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(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Like the black-and-white illustrations that grace Ten Brave Men, the subjects are themselves portrayed in starkly contrasting terms: They are exceptionally noble, and those who oppose them are motivated by base motives and evil intentions or are simply too obtuse to concede that the triumph of virtue is the wave of the future. Consequently, in order to advocate a select set of character traits and ideals, Daugherty has produced a simplistic work. Readers are expected to focus on what Daugherty perceives as practical examples of estimable values being tested in the crucible of events.

Daugherty has a right to the exercise of such literary license, however, as long as she spins interesting tales—and that is a goal that she has accomplished well for a young readership. One must side with Bradford, determined to establish a colony devoted to God as he faced down members of the Mayflower band, whose prime motivation was the reaping of profits. The reader is also led to admire Williams, who was driven from the religious tyranny of Massachusetts Bay and forced during winter to deliver himself into the hands of Native American tribes and the New England wilderness in his search for a place to practice religious freedom. In addition the British are portrayed as guilty of systematically eroding English liberties in America; therefore, it is natural to rally to the Sons of Liberty and Adams as they plot the Boston Tea Party.

To further enlist the empathies of her junior readers, Daugherty recounts portions of each episode as they ostensibly unfolded before youthful witnesses. As Jones, with two smaller ships, eases his vessel out of a French port to attack a British merchant fleet, the event is narrated by Jones, older members of his crew, and the young sailor Bob. It is young Henry who provides insights into the movement of the Continental Congress, the two Adamses (Sam and John), and Jefferson toward crafting the Declaration of Independence. A Tory’s young nephew, named Robert, becomes one of the cameras following Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and the Sons of Liberty as the Boston Tea Party is devised and executed. It is the young Robert Barton, who hopes to become a journalist, who finds himself in Washington, D.C., with his uncle at the time when Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, Amos Kendall, Duff Green, and others of a numerous cast were taking sides in Jackson’s “war” against Biddle’s United States Bank; Barton weighs the pros and cons of how best to write an objective article about their views.

Girls and young women are not forgotten in this scheme of observation; indeed, Daugherty had almost simultaneously written Ten Brave Women (1953) and was sensitive to the matter. Thus, Henry’s wife, Martha, becomes...

(The entire section is 682 words.)