Alice Dalgliesh

The Courage of Sarah Noble

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The Courage of Sarah Noble Summary

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The Courage of Sarah Noble is a children’s historical novel by Alice Dalgliesh. Originally published in 1954 and still popular in school classrooms, the book follows a young girl and her family adventures in 18th-century Connecticut. The book received some criticism for its negative portrayal of Native Americans, but others defend the portrayal because it’s based on a young girl’s true story. Dalgliesh taught in elementary school before later lecturing in children’s literature at Columbia University. She published many books for younger children.

The heroine of the book is the title character, Sarah Noble. She’s eight years old when the novel begins, and her father is a wealthy man. He’s recently purchased a plot of land in New Milford, Connecticut. He wants to set up a farmhouse there for Sarah and her mother. It’s a growing “white” settlement, and he thinks they’ll be happy there.

When her father journeys out to New Milford to inspect the land, he invites Sarah to join him. She’s very excited, because it will be an adventure for her. Sarah’s mother warns her to take care, because the woods around Connecticut are full of Indians. Mr. Noble promises he’ll take good care of her and nothing will happen. Mrs. Noble waves them off, and they set out on their journey.

When they arrive on the land, the first thing Sarah and her father do is inspect the plot. He has building plans, and he’s checking to see what adjustments must be made. When they get there, they’re soon approached by the local Native American tribe, called the Schaghticoke. Mr. Noble tries to communicate what he’s doing there, and that he’s building on the land. The Indians seem friendly enough, but Sarah’s intimidated by the way they dress and look at first.

Sarah’s first test of courage comes on their very first night, when they must sleep outside because the house obviously isn’t built yet. She hears lots of strange woodland noises, and she doesn’t sleep much, but she comforts herself by imagining it’s just friendly forest creatures. This is her first taste of independence—she can’t rely on her mother appearing and soothing her back to sleep.

The next day, her father takes her to meet another white family, the Robinsons. He wants her to see other white people settled and happy in the area, and ensure she knows there’s a family she can turn to if she ever needs help. However, Sarah’s anything but reassured when she meets the Robinsons. The children are terrified of the Schaghticoke, and their parents reinforce this message.

What’s more, the whole atmosphere is very stuffy and unloving. It makes Sarah more appreciative of the nurturing relationship she has with her own family. She’s the kind of girl who likes to make up her own mind about anything, and she decides to give the Schaghticoke people a chance. She doesn’t anticipate playing with the Robinson children again.

Sarah’s next test of courage comes when her father starts working on the plot of land. He sets up a shed where Sarah can stay, but it means she’s by herself for much of the day. This frightens her at first, but she doesn’t want her father to think she’s weak. She pretends she’s not frightened at all, and she focuses on bible study.

One morning, Schaghticoke children arrive. They want to see Sarah and see what kind of things a white girl gets up to. She tries to read to them, because she senses they’re friendly. Although they don’t understand what she’s saying, the children are fascinated by her.

The building process takes a long time, but it’s going according to plan. Over the course of many weeks, Sarah spends more time with the Schaghticoke children. She learns how to communicate and immerses herself in their culture. All the while, she teaches them enough English that they can communicate better.

Sarah’s favorite family is Tall John’s. He’s a kind and gentle man, and so are his children. Sarah settles into life in Connecticut and stops worrying about the Native Americans harming her. However, her biggest test of courage is yet to come.

When her father finishes building the house, he must go back home and get the rest of the family. Sarah will stay with Tall John and his family, and she’ll keep an eye on the property. Sarah’s frightened, because she’s never been without her father, but she shows him how brave she can be and wishes him farewell.

When her father returns with the rest of the family, Sarah’s delighted to see them. She shows her mother that the Native Americans are nothing to fear, and that they’re wonderful people. Her mother is still skeptical, but she’s willing to give them a chance. Sarah announces that she’s planning on staying somewhere like Connecticut forever, because she wants to be a teacher. Her parents support her plans and they encourage her to find a husband who feels the same way.