Form and Content
From the South Seas: Studies of Adolescence and Sex in Primitive Societies is a compendium of three related works by anthropologist Margaret Mead: Coming of Age in Samoa: A Psychological Study of Primitive Youth for Western Civilization (1928), Growing Up in New Guinea: A Comparative Study of Primitive Education (1930), and Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies (1935). Also included is a new general introduction by the author in which Mead suggests that the three books followed one another naturally, as did the studies that they relate.
Coming of Age in Samoa, the first of the three books, is a study of adolescent girls in one so-called primitive society. In Samoa, emotional display is discouraged, and people are supposed to be obedient to the cultural norms. These cultural norms include a very strong separation of the sexes by about age seven as well as a strong differentiation between the sexes. Generally, females are the caretakers of children, and men are the cultural leaders. There is no taboo against nudity or shame involved in sex.
Growing Up in New Guinea tells the story of a markedly different culture. Among the Manus people of New Guinea, women are considered property, and they become part of their husbands’ households at marriage. The children belong solely to the father; if the couple separates for any reason, the children remain with the man. Sex is considered...
(The entire section is 555 words.)