Masterplots II: Nonfiction Series The Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens Analysis
Lincoln Steffens had two careers. The first lasted almost twenty years, from 1892 to 1911, and brought him fame and modest wealth. This was the newspaperman, feature writer, and muckraker period. The second, from 1912 to 1930, brought him not only derision but also personal happiness and intellectual contentment. This was the radical propagandist period. To Steffens, however, the evolution of his thinking, which these two careers constitute, was seamless and began long before his working life commenced in New York City; it began in fact in a boy’s Western childhood.
Born in San Francisco a year after the Civil War ended, Lincoln Steffens grew up in Sacramento, still in the 1870’s a frontier town of gamblers, miners, and cowboys. His description is of a golden childhood, for Steffens’ parents pampered him yet allowed him considerable freedom. On his beloved pony, Lincoln could ride for hours (and as he grew older, days) to satisfy an insistent curiosity about what lay beyond the next hill. Since the Steffens family was financially comfortable, young Lincoln lacked no material advantage. His was certainly no Dickensian childhood, in which the struggle for food or shelter makes the ordinary pleasures of growing up impossible. If Lincoln sometimes suffered from his father’s taciturn nature, he was never abused or unloved.
Autobiography is a genre which encourages an emphasis on those moments and events in childhood which create or reflect...
(The entire section is 1454 words.)
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