Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

InMargaret Mead: A Portrait, Edward Rice strives to present exactly that—a picture of the United States’ foremost anthropologist. Rice attempts, however, rather more than a static snapshot. Instead, he tries to show how the world’s influence upon Mead made her what she was, as well as how Mean’s influence upon the world will help to make it what it will become.

Part I explores Mead’s early life, her checkered and sporadic education, and her relationship with her paternal grandmother, whom she called “the most decisive influence” of her life. Margaret credits Martha Adeline Mead with leading her to one of her most important discoveries: “I was always glad I was a girl.” Part I also documents her refusal to live the conventional life of a young woman of the 1920’s and her belief in the importance of maintaining her own identity. Her unusual behavior includes her refusal to change her name to Margaret Cressman during her short-lived marriage to Luther Cressman, as well as her struggle to begin her field-work in the face of myriad objections (many directed at her for no other reason than her sex) and the dismaying lack of practical methodology. Later unorthodoxies encompass her divorces, her determination not to abandon her work, her insistence on traveling without her husband, her writing style (which is simple and direct), and her inclusion of frank discussions of sexual practices and attitudes among the peoples she studies....

(The entire section is 522 words.)