The Shoemaker and the Tea Party by Alfred Young revolves around two bibliographies written about one of the last living participants of the Boston Tea Party, and the authors own interpretations of the events surrounding the Tea Party and the American Revolution as a whole. In this particular novel, Young explores what it means to rediscover history, and how history is continually redefined. Particular attention in the novel is given to public history, and how highlighting people otherwise lost to time can completely change how an event is perceived. Readers are given the opportunity to see the history behind the American Revolution through the lenses of an average man of that time. In this essay I will review the novel and the message that Young is conveying through it.
In the introduction, Young makes it abundantly clear that in this novel he aims to make his own views surrounding public, and to an extent social history, known. He begins by posing the question “how does an ordinary person win a place in history?” (vii). Automatically I recalled the saying that “the victor writes history.” Historically, the victors and the writers of history have been those in positions of power on a particular side of a conflict. The everyday people who are the true forces behind these events unfortunately fade into obscurity and become the lost heroes and heroines of history. Often, it is not until specific groups learn of a particular person in history that attempts are made to have that person remembered. Such was the case with Crispus Attucks, a half African half Native American victim of the Boston Massacre, by the African American community of Boston. By shedding light on the story of Crispus Attucks, the African American community was able to showcase a real connection to the events surrounding the Revolutionary War.
Young seems to imply that all history with time and greater knowledge and viewpoints can be revised and greater understanding surrounding events can be gleaned. The evidence used by Young in this particular novel center around two bibliographies written about George Robert Twelves Hewes. Young also makes reference to some of the countless books he serendipitously came across in his research surrounding the American Revolution, and the event that would come to be known as the Boston Tea Party. Young pulls from his large selection of evidence to make his points throughout the novel.
In order to understand Hewes, Young delved into the psychology of memory and references noted psychologist Daniel Schachter. (xiii.) By understanding why someone remembers an event in a particular way, gives insight into how memories are consolidated. Hewes’ memory for a man is age is remarkable to say the least. The emotion tied to a particular memory is able to enhance it (xii). Young seems to use this evidence to lend creditability to the way that Hewes remembers particular events such as the Boston Massacre. At the same time, Young explores while Hewes...