Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In Penn, Elizabeth Gray Vining has created a biography for young adults that is also a minor work of art. Penn is divided into two sections. The first, “Son William,” consists of sixteen chapters and deals with William Penn’s life from his birth to his father’s death, when Penn was twenty-five. The second section, “Onas,” consists of fifteen chapters and deals with the remaining forty-eight years of Penn’s life. The emphasis, therefore, is on the events that molded this figure, which is only fitting in a biography intended for adolescents. Vining has also included an extensive bibliography and an index.

The real events that molded Penn were internal, spiritual ones, such as his experience of God’s presence in himself as a boy and his decision to become a Quaker at the age of twenty-two, despite the persecution and loss of social status involved. External events undoubtedly influenced Penn, but these two religious events made him the person that he was, which in turn made him an individual of destiny.

To be a Quaker in seventeenth century England was comparable, roughly, to being a Communist in the United States in the 1950’s. Quakers were of the lower-middle and working classes. They had no social influence whatever and were imprisoned by the hundreds. Believing in pacifism, equality of the sexes, democracy, religious freedom, and the supremacy of the individual conscience over all external authority,...

(The entire section is 448 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Beginning with Penn's birth in 1644 and ending with his death in 1718, Gray's book covers the periods in British history known as the...

(The entire section is 73 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Although Gray covers the important events throughout Penn's life, she devotes half the book to his childhood and young adulthood. This...

(The entire section is 202 words.)

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Although Penn portrays a considerable amount of conflict, the book does not contain much violence. Admiral Penn's wars occur at a...

(The entire section is 195 words.)

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Young Penn bitterly disappoints his father. In turn, Admiral Penn takes stem measures against his son, at one point disowning him and at...

(The entire section is 256 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Trace and analyze the stages of Penn's relationship with his father. What are the reasons for the changes in the relationship at each...

(The entire section is 222 words.)

Related Titles / Adaptations

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Readers interested in the Quakers might want to read some of the author's books for adults published under the name Elizabeth Gray Vining:...

(The entire section is 168 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Beatty, Edward C. O. William Penn as Social Philosopher. New York: Columbia University Press, 1939. This scholarly work is an in-depth...

(The entire section is 205 words.)