Form and Content

In this largely uncritical—yet, within its bounds, accurate—narrative, veteran newsperson and author Gerald W. Johnson acknowledges that, like most people, Roosevelt usually acted as events dictated. Johnson’s emphasis in Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Portrait of a Great Man, however, is upon those events in which Roosevelt’s character primarily determined his actions and, in effect, forged his greatness.

Despite suggestions that the book might be episodic, its eighteen chapters proceed chronologically. Readers are further informed by thirty well-selected photographs capturing Roosevelt during different phases of his life, at significant meetings, and taking part in important events. Leonard Everett Fisher’s relevant decorations announce each chapter and, while there is no bibliography—aside from brief mention of Roosevelt historians Frank Freidel and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.—there is a short but useful index.

Substantively, Johnson concentrates his analysis on Roosevelt’s character and the trials, both subtle and overt, that shaped it in five areas. Thus, the first six chapters deal with influences exerted by Roosevelt’s family and family background, his educational experiences, his marriage, and the formality of the young adult Roosevelt choosing a socially acceptable, and potentially prestigious, career. Three subsequent chapters focus on the vagaries of Roosevelt’s early and promising political career, first as a...

(The entire section is 452 words.)