Habits of the Heart

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 363

Habits of the Heart introduces four people who "each represent American voices familiar to us all." They are Brian, Joe, Margaret, and Wayne.

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Brian Palmer is a 41-year old San Jose manager at a thriving corporation. He got a divorce two years before the book was written and says that it changed how he looks at the world. He realized that he has to value his family more, leave his work at the office, and appreciate the family he has. He's remarried and has multiple children. He says he wants to teach his children the importance of honesty and admits that he greatly admires his second wife.

Joe Forman is also 41 years old but he lives in Suffolk, Massachusetts where he grew up. Less than a year before the book was written, he helped plan a major anniversary celebration for the town. He says that he believes it's important to bring people together and make them active in getting things done. For him, success isn't about himself. It's about "the experience of togetherness the community has created".

Margaret Oldham is a therapist who thinks that it's important to be flexible. She believes that if you're too rigid, you cut yourself off from other people because no one is exactly the same. She's in her early 30s and lives in a large city in the South. She says she believes that you can't have a fulfilling life without doing the work to get it. Her example is a person who wants to be in a relationship with unconditional love without having to do anything in return.

Wayne Bauer is a community organizer in California in his mid-30s. He was in the Marines, joining in 1965 at 17. Friends who had gone to college in New York convinced him not to go to Vietnam and he went AWOL when he was ordered to go. In 1972, he surrendered and spent four months in a military stockade. He appreciates the power of being involved in the political process and helping people who need it. He talks about a time he helped tenants who were being taken advantage of by a landlord who was holding immigration over their heads.

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