Yeager Essay - Critical Context

Leo Janos, Chuck Yeager

Critical Context

The young adult who reads Yeager learns about a half century that might seem to be “ancient history,” but the events portrayed will continue to have been first-person experiences for many people living several decades past the year 2000. Young readers who are specifically interested in Chuck Yeager or who have a general interest in aviation would enjoy and benefit from reading the entire book. Those who have a limited interest in aviation or who are only interested in World War II, the Korean conflict, Vietnam, or Pakistan might be better served by reading specific selections.

Yeager’s reckless pursuit of “fun” in his youth almost destroyed his career more than once. Breaking his ribs the night before he broke the sound barrier was minor compared to some other personally irresponsible incidents that he relates, and although he makes some attempt to justify orders that he and other U.S. pilots were given to kill “innocent civilians” during World War II, he also labels the results as an “atrocity.” Yeager’s failure to accept responsibility for his own actions, private and public, makes him a questionable role model.

Of the three women portrayed in depth—Glennis Yeager, Jacqueline Cochran, and Pancho Barnes—and the countless prostitutes and the nameless “girls to chase,” Glennis is the only one who might be considered an acceptable role model for young women. In fact, many readers may find the attitude toward women to be offensive.

Nevertheless, Yeager is an interesting and entertaining book for adults. Whether young adults will also benefit from reading the biography will depend on their level of maturity.