In an introductory poem called “Scroll,” Sandburg says, “for actions, speeches, silences,/ set forth by images of the mind// to do again and to do over/ precisely what they did do once—/ this is memory.” Because he celebrated his seventy-fifth birthday the year that this autobiography was published, however, Sandburg was recording not merely his personal memories but those memories as enriched by extensive research and by his experiences since his youth.
The title, Always the Young Strangers, is taken from Sandburg’s poem “Broken-Face Gargoyles.” These gargoyles are “looking two ways to the ends of the street for the new people, the young strangers, coming, coming, always coming.” The title implies that Sandburg sees his life as representing all the youth, the young strangers, who in their growing years must come to terms with their own feelings and ambitions and must understand the bewildering and sometimes contradictory world of adults. Therefore, when the narrator considers a jury’s decision (in the case of an anarchist probably unjustly executed) and says that he has to learn for himself the difference between law and justice, he is speaking for all growing youth who must discover the truth in life for themselves.
The book primarily follows the chronological development of Sandburg through childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood, ending with his decision to use the scholarship available to him as a...
(The entire section is 418 words.)