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Russell Baker's Growing Up

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Russell Baker's Growing Up Autobiographical works tell a story of their authors by compiling antic dotes and accolades. Most autobiographies are that of famous authors or other celebrities and provide a synopsis of life according to them. Russell Baker's autobiography, Growing Up, achieves all these things as well, but, it does more than just tell of his life. As American citizens, history is a big part of our identity not only as Americans, but as individuals. Russell Baker lived through a depression, a world war, Utopia, a sexual revolution, and a lost cause conflict, among other things. If one were to study either the Great Depression or the Second World War, Russell Baker's autobiography would prove to be a valuable resource. Baker's autobiography provides a screen through which readers can view historical events in American history through one boy's eyes. As a newspaper columnist, Russell Baker has the ability to recall newsworthy events and tell of them in a professional, telling fashion. Early on in the book, Russell discusses his career as a magazine salesman and a newspaper delivery boy. It is hard to believe that Baker does not believe in some way these careers he had as a young boy did not shape his character. These two careers also provided him with a chance to read about events before anyone else did and thus recall these moments in time with a more focused image than most people of his generation. ...read more.


Baker told of a time at the dinner table when his mother was reprimanding him for not selling his extra papers shortly after the war started. "For God's sake, Russell, show a little gumption for once in your life. This is a world war. An idiot could sell newspapers today." (198). Baker goes on to tell of his success when he finally did get up and half-heartedly offer newspapers to strangers, which every one of them took. This is a great illustration of how a war can spark business, jobs and success even on such a small scale as selling newspapers. Baker recalls a late night delivery shift in which he read about the imminent war in Europe, "Lately it had been more and more about Hitler, Mussolini, Chamberlain, and Stalin. The chanceries of war in Europe. War in the air, and so forth, and so on." (152). This not only provides a reader with either knowledge or a refresher of historical leaders of the time, but also provides a basis on which Baker displays his feelings on the subject or lack thereof. Baker goes on to discuss an insane dissector that held more of his attention in the paper than that of an approaching war in a far off land. ...read more.


He also uses his mother's ho-hum letters to portray her fear of Russell at war and terrifying possibility of losing her son to war. He provides exact dates for these events "The atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6" (228), "On August 9 the second atomic bomb was on Nagasaki." (230), "Eight days after Hiroshima, four days after Nagasaki, Emperor Hirohito, having determined that Japan must 'endure the unendurable and suffer the unsufferable,' ordered the Japanese to cease fighting. It was August 14, my twentieth birthday." (230). These dates as well as people acquire Baker credibility as a writer and as a story teller. The contrast of the nation elated with the end of a world war and Russell's secret discontent with the inescapable fact that he would not be able to engage himself in any of the heroic fighting is an interesting perspective and one that not many have heard before. Many movies have been produced in different time frames and either surface around the individual or the events of that era. Stories focused around an individual are usually more efficient in showing the sentiment of those that lived during those events than showing the events themselves would be. Russell Baker's Growing Up is no different than the emotion drawing movies of Hollywood. Baker did in words what Hollywood producers do with expensive images and he even succeeds in what Hollywood producers cannot do, forcing the audience to experience everything as if they were him. ...read more.

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4 star(s)

It is evident that the author knows the source well and some useful quotations have been selected to illustrate points. The author could have been more balanced about the usefulness and reliability of the source as they tend to focus on the positive. 4 out of 5 stars.

Marked by teacher Natalya Luck 17/09/2013

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