Norma Fox Mazer Hildagarde Gray - Essay

Hildagarde Gray

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[In A Figure of Speech, fine], strong affection based on a mutual need presents a plea for our reconsideration of today's old people. Jenny has felt an unwanted child all her thirteen years. When her "thoroughly middle-class" family starts a campaign along lines of what's best for eighty-three-year-old Grandpa, Jenny is personally wounded. She has shared most of her hours with the old man, who was alert, interested in life, and no trouble to anyone.

Details of the story are unimportant here; the point driven home with tremendous force is a painful, but proven, one—when we feel we are no longer needed, we begin to atrophy, physically and emotionally—a theory shown to be fact, repeatedly, in institutions and "old folks homes."

A pitiable attempt to regain dignity and youthful independence leads Grandpa and Jenny on a chase to recapture a bygone day—one best left to be re-lived in his strong mind, not to be attempted by the worn-out flesh.

Very good—moving without becoming maudlin—and deserving of a place in non-fiction sections because it speaks the truth about our contemporary selfishness and ingratitude.

Hildagarde Gray, in her review of "A Figure of Speech," in Best Sellers (copyright 1973, by the University of Scranton), Vol. 33, No. 16, November 15, 1973, p. 382.