Susan Cooper: Overview

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Editor: Laura Standley Berger
Date: 1994
Publisher: Gale
Series: Twentieth-Century Writers Series
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 1,409 words

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Susan Cooper has come to be recognized as a major author of books for children and young adults. Her first work for children, Over Sea, Under Stone, came as a response to a contest designed to honor the memory of E. Nesbit. Set in Cornwall, this is a family adventure story concerning Simon, Barnabus, and Jane's search for a mysterious grail. The magic and myth, so much a part of the subsequent books of the "Dark Is Rising" series, is only hinted at here. The story draws upon the King Arthur legend and suggests connections to a world outside that of the contemporary environment.

Dawn of Fear calls upon the actual experiences of English childhood during World War II, but recasts them in the form of the fictional story of Derek and his friends Peter and Geoffrey. One of the strengths of this work lies in its ability to contrast the world of childhood play with the horrors of war without either losing the sense of innocent play or minimizing the atrocities of the world conflict.

Cooper's major contribution to date has been "The Dark Is Rising" series, which greatly expands the mythical theme suggested in Over Sea, Under Stone and reveals Cooper's extraordinary prowess as an author of fantasy. The Dark Is Rising, set in Buckinghamshire, is the second work in the sequence. Here the battle lines between good and evil are formally established as the forces of Light and Dark are drawn into conflict. The Light, aided by Will Stanton, youngest of the Old Ones, seeks to gather together the Six Signs of the Light that will enable Light to overcome Dark. Yet the drawing of lines between good and evil, Light and Dark, rather than completely clarifying the conflict, serves as a mechanism to cast doubt upon the nature of good and evil as concepts. The shadowy aspect of the conflict and the inability to "read" clearly the motivations of some of the characters are areas in which Cooper has been criticized. However, I feel that the ambiguity of protagonists and antagonists is a deliberate literary device. Rather than...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420001883