If an opera singer is a fine artist, then Guthrie was a crude artist. His songs are easy to sing, and the musical accompaniments to them are similarly simple; he planned them that way, since he wanted them to be folk songs that could be performed by anyone. His own line drawings, with which he illustrated his book, are also simple and almost childlike. During his active career, Guthrie carefully cultivated a reputation as an ordinary man of the people who spoke his mind openly. Therefore, it is surprising that the most striking feature of Guthrie’s writing in Bound for Glory is its subtlety.
Although many of Guthrie’s songs are didactic and push for a particular viewpoint, his approach in Bound for Glory is merely to present an incident and then to let the account speak for itself. This technique is effective because it involves the reader, who must sift through the material to deduce what an event might mean instead of simply being told what to think by the author. It is also remarkable that an individual known for his adult hobo wanderings devotes half of his autobiography to his childhood in a small town. Although most people think that Guthrie must have emerged from a rural background, he makes it clear that he started his life in a house in town and was forced into a footloose life of wandering—like so many others he met along the way—by circumstances over which he had no control.
Some of the incidents that Guthrie recalls from this period seem to be...
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Guthrie is best known as a composer and singer of folk songs who rambled around the United States during the 1930’s and 1940’s championing the cause of the downtrodden. He influenced other artists such as Pete Seeger, his own son Arlo Guthrie, and, most notably, Bob Dylan. The elements of Guthrie’s life and art that bore fruit in the early work of Dylan—sympathy with the common man, opposition to injustice and oppression, willingness to try something new, and the desire to wander—were also important in the counterculture movement of the 1960’s. Guthrie has even been called the first hippie, an individual who was a generation ahead of his time. Those who wonder how rootless poverty could have been so appealing to many people in the late 1960’s might find their question answered by reading Guthrie’s celebratory account of the spiritual riches that he gained through such a life.