(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

The subtitle of this biography, An Idealist in Politics, makes it obvious that Peare’s objective is to reveal the way that idealistic views began to direct Wilson’s life. The ultimate lesson for a young reader is that a person can patiently follow the idealistic dreams of childhood into the realities of later life.

It is evident that Peare is in sympathy with the goals and dreams of Wilson. Wilson is portrayed as a serious boy who was easily influenced to better himself and to improve the world around him. Some of these influences were positive, such as the daily example of his parents; however, even the negative factors, such as his early memories of the Civil War, ultimately produced positive effects.

The first aspect of Wilson’s idealism that Peare discusses is his basic opposition to war. In November, 1860, four-year-old Tommy Wilson, standing on a street in Augusta, Georgia, heard someone say, because Abraham Lincoln had been elected president, “Then there will be war!” Even his father’s patient explanation could not make his young son understand what this meant. About ten years later, after the family had moved to Columbia, South Carolina, a teenage Tommy Wilson finally understood. Columbia, unlike Augusta, had not escaped the marching army of Union General William Tecumseh Sherman. Peare vividly describes Wilson’s impression of Columbia and war: “This was war: this ruin, poverty, confusion, waste, hardship, and heartbreak. This was the truth of war.” Later in the book Peare shows how this picture of war led to Professor Wilson’s lack of...

(The entire section is 655 words.)