Will Rogers: His Life and Times Critical Context - Essay

Richard M. Ketchum

Critical Context

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Will Rogers: His Life and Times is undoubtedly one of the best accounts of the life of Rogers. It is an American Heritage Biography, written in cooperation both with the Will Rogers Memorial Commission and the Will Rogers Memorial in Claremore, Oklahoma. The book is not slanted, in that it portrays the young Rogers as having more wanderlust than sense. It also depicts a Rogers who is exasperated with political figures. Rogers is depicted “as an author and political observer as shrewd, satirical and clever as they make them.” Rogers as a family man is not featured heavily, as he traveled extensively, leaving the three children in the care of his wife or his unwed sister-in-law. In short, Rogers is portrayed with his shortcomings as well as his greatness.

As a biography for young adults, the book has some faults. The tremendous attention to detail, beginning with Hernando de Soto in 1540, would be tedious at times for the average young adult. At first glance, the initial pages resemble a history text. As young readers continue, however, they will find themselves in great sympathy with the Cherokee nation and in admiration of Rogers’ father, who built one of the finest homesteads in Oklahoma, staying one step ahead of the white settlers’ greed for land. The history is used effectively to create a base for the biography, if the student can persevere. Whereas the older reader can focus on names and events to which they can relate, the younger reader must rely on a knowledge of history, or upon the history within the biography, to understand the importance of some of Rogers’ speeches and fund-raising activities.