(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Will’s Boy, an autobiography, reworks much of the same material that went into The Works of Love, a book with which Morris struggled through seven drafts between 1946 and 1951. However, in the more recent reconsideration of his boyhood, Morris for the first time makes a nonfictional attempt to resurrect his past. By limiting the scope of Will’s Boy to the years between 1910 and 1930, Morris is able to trace significant events in his life from his birth in Central City, Nebraska, through his boyhood in Schuyler and Omaha, his teen years in Chicago, and on to his eventual enrollment in Pomona College.

In terms of action, Morris had a remarkable youth. His mother died shortly after he was born, and his father, William Morris, a rambler with an eye for women, fine clothes, and money, moved from one town to another, married again, and drifted ever eastward. He dragged his son with him through a world of hotel lobbies, cafés, other women, foster parents, cars, and cross-country trips from Chicago to California and back again. Along the way, Morris showed an uncanny ability to take care of himself, finding a variety of jobs, including one at a Chicago YMCA that brought him into direct contact with street gangs and mobsters. Miraculously, he managed to make friendships, finish high school, and survive with almost no monetary or moral support from his father.

Concerning Will Morris, who is one of the central foci of the book, Morris passes subtle judgment, often relaying the pain of estrangement and conflict caused by his father’s curious habits and ideas. For...

(The entire section is 660 words.)