Scott O'Dell Mary M. Burns - Essay

Mary M. Burns

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The Battle of San Pascal] is the climax of [Carlota,] an economically told story which, in its delineation of a strong-minded, independent heroine, recalls the author's memorable Island of the Blue Dolphins. The spare, well-honed style is artistically suited to the first person narrative. Carlota de Zubarán—a fictional counterpart of Luisa de Montero who lived in Southern California during the early nineteenth century—indicates the changing political and social climate which caused the passing of a distinctive but insular culture caught between the territorial imperatives of the warring nations. Encouraged by her father to be as self-sufficient as the son he had lost, Carlota defies the conventions of ladylike behavior valued by her matriarchal grandmother and is the only member of the immediate family able to cope with catastrophe after the Spaniards's Pyrrhic victory. She can understand the pride which motivated her father and his friends to attack the gringos; she is also capable, after her father's death, of assessing her position and protecting her assets. The principal characters are realistically portrayed as unique individuals and as universal figures in an allegorical drama. Multi-dimensional, masterfully crafted, the novel is compelling in its powerful yet restrained emotional intensity.

Mary M. Burns, in a review of "Carlota," in The Horn Book Magazine, Vol. LIII, No. 6, December, 1977, p. 670.