Using her anthropological skills, Mead records in her prologue that she has taken on the task of explaining why she is the person that she has become. Thus, she chronicles and describes the people and events that made positive and negative differences in the formation of her personality. Although the book is arranged chronologically, Mead compares and analyzes persons and events as each is encountered. Therefore, the reader observes individuals as Mead perceived them, in the context that the person or event influenced her later behavior, attitudes, and actions.
Mead describes her grandmother, one of the people whom she admired most. She is portrayed as an individual who commanded respect, assumed that she would be listened to, seldom repeated herself, and exuded competence. At the end of the book, Mead compares motherhood with grandmotherhood to complete the book’s cycle. Mead describes her own ability to manipulate her father, as well as her relationships with her siblings.
Mead skillfully reports both incidents from her life and her own generalizations of the reasons behind these actions. She provides an illustration of her family relationships as she has known them, and she identifies peaks and valleys from the insights that she gained during fieldwork in Tchambuli with mistakes in her marriages. Her most consistent trait is her pride in her family and her desire for motherhood and grandmotherhood, which she considers to be her greatest...
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Mead has written her book as an outgrowth of self-analysis in what could be a model for young readers in looking at their own lives, as she is often brutally honest and frank in describing criticism of herself. Mead also provides many clues about how early interests were translated into her successful career as an anthropologist. In fact, her style of self-analysis is in keeping with the methods used by the anthropologists of her time period.
Mead’s sense of adventure is compelling. Perhaps because Mead began taking notes on her family at an early age, she skillfully records incidents in her life almost as if she were an observer of a native tribe or people. Descriptions of her fieldwork relate back to her own life, serving as a study of American culture. Her book becomes a statement about the continuity of family and her own belief in the equality of the sexes.
Mead’s writing is clear, allowing the reader to move easily from chapter to chapter. The work is certainly a classic autobiography in its portrayal of incidents and in its psychological clues into an individual who helped to found a discipline. Her motives for life choices will continue to be as relevant to young readers as they were when the book was written. Her studies provide an anthropological definition of adolescence and, as such, convey a sense of her time period to future young adults.