This is an account of a boy, and later a man, who refuses to conform to the demands of our conformist culture. As a boy, in the small towns in which he grew up, his refusal to conform caused him to be branded a social misfit likely to end up in the state penitentiary. Nevertheless he refused to sacrifice his individual self to the demands of cultural conformity. Nor could he, once he became a professor, see why others should sacrifice their individual selves. So he found ways to resist the cultural establishment's deadly control--revolutionary ways that, in his teaching and writing, he tried to make available to others.
Even more interesting, however, is Burns' account of his own personal war with his culture. For in trying to justify his never-ending war he lays bare his deepest emotional experiences--from the time when, as a fourteen-year-old, he finds sexual fulfillment with a twelve-year-old girl, to the time when, some forty years and four divorces later, he finds his present wife--who joins him in his resistance to our conformist culture.