Didrick, the main character, feels that it is essential that
he and his family have the freedom to worship as they please. However, in the
Palatines during the rule of King Louis XIV, religious freedom was not an option if you were a Protestant. The King wanted all Protestants to worship as Catholics and if they refused were punished severely. Fortunately for Didrick and the other Protestants, Queen Anne of the English Colonies
advertised in Europe that any Protestant who wished to go to the New World and flee King Louis XIV would be given 40 acres
of land and the freedom to worship as they please. As a result of this advertisement,
Didrick and his family began their journey to the New World.
The author, Robert Elrod, develops the character Didrick well
enough. However, I would have liked to see the other characters developed more. Elrod did not give Didricks wife, Maria, a voice other than her constant whining even
though Didrick made lone decisions to uproot her family time and time again. Didricks
father-in-law, Wilhelm Lerchenzeiler, made the initial decision for the family to leave the Palatines to escape religious
persecution but he too had no voice the remainder of the novel. In the novel
Didrick alone would make significant decisions that would affect the entire family with no protest from his wife or father-in-law. The novel is a bit unrealistic in this aspect.
Elrod throughout most of the novel implies Didrick is this
hero of a husband, father and man. One event in particular, Didrick and his family
were in a Palatines encampment where living conditions were substandard. Thousands
of families were residents at this encampment before Didrick and his family arrived.
Didrick thought he and his family would only have to stay at this encampment one night but later found he and his family
would probably have to stay at this encampment for weeks like all the other families.
Didrick, dissatisfied with this probability, made an appointment with the Queens British Representative to voice his
concerns. The British Representative consulted with his authorities and Didrick
and his family were allowed to leave much earlier than the other families. I
find this unbelievable. I cannot imagine that Didrick was the only husband/father
so concerned about his family that out of all these thousands of families, he was the only husband/father willing to question
the substandard living conditions they were temporarily forced to live in. There
are other similar events in the novel where Didrick is one of thousands of men and he is the only man to protest because I
suppose we are to believe his love is the only love that is so great for his family.
I think Elrod could have shown the reader that Didrick is a great husband/father without going so overboard.
I must point out that towards the end of the novel,
Elrod does let the reader see an imperfect Didrick. Didrick is opposed to his
son changing the spelling of his name because he wants to be able to worship a different religion. It takes some time but Didrick comes to a compromise with his son.
Didrick compromises not because he agrees with his sons decision but because all the struggling and migrating his family
has done for religious freedom means that his son should have the freedom to choose his own religion.
At the completion of this novel, I had not really
learned anything about the religious persecution Didrick and his family endured because Elrod only touched this topic. However, I felt the novel was more of a tribute to Didrick the loving husband/father.