Soldier Doctor Critical Context - Essay

Clara Ingram Judson

Critical Context

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Because Soldier Doctor was published in 1942, the language of the author does not reflect the same sensitivity to racial and ethnic issues as would be expected in more recent books. On several occasions, the author speaks of the need to conquer yellow fever and malaria so as to make the tropics safe for “white people.” In reality, these diseases were just as devastating for the indigenous populations as they were for people of European descent. People of African ancestry are referred to as “Negroes” and “Negresses.” In the opening chapter of the book, the slaves held by the Gorgas family and their relatives are referred to as “servants” and are depicted as happy with their lot in life, loyally serving their owners even as the Union army enters Richmond. These attitudes were widely accepted in 1942 and should be viewed by contemporary readers as illustrations of how sensitivity to such issues has changed since that time.

The inherent worth of the book for young readers is attested by the fact that the book won the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for 1960. It is a well-written account designed to inform and inspire readers. Its continuing circulation for more than half a century speaks of the appeal this biography continues to make to young audiences.