Using her anthropological skills, Mead records in her prologue that she has taken on the task of explaining why she is the person that she has become. Thus, she chronicles and describes the people and events that made positive and negative differences in the formation of her personality. Although the book is arranged chronologically, Mead compares and analyzes persons and events as each is encountered. Therefore, the reader observes individuals as Mead perceived them, in the context that the person or event influenced her later behavior, attitudes, and actions.
Mead describes her grandmother, one of the people whom she admired most. She is portrayed as an individual who commanded respect, assumed that she would be listened to, seldom repeated herself, and exuded competence. At the end of the book, Mead compares motherhood with grandmotherhood to complete the book’s cycle. Mead describes her own ability to manipulate her father, as well as her relationships with her siblings.
Mead skillfully reports both incidents from her life and her own generalizations of the reasons behind these actions. She provides an illustration of her family relationships as she has known them, and she identifies peaks and valleys from the insights that she gained during fieldwork in Tchambuli with mistakes in her marriages. Her most consistent trait is her pride in her family and her desire for motherhood and grandmotherhood, which she considers to be her greatest accomplishment. It is easy to be drawn into Mead’s impressions of early anthropological fieldwork and the development of research methods.
The theme of family is a thread throughout the work, although Mead often becomes didactic about her view of child rearing and her preference for certain cultural traits. For example, she found the Arapesh and Mundugumor tribes in New Guinea less than pleasant because of their attitudes toward child rearing. Mead emphasizes communication between family members, husbands, and friends, and she is aware of both her successes and her faults in this endeavor. Although Mead...
(The entire section is 494 words.)