Have you ever run away? All of us have probably considered doing so at one time or another. The peanut butter sandwich, the chocolate-chip cookies, the cap pistol or favorite doll, packed into the little wagon, and then the last minute decision to stay home is a memory deep in the minds of us all. However, few of us seriously carry the plan out. But, sometimes we are driven to true desperation. Our parents might become unbearable, or we might be forcibly banished.
David Copperfield, the hero of Dickens's David Copperfield, and Menolly of Half-Circle Sea Hold, the heroine of McCaffrey's Dragonsong, become runaways. Both are derided and trodden upon by cruel parents and step-parents, and after many dangers, lead successful lives, finding support to help them brave their troubles.
David and Menolly resist, but futilely, the outrages practiced on them by their coldhearted guardians. David, still a young boy, recites his lessons every day. His audience is composed of his mother, a kind but meek woman, Mr. Murdstone, a tyrannical stepfather, and Jane Murdstone, David's persnickety and hateful step-aunt. The presence of the latter, glowering in her chair, and the scowling countenance of Mr. Murdstone unnerves young Copperfield so much that he is "wallowing in a bog of ignorance" and clouds his thinking. Mr. Murdstone threatens to cane him if the next lesson isn't greatly improved. Sure enough, David's performance is far from satisfactory. During the dreadful flogging that ensues, he siezes his step-father's hand and "bites it through." The beating renders him nearly unconscious, and he is sent to a run-down boarding school. This incident serves to prejudice the Murdstones against him to the point of hate.
Menolly is a fourteen year old girl, living in the medieval-like society of Pern. They live a fairly simple life, void of mechanical technology. The Harper, revered musical teacher of her hold (a Pernese community practicing one craft, in this case fishing), teaches her to play and sing beautifully. After his death, Menolly is given some of his duties. But Harpering is a man's job, so her disapproving parents refuse to let Menolly compose for amusement, only to teach. When the new Harper arrives, she loses her duties. Her father, Yanus, catches her composing and beats her savagely.
Several days later, Menolly accidentally gashes her hand with a knife. Her mother, Mavi, lets the hand heal undrawn, crippling it, to keep her from piping.
After the hand heals, Menolly does odd jobs about the Hold. When picking greens, she discovers a clutch of Fire lizard eggs. Fire lizards resemble dragons, the intelligent beasts used in Pern's armed forces, and like dragons, fire lizards can teleport. They communicate with humans, dragons, and other fire lizards through telepathic images.
Gradually their frantic images tell Menolly that she is to save their eggs, which are threatened by the incoming tide. With their help, Menolly places the eggs in a narrow mouth of a spacious cave in the bluff. She returns to her Hold, little realizing that these creatures, delicate as they are, would provide a lifeline in the near future.
When Copperfield's weak mother dies, he is taken from boarding school and forced to work as a clerk at Murdstone's wine company. He is first housed at a derilict, rat-ridden structure, but is moved to the Micawbers' boarding house. The Micawbers are his only friends. But, victimized by financial disaster, the Micawbers are forced to move.
Disheartened, David decides to find his aunt Betsey. He knows that she lives somewhere in Suffolk, many miles from his stepfather's business in London. Also, David doesn't know if she will take him in! But, the chance must be taken. If you take no risks, you make no gains.
Menolly also isn't sure that she can survive. While singing in the Great Hall, she is told to "sing quietly, as befits a girl of your age," while her older sister is bellowing tunelessly like the men. This is too much, and she flees the Hold. The dangers of doing this are tremendous. The Holds...