpa learns that Paul’s plan to ensnare Phantom is the secret that inspired the children’s additional employments, he warns him: “The Phantom don’t wear that white map on her withers for nothing. It stands for Liberty, and ain’t no human being going to take her liberty away from her. . . . She ain’t a hoss. She ain’t even a lady. She’s just a piece of wind and sky.” Yet, the children still believe, on the basis of their own instinctive longings, that “Phantom wants to come to us.”

Emerging early in the novel is the psychological reality of interdependence among people, as well as that between people and animals. This need is apparent in the islanders cooperative efforts during the pony penning and in the collective spirit displayed when Paul and Phantom...

(The entire section is 553 words.)