Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In Cheaper by the Dozen, Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr., and his sister Ernestine Gilbreth Carey re-create their unforgettable childhood with their entrepreneurial father. Eccentric by conventional standards, Frank B. Gilbreth was a strict disciplinarian who demanded top performance from his family while enjoying his inseparable roles as husband, father, and motion study expert. This self-assured, self-made man believed that his wife Lillian’s expertise in psychology and his in motion study was the perfect combination for rearing a large family. Gilbreth and his wife agreed that an even dozen children would be ideal, and the authors state that “he was convinced anything he and Mother teamed up on was sure to be a success.”

Introducing their father in chapter 1, the authors stress the word “Dad.” The repetitive use of the word confirms their father’s status as undisputed head of their family and allows them to expound on his fatherly side while describing his authoritative nature. Gilbreth was a large man with a personality to match his physical proportions—self-confident, outspoken, and exacting. Yet the authors demonstrate that his innate need for efficiency was equaled by his love of children, by his plea-sure in being the center of their attention, and by his high good humor. He had strong principles, was a firm disciplinarian, and had a soft heart for his wife and family—he was his family’s benevolent dictator.


(The entire section is 448 words.)