Prudence Crandall Critical Essays

Elizabeth Yates


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Prudence Crandall is composed largely of dialogue between Crandall and the other figures who are described within the book. Yates uses short, concise sentences to lend clarity to her account of how Crandall sought to reach her all-encompassing goal: to create a successful educational institution for African-American girls in Canterbury, Connecticut. The extensive use of dialogue, which does not encourage the inclusion of descriptive adjectives, helps to maintain a fast-paced narrative style. In addition, the chapters are short and important events in Crandall’s life occur frequently in the text. These factors make the biography attractive to young people who need to improve their reading skills.

Yates’s text accurately portrays the cultural attitudes of Crandall’s day. Thus, the African-American girls are referred to as “Negroes” and “colored people” in order to reflect the language of the historical period in which these events occurred. Yet Yates is careful in her use of these terms, employing them only as a part of the conversations of the figures and not in other sections of the text.

Prudence Crandall is peppered with several short references to Quaker beliefs, especially as they relate to Crandall’s attitudes and actions. Consequently, Yates constructs an image of her subject as a peaceful advocate of nonviolent change. Crandall’s role as a confrontational and strong-willed individual seems contrary to...

(The entire section is 499 words.)