Study Guide

A Hole in the World

by Richard Rhodes

A Hole in the World Essay - Critical Essays

A Hole in the World

Richard Rhodes begins this account of his boyhood with the revelation of his mother’s suicide, which left a “hole” in his world when he was only thirteen months old. For nine years he, his older brother Stanley, and their father lived meagerly in a series of Kansas City boardinghouses.

In 1947, the year he turned ten, Rhodes’s father, a railroad employee, married again and thus inflicted on the two boys a person perhaps more wicked than the stepmothers in fairy tales. The second Mrs. Rhodes beat them, deprived them of decent food and clothing, and made them work incessantly for her benefit after school and during vacations. Meanwhile their father, though not a cruel man himself, stood abjectly by.

After two and a half years of this nightmarish existence, Stanley went to the police and started the process by which they were removed from their parents’ control. They were placed at the Andrew Drumm Institute, a working farm near Independence, Missouri, where, in the company of other orphaned and deprived boys, they learned to perform virtually all common farm tasks while continuing their education in town.

Drumm provided the skills, discipline, and order that began the necessary healing process and prepared the brothers for useful lives. The author was able to enter Yale University and later became a successful author of novels and nonfiction, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning THE MAKING OF THE ATOMIC BOMB (1987). Although he candidly admits later bouts with alcoholism and psychiatric illness, he has finally gained a perspective on his life.

In this vividly detailed book, Rhodes articulates the common concern of all his earlier ones: the necessity of struggling against violence in all its forms.

Sources for Further Study

Booklist. LXXXVI, August, 1990, p. 2125.

Chicago Tribune. October 7, 1990, XIV, p.1.

Kirkus Reviews. LVIII, July 15, 1990, p.992.

Library Journal. CXV, September 1, 1990, p.230.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. October 7, 1990, p.1.

The New York Times Book Review. October 28, 1990, p.14.

Newsweek. CXVI, October 1, 1990, p.66.

Publishers Weekly. CCXXXVII, July 27, 1990, p.221.

Time. CXXXVI, October 29, 1990, p.102.

The Washington Post Book World. XX, October 14, 1990, p.3.