The Age of Great Dreams Questions and Answers
by David Farber

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Write a reader's response for chapter 1 of The Age of Great Dreams.

To write a reader's response to the first chapter of David Farber's The Age of Great Dreams, read the text thoroughly, determine the author's purpose, thesis, and main ideas, and briefly summarize the selection. Then, reflect on what strikes you, what you agree or disagree with, what the text's relationship to your experiences is, what the text's relationship to other texts is, and what your evaluation of the text is.

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A reader's response to a text is a highly personal piece of writing that only the reader can produce. I can, however, give you some ideas to help you get started in writing your response to the first chapter of David Farber's The Age of Great Dreams.

Your first step will be to read the text thoroughly. Make sure you really understand what the author is saying, and see if you can get a feel for his tone and his perspective. Think about his purpose in writing the book. Try to identify his thesis, what he is arguing, and what his main points are. In this first chapter, the author is setting the stage for the 1960s by discussing life in America at the beginning of the decade. You can include a short summary at the beginning of your response that covers the author's main points and themes (the economic situation, the suburbs, race, gender, foreign relations, etc.).

The rest of your response should include one or more of the following: what especially strikes you in the text; what you agree with and/or disagree with in the text; the relationship between the text and your own experiences; the relationship between the text and other pieces you've read; and your evaluation of the text. Let's look at an example of each of these.

First, think about what might especially strike you in the text. Perhaps the section about the Kitchen Debate between Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev caught your eye. If so, write about why you are paying particular attention to it (the humor perhaps?) and what you learned, especially what you didn't know before.

Second, reflect on sections of the text with which you particularly agree or disagree. Perhaps you take issue with the chapter's last sentence, for instance, because you don't find it clear enough with its strange reference to "ur-reality," or perhaps you disagreed with the author's implications about gender roles. On the other hand, you might agree with the author's characterization of the suburbs. Just be sure to support your opinions. Don't just say you agree or disagree; explain why.

Third, ponder how the text reflects or does not reflect your own experiences. If your parents or grandparents grew up in the 1960s, you can think about how the stories they've told you confirm or do not confirm with what the author says. You might also compare your own life to the lives of people at the beginning of the 1960s and explore what has changed and what has stayed the same. Think about technology, for example, and about whether you are as excited about new technology as people were then.

Fourth, compare this text with other books or articles you've read about the 1960s. Decide whether this author does a better or worse job at introducing the decade, and then explain why. You might want to think about whether other works are more or less thorough and/or balanced in their presentations.

Finally, evaluate the text. Write about whether you think it is effective as an introduction to the 1960s or not. Be sure to support your opinion with evidence from the text.

Depending on the length of your assignment, you don't have to use all of these ideas. One or two will probably suffice, but always be sure that you are writing your own responses to the text and supporting those responses with evidence and explanations.

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