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...
(The entire section is 618 words.)