Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In his late sixties, the American historian Henry Brooks Adams wrote The Education of Henry Adams as an exploration of the meaning of his own life. Adams was the great-grandson of one U.S. president (John Adams) and the grandson of another (John Quincy Adams). His father, Charles Francis Adams, was an important figure in antislavery politics and an early leader of the Republican Party in the years before the Civil War. As a child, Adams tells the reader, he simply assumed that one day he himself would be president of the United States. Yet the family attitudes that encouraged that belief also taught him that, as an Adams and a New England aristocrat, he had an obligation to meet the highest standards, both moral and intellectual, in private as well as public life. Almost from the beginning, Adams was troubled by a conflict between ambition and a strong sense of ethical responsibility.

Presented in chapters that are dated and arranged by strict chronology, the book divides into two main parts with a twenty-year gap between them. The first tells of Adams’ childhood, his formal education, and the period up to the age of thirty-three, during which he was searching for a career in public affairs. Having been graduated from Harvard University and having spent two years in Europe, Adams went to England as private secretary to his father, who held the critically important post of U.S. minister to Great Britain throughout the American Civil War....

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The Education of Henry Adams Historical Context

Reform Era
A new spirit of civic awareness by members of the middle class who identified themselves as Progressives launched the...

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The Education of Henry Adams Literary Style

Autobiography
Adams uses his life story to illustrate his views of society, history, and education. However, his employment of...

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The Education of Henry Adams Compare and Contrast

1907: Reginald Aubrey Fessenden ushers in the year with the second broadcasted radio program on New Year’s Eve, 1906. Due to...

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The Education of Henry Adams Topics for Further Study

• Imagine that The Education of Henry Adams will be published in 2007. What technological symbols could be used to interpret the...

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The Education of Henry Adams What Do I Read Next?

• Adams described the unity of the medieval worldview as being reflected through its cathedrals in Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres....

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The Education of Henry Adams Bibliography and Further Reading

Sources
Banta, Martha, ‘‘Being a ‘Begonia’ in a Man’s World,’’ in New Essays on ‘‘The Education of Henry...

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The Education of Henry Adams Bibliography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Dusinberre, William. Henry Adams: The Myth of Failure. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1980. Argues that Adams’ literary career should not be judged from The Education of Henry Adams alone, and relates the book to Adams’ other historical writings to show that his negative assessment of them is misleading.

Jordy, William H. Henry Adams: Scientific Historian. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1952. Evaluates Adams’ claims that he was writing a “scientific” history. Demonstrates the weaknesses of the scientific arguments that Adams advanced.

Levenson, J. C. The Mind...

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