The Moonlight Man Critical Essays

Paula Fox


(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Catherine’s dilemma is well known to many teenagers. She is caught between two very different parents who are critical of each other. In addition, her father is an unreliable alcoholic whom she must learn to love if she is to be at peace with herself. Catherine must somehow accept both her “daylight” mother—who is dependable, orderly, and unimaginative—and her father—who is a failed novelist and romantic “moonlight man” who uses his considerable charm to get what he wants, which is often alcohol, and who, in the eyes of most people, is a poor father.

Besides learning to love a wayward father, Catherine must come to terms with another important element in getting to know him. She recognizes the value of his romantic view of life, which makes everything so much more intense for her during the time that they spend together. Harry wants his daughter to see the beauty of variety, of faraway places such as Italian hill towns and Paris, and he excites her with poetry and humor. He also teaches her to rebel against the dullness of being obedient and without imagination. Her mother calls the barn shooting “reckless,” but for Catherine it is much more.

Paula Fox is especially good at revealing everything about a place through the conversation and behavior of her characters. The small town of Mackenzie becomes real through local people such as Mrs. Landy, the cleaning woman; Mr. Ross, the eccentric pastor; and Officer Macbeth, the...

(The entire section is 554 words.)