Susan Richards Shreve Jonathan Penner - Essay

Jonathan Penner

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

On December 2, 1954, Joseph Raymond McCarthy—swept from his committe chairmanship by a Democratic resurgence in the fall elections—was censured by his colleagues for conduct "contrary to Senate traditions." This novel [Children of Power] is set in Washington in that same watershed December.

Here we meet Joe McCarthy once more, now stripped for us by an omniscient narrator. If you have ever wondered what McCarthy dreamed, this is the place to find out. If you would like to know what he admitted to the priest in the confessional, you can read it here….

Apart from being made to yield … voyeuristic amusements, McCarthy figures here as an issue. He is a childhood friend of Sam Taylor, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and is welcome as Taylor's house guest despite their opposition on matters of principle. The central conflict of the novel lies in an attempt to force Sam Taylor to resign. His toleration of McCarthy is held up as the reason.

Which is, of course, pure "McCarthyism." A group calling itself the Syndicate is formed to topple Sam Taylor….

[The] Syndicate consists chiefly of high school kids, classmates of Sam Taylor's daughter, Natalia at Sidwell Friends school. In a novel that cuts freely back and forth between sets of people, told through a consciousness that fairly caroms among multiple points of view, Natalia is as close as we have to a...

(The entire section is 548 words.)