Form and Content
Profiles in Courage, which won John F. Kennedy the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1957, is a series of brief sketches describing important decisions in the lives of eight United States senators. Although the work is not intended to be an extensive historical work or a complete biography of its subjects, Kennedy does begin each set of profiles with a section entitled “The Time and the Place.” These introductory essays provide the reader with essential information about the period in which each senator lived and summarize the major political issues of that day. In the profiles themselves, Kennedy avoids general biographical details and prefers to focus upon his central topic: the courageous decisions that proved to be turning points in the lives and careers of these eight individuals.
Kennedy hoped to demonstrate in Profiles in Courage that no single era, region of the United States, or political party held a monopoly on courage. The individuals profiled in the book were thus carefully selected to include early figures such as John Quincy Adams and more recent figures such as Robert A. Taft, Westerners such as Sam Houston and Easterners such as Daniel Webster, Democrats such as Thomas Hart Benton and Republicans such as George Norris. Indeed, Kennedy made a singular effort in Profiles in Courage to be both bipartisan and broadly national. Although himself a Democrat from Massachusetts, Kennedy devoted the entire second half...
(The entire section is 565 words.)