Traitor Critical Essays

Jean Fritz


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In this biography of Arnold for young people, Fritz begins the book with a situation that young people can understand. The fourteen-year-old Arnold was humiliated by his family’s circumstances and was angered by the taunts of his peers. He became determined that he would be the best in all the boyhood games and soon established a reputation as the most daring boy in Norwich, Connecticut. The author cites an incident in which Arnold, in front of a crowd of boys, grabbed an arm of a mill wheel and, gripping it tightly, held onto the wheel through its full circle, finally jumping free high in the air, splashing into the mill pond, and swimming to the bank. This feat earned Arnold the acclaim that he sought, and the author uses the incident with the mill wheel as a metaphor for Arnold’s daring search for glory throughout his life.

Arnold was also determined to be rich, yet he would repeat his father’s business mistakes. When Arnold completed his apprenticeship and set up his own shop, he advertised as “B. Arnold, Druggist and Bookseller, etc., from London,” a claim based upon the buying trip he had made to that city to provision his store. He took as his motto “Sibi Totique,” meaning “For self and all,” and he lived lavishly, although on credit. Eventually, his creditors sent him to jail for his debts, but Arnold never acknowledged any responsibility for his failure. This pattern would be repeated many times, as he presented padded expense accounts to Congress and became...

(The entire section is 612 words.)