"GROWING UP" (RUSSELL BAKER). "GROWING UP" (RUSSELL BAKER). Term Paper ID:23000 Essay Subject: Critical review of work by journalist about his life, family, the Great Depression, hardship & hope.... 5 Pages / 1125 Words 1 sources, 6 Citations, MLA Format 20.00 Paper Abstract: Critical review of work by journalist about his life, family, the Great Depression, hardship & hope.Paper Introduction: Russell Baker's Growing Up should be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for both content and style.
Baker has written a work which humanely and vividly portrays the coming-of-age of a young man at in an era crucial to the development of the United States as a modern nation---the era of the Great Depression and the Second World War. Baker's book is valuable for its entertainment value, its humor, its humanity, its poignancy, and for its masterful and seemingly effortless blending of the personal and the historical. We come to know not only this young man and his family, but also the spirit of the nation in this turbulent time. Baker is a well-respected journalist who in this book looks back over his childhood and young manhood in order to honor that childhood, his family, and the courage and steadfastness of America between the two world wars. It covers not only the urban What makes Baker's book unusual in this respect is thatwhile he shows all the serious character defects of his family, he does soin such an easy, accepting, magnanimous, and especially humor-leavened waythat the reader is drawn into his perceptions.
The Depression stands as the most powerful historical feature of thebook. Whereas Lucy from the first page to thelast appears to the reader to be a "mean old lady" (Baker 344) as Baker'swife Mimi puts it, the father is a quieter, kinder, less demandingcharacter, albeit an alcoholic who did not take much of an active role inraising the children. The significance of the role of the father inthe book and in Baker's life is that he was such a relatively weakcharacter in comparison to Lucy. While the mother stands out as the bulwark, if not the tyrantof the family, the father's presence is more in the background, and brief, for he dies at an early age.
Baker is a well-respected journalist who in this book looks back overhis childhood and young manhood in order to honor that childhood, hisfamily, and the courage and steadfastness of America between the two worldwars. His early death from diabetes increases the effect ofthe mother in the development of Baker. Two years younger than her brother, Doris is a go-getter in contrastto his more laid-back and philosophical nature (Baker 17-18). Another secondary character effectively portrayed by the author ishis father. The honesty of the author is therefore a central argument here forgiving the Pulitzer Prize to Baker.
Baker teaches us in this book tocare for his family and his and the country's past, and to reflectlongingly on our own families and pasts, with charity, humor, forgiveness, and hope. She is an indomitable presence inBaker's life, and although the unsympathetic reader may at times agree withMimi's description of Lucy as a "mean old lady," Baker himself understandsthat she did what she could, and what she had to do, to survive and helpher children survive under the most difficult historical and personalcircumstances.
The author is not only effective but moving in portraying thedevelopment of his characters, the historical context in which the eventstake place, and the central theme, which is the parent-child relationship, specifically the relationship between the author and his mother Lucy. After Mimi's judgmentof Lucy, Baker declares, "That's not right. However, we know that Baker developed into a good man, a lovinghusband and father and successful writer, so that our judgment of theauthor's mother should be tempered. Baker's sister Doris is a major character in the book.
Baker's book is valuable for itsentertainment value, its humor, its humanity, its poignancy, and for itsmasterful and seemingly effortless blending of the personal and thehistorical. Doris has more closely followedher mother's activist philosophy, while Russell, certainly finding success, nevertheless developed a more leisurely and inclusive sense of life thanhis younger sister. New York: Signet, 1984.----------------------- 6 It covers not only the urban realm with which the adult Baker isfamiliar and which he covers today with wit and insight, but also themountain life of Virginia and a New Jersey commuter town.
Although it doesdeal with a period in American history which brings up fears of every sort(war, poverty, hunger, rootlessness), the book faces these fears andtranscends them. Against the backdrop of the Depression, the character of Lucy, Baker's mother, stands tall and strong.
The Depression cast a sense of restriction over the family, a sensethat there was little hope for the present and that dreaming of futureescape from financial insecurity was the only hope possible: Everybody was waiting for his ship to come in. Clearly, Baker loves his mother and is quick to defend her harshattitudes against all comers, including his own wife. Like theportrayal of Lucy, however, Baker does not even attempt to show her in arose-colored light.
Whereas heseeks in life a deeper and more analytical understanding of life, Dorisdevelops a more materialistic and conservative life style. It was a sad, bitter phrase used even by children to express the hopelessness of hoping. Perhaps most importantly, thefather's more open-hearted perspective on life allowed Baker to develop thehumor and acceptance which he used to develop his own personality, ratherthan following in his uptight mother's footsteps as his sister Dorisclearly did.
Baker has written a work which humanely and vividlyportrays the coming-of-age of a young man at in an era crucial to thedevelopment of the United States as a modern nation---the era of the GreatDepression and the Second World War. Growing Up. In writing of the origins ofthis book, Baker writes, "I realized I would have to start with my motherand her passion for improving the male of the species" (Baker 16). As Baker declares, he wants in this book to show his own children, and any other reader who wants to appreciate the connections of familymembers through the generations, how humanity is like a river: We all come from the past, and children ought to know what it that went into their making, to know that life is a braided cord of humanity stretching up from time long gone, and that it cannot be defined by the span of a single journey from diaper to shroud (Baker 16).In order to draw this portrait, the author focuses on his relationship withhis mother, which forms the central theme of the book.
Both Doris the sister and Baker's father give the readerthe impression of being secondary characters, along, in fact, with everyother character but Baker and his mother. What makes Doris important in the book is what makes Baker's fatherimportant as well. Perhaps the reader feels at times that Lucy is a domineering womanwho somewhat emasculated little Baker, and even the author seems toperceive something of the male-hater in Lucy.
The struggle of poverty and the fear of the future are always atleast in the background of Baker's story, although, as a child in the book, he notes that he was not always as aware as adults of the impact of thatDepression: "I was too busy trying to learn the arts of survival in a bigcity [i. e., surviving bullies] to realize my mother was having a hard timemaking ends meet" (Baker 19 ). The reader feels finally that we all do what we can to surviveand to love.
Doris is contrasted with Baker from the beginning to the end of thebook. The reader emerging from this book will feel a deeper andwarmer connection, a greater appreciation for not only the author and hisfamily, but for the country which served as a crucible for theirdevelopment.
Had the author grown to be a serialkiller, however, his mother's child-rearing would certainly be introducedas a mitigating factor in his trial. It is a book which certainly has its tragic moments, itsrevelations about the darker side of life and its bewilderingcontradictions, but finally it is a book with profound good humor and hope, not only for the future but for the past. Work CitedBaker, Russell. She was like a warrior motherfighting to protect her children in a world run by sons-of-bitches" (Baker344).
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