Critical Overview

(Novels for Students)

A Widely Praised Writer
Paula Fox has been praised by many critics for the beauty, clarity, authority, and subtle poetry of her prose, as well as the depth of her ideas and her execution of them in fiction. The Slave Dancer is generally considered one of her finest works. For example, John Rowe Townsend wrote in A Sounding of Storytellers that The Slave Dancer "is a historical novel of weight and intensity which stands on its own, at a distance from [Fox's] other books," and called the book her "finest achievement."

Controversy Over the Book
Although the book has been widely praised, some critics have objected to it, claiming that it is racist. In Interracial Books for Children, Binnie Tate wrote that:

through the characters' words, [Fox] excuses the captors and places the blame for the slaves' captivity on Africans themselves. The author slowly and systematically excuses all the whites in the story for their participation in the slave venture and by innuendo places the blame elsewhere.

Binnie Tate, quoted in Cultural Conformity in Books for Children, wrote that the book "perpetuates racism ... [with] constantly repeated racist implications and negative illusions," and in the same volume, Sharon Bell Mathis called the book "an insult to black children."

In the case of The Slave Dancer, some have objected to the fact that the slaves are portrayed as non-resistant, demoralized, nameless victims. However, Hamida Bosmajian wrote about this namelessness in Nightmares of History, commenting that "both the point of view of the novel and the...

(The entire section is 693 words.)