Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

To Charles A. Lindbergh, his autobiographical The Spirit of St. Louis is a two-part narrative “about flying and an aviator’s life, in the beginning of the 20th century” that “describes the planning and execution of the first nonstop flight between the continents of North America and Europe.” The book was begun in 1938 and was not finished until 1952, with revisions made to the manuscript many times, in many places, and under many circumstances during those years.

In part I of the two-part saga, Lindbergh claims that his most important task is not to show how he triumphed in his journey from New York to Paris in 1927, but instead to demonstrate how humankind triumphed because of this feat. Therefore, his story opens with his flying experiences prior to crossing the Atlantic Ocean, when he traversed the United States, especially the Middle and Far West, carrying the mail. He focuses on the year 1926, but he had been performing the same type of flying for several years: relaying mail to other carriers in accordance with a tight schedule and under the threat of severe weather conditions. Lindbergh composes what is, in essence, a hymn to flight and a paean to the early flyers who, despite the dirt and the danger, found a kind of poetry in the freeing of people from the earth.

After describing how this phase of his life neared its end, Lindbergh relates how he became obsessed with being the first person to fly the dangerous North Atlantic and how he found a way to create a flying machine capable of making the trip despite numerous disappointments and near disasters. Particularly fascinating...

(The entire section is 665 words.)