Young Man from the Piedmont by Leonard Wibberley

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Young Man from the Piedmont Analysis

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Wibberley tells his readers that he intended to include several features in his biography of Jefferson. The author wanted to “discover how he [young Thomas] got to be Jefferson, how his mind started to work.” To accomplish this goal, Wibberley tells more than the events of Jefferson’s life. He reveals what was happening in the Colonies at that time and what people in different regions thought about those events. He introduces characters who influenced young Jefferson and shows how Jefferson reacted to their influence. He explains the issues that the colonists faced and, in doing so, delves into the analytical methods that Jefferson learned to use when he developed arguments.

Wibberley then sets all this information in the format of a novel, “a novelist’s story of Jefferson.” He creates dialogue, rehearses ideas, and lets motives show through the acts that they provoked.

Jefferson had encyclopedic talents and interests. He was a philosopher, scientist, political leader, farmer, builder, architect, musician, and family man. Wibberley does not tell all these stories, instead showing Jefferson primarily as an emerging political leader. He includes parts of the other stories only when they are important for the growth of this political thinker.

The first person to influence Jefferson was his father, Peter. Wibberley presents Peter Jefferson as a hardworking man whose thoughts were ahead of their time and whose sense of social responsibility prompted him to serve his colony and his neighbors whenever they had need of him. Peter Jefferson died when his son was only fourteen. Young Thomas learned that his father not only had worked hard but also had earned enough money to provide for his family after his death.

When Jefferson had exhausted the service of the local school, he went to college in Williamsburg. It was his first visit to a city, and for a year he studied little and enjoyed himself much. Then he came under the influence of Small, who became his teacher and his friend. Small introduced the seventeen-year-old student to Fauquier, the British governor. The governor invited Jefferson to his mansion often, for both musical evenings and serious discussions.

Wibberley develops the relationship of Patrick Henry and Jefferson with great care. The two met early in their lives and became friends even though their approaches to life were often at odds. Henry was a talker who could persuade people easily but who found little use for careful study or careful argument. Jefferson was a careful thinker...

(The entire section is 630 words.)