Growing Up Themes
by Russell Baker

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Growing Up Themes

In Baker's compelling autobiographical narrative, the theme of family is clear, consistent, and resounding. As Baker recounts memories of losing his father, moving in with relatives, changing cities and schools, and working to help his family survive the Great Depression, family relationships are central to every event and memory. Baker's mother, Ruth, is certainly the most influential person in his life, and her dominant influence is seen in almost every decision Baker makes. For good or for bad, Ruth helps to push, support, and mold Baker into the man he becomes.

Baker also shares how his sister, as well as aunts and uncles, impacted him as they united to survive some of the most economically difficult years in American history. Baker provides rich, detailed, humorous, and sad accounts of family members' conversations, admonitions, examples, and actions.

Another theme in this novel is love. While Baker grew up in burdensome times and adults were very serious, he grew up with consistent family members who always looked to provide for and protect him. Also, Baker shares his own journey of finding love as a grown man and his choice for marriage.

As any historical non-fiction about the Great Depression would, this book also has a theme of overcoming hardship, or persevering. From the age of five (after losing his father), Baker realizes that he must be realistic about life and the hardships his family faces. He and his sister both sell newspapers at very young ages to help bring some money home; his mother always has to work. While they do not starve, their meals are simple and scarce. He and his family also have to depend on relatives at times for housing. Baker works hard in school, but his college experience is cut short when World War II begins. He learns that one must persevere through challenges in order to gain the most from life.

Another theme in this book is that of depression—both economic and emotional. While the topic of the historical decade of the Great Depression is obvious, Baker allows readers to experience the day-to-day realities of...

(The entire section is 519 words.)