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Literature / The Door In The Wall

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The Door in the Wall is a 1949 novel by Marguerite de Angeli that won the Newbery Medal in 1950.

It is London in the 1340s. King Edward III is defending his kingdom from the Scots in the north. The Black Death is devastating Europe. And on a much humbler level, ten-year-old Robin, son of Sir John de Bureford, has been left crippled after an illness cost him the use of his legs. With his father on campaign and his mother gone to attend the Queen, Robin is taken in by a monk named Brother Luke, who helps him rebuild his strength while teaching him patience and perseverance. When Robin despairs over being of any use to the kingdom while so weak in body, Brother Luke reminds him that every wall must have a door in it.

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Some months later, Robin finally reaches his intended destination, the Castle Lindsay near the border of Wales. No sooner has he found his place there, however, when the castle comes under siege by the opportunistic Welsh. With their food supplies low and their water failing, Robin takes it upon himself to slip out and go get help.


Tropes used in this book include:

  • As You Know: Extensively in the early going, where every character turns into Mr. Exposition. This, for example, is Robin's mother's farewell to her son.
    Since your father left for the wars, it has been a comfort to have you near, but you are ten and no longer a child to be looked after by womenfolk. It is time now for you to leave me. John-the-Fletcher will come for you in a few days ad will take you to Sir Peter de Lindsay, as we have arranged. There, too, you will be away from danger of the plague, which seems to be spreading. And now it is fitting that I obey the wish of the Queen to be her lady in waiting, for she is in need of my care. Today an escort will be sent for me and I shall go. Jon-the-Cook, Gregory, and Dame Ellen will serve you until John-the-Fletcher arrives. Farewell, my son. Be brave.
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  • Age-Appropriate Angst: For the most part. Robin worries over whether he'll be able to walk again and whether he'll be able to serve the King like his father, but he can also get spitting mad over a commoner boy calling him "Crookshanks."
  • Beneath Suspicion: Robin is able to pass the Welsh army because he looks harmless and acts stupid.
  • Blue Blood: Robin is nobility, the son of a knight. This is the main cause of his Pride but also raises some angst: he will be expected to serve the kingdom like his father does, and he isn't certain he'll be able to.
  • Character Development: Robin starts the book as a helpless, prideful invalid and ends it as a brave young man who single-handedly saved a castle and all its inhabitants.
  • Chekhov's Skill: The plot establishes that Robin can swim well even in cold water and negotiate steep descents before he needs to venture down a bank and cross a river to get help.
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  • Handicapped Badass: Even when Robin is able to get along on crutches, his legs and spine are too bent for normal walking. Nevertheless, he sets out on a mission to save the castle, and succeeds.
  • Inn Security: Robin, Brother Luke, and a minstrel called John-Go-in-the-Wynd are nearly robbed at an inn. Ironically, they passed the previous night out of doors and were perfectly fine.
  • Meaningful Name: Brother Luke is largely responsible for the physical therapy that gives Robin his mobility. He took the name from Luke the physician.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: At the beginning of the book, Robin throws a bowl of porridge at a servant because it's not what he wants. Said servant was ill with the Plague and leaves in a rage; Robin only thinks she'll be back, and when she does she'd better bring him something he actually wants.
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