Russell Baker

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In Chapter 2 of Growing Up, Russell's mother thought he suffered from a lack of "gumption." What does that mean?  

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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"Gumption" is a great word! It means a lot of things: strong will, drive, initiative, guts, spunk, and courage. Somebody with gumption takes on the world to accomplish a purpose or achieve a goal. Russell says his mother wanted him to "make something" of himself, in other words, to work and become successful. Here is what he wrote about that:

The flaw in my character which she had already spotted was lack of "gumption." My idea of a perfect afternoon was lying in front of the radio rereading my favorite Big Little Book, Dick Tracy Meets Stooge Viller. My mother despised inactivity. Seeing me having a good time in repose, she was powerless to hide her disgust. "You've got no more gumption than a bump on a log," she said. "Get out in the kitchen and help Doris do those dirty dishes."

Russell's mother valued work and deplored any sign of laziness in her son, even when he was eight years old. Russell developed a lot of "gumption," of course, and grew up to become a well known and well respected writer.

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