Familiar plot, little value in The Green Years

A. J. Cronin’s The Green Years is formula fiction with an inspirational ending.

After his parents die, Robert Shannon is taken in by his mother’s family, strangers to him. Some of them are very strange indeed. The family is poor, and “Papa’s” miserly ways make their lives even more miserable than they need to be.

Robert’s desire to be liked makes him an easy target for liars and cheats. He usually ends up poorer, no wiser, and more introverted and depressed than before.

His teacher encourages him to try for a scholarship, but when diphtheria keeps him from the third day of testing, Robert’s scholarship hopes are ruined.

He ends up working as a boilermaker, shunning friends and family who supported his dreams. They remain faithful to him, however, and provide the book with a happy ending.

Cronin’s characters are nothing more than two-dimensional sketches. Robert grows older, but doesn’t seem to grow up. He shows every sign of developing into self-centered, depressed adult.

The Green Years is one more nail in the coffin of the the poor-but-brilliant orphan storyline.

Let’s bury it once and for all.

The Green Years
By A. J. Cronin
Little, Brown, 1944
210 pages
1944 bestseller #6
My grade: C +

© 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni


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Linda Aragoni

I'm passionate about helping people learn through the medium of nonfiction writing. Although I occasionally have an idea of my own, I mostly build education tools by recycling and repurposing other folks' ideas.

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