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First 12 chapters worth reading
on April 26, 2016
The first 12 chapters of this book are timeless, in that they capture a people in a certain place and time. The detailed description of several girls and a specific community gives the reader a look into a very different culture with little bias.
However, the final chapters take a darker turn attempting to compare apples to oranges, one cultures positives against another’s negatives. Mead wrote this book with American educators in mind several generations ago. Unfortunately, when pieces of this self-sufficient, simpler culture were cherry-picked and idealized for American society, it created a socially contentious atmosphere in the more complicated and global American culture.
In Chapter 13, she notes that when European standards for sexual behavior intrude “the need for choice, the forerunner of conflict, will enter into Samoan Society.” At the core of American culture is the human right to choose for one’s self, therefore the two society’s are fundamentally different and should be examined individually not compared as though one is better than the other.
Mead also reveals her views against nuclear families and parents’ key roles in their children’s upbringing. In Chapter 14, she says “it is a question of the absence of a common standard far more than of the nature of the standards,” referring to how children are parented differently in American households. On the next page she continues, “It is unfair that very young children should be the battleground for conflicting standards, that their development should be hampered by propagandist attempts to enlist and condition them too young.”
Finally, Mead contradicts herself in suggesting “the home must cease to please an ethical cause or a religious belief with smiles or frowns, caresses or threats.” Then she says, “They must be taught that many ways are open to them.” Mead falsely suggests that an American child raised in a home of strong opinions and vigorous causes then could not also be reared to have an open minded and be able to think for himself.
In summary, I recommend this book to adults as an eye-opening look at the human condition through an unfamiliar culture. However, one should stop at the end of Chapter 12.