Written in the third person, Adams contemplates his privileged background mirrored in the realities of the burgeoning twentieth century. Choosing not to follow in the footsteps of his influential family, which included presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, Henry dedicated his life to observation, education, and writing.The Education is much more a record of Adams's introspection than of his...
File Size: 789 KB
Print Length: 325 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1537782398
Publication Date: July 5, 2015
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This is an interesting edition -- very wide format, so a bit awkward to handle.As to the contents -- this is widely known as a difficult book to read, and I agree wholeheartedly. Takes real commitment to slog through it. (Very difficult to believe i...
is an extended meditation on the social, technological, political, and intellectual changes that occurred over Adams's lifetime. Adams concluded that his traditional education failed to help him come to terms with these rapid changes; hence his need for self-education. The organizing thread of the book is how the "proper" schooling and other aspects of his youth, was time wasted; thus his search for self-education through experiences, friendships, and reading.Many aspects of the contemporary world emerged during the half-century between the Civil War and World War I, a half-century coinciding with Adams's adult life. An important theme of The Education is its author's bewilderment and concern at the rapid advance in science and technology over the course of his lifetime, sometimes now called Second Industrial Revolution but incarnated in his term "dynamo." The Education mentions the recent discovery of x-rays and radioactivity, and shows a familiarity with radio waves in his citation of Marconi and Branly. Adams purchased an automobile as early as 1902, in order to make better use of a summer in France researching Mont Saint Michel and Chartres. He correctly predicted that the 20th century would see even more explosive changes. Adams repeatedly laments that his formal education, grounded in the classics, history, and literature, as was then the fashion, did not give him the scientific and mathematical knowledge needed to grasp the scientific breakthroughs of the 1890s and 1900s.Two aspects set The Education apart from the common run of autobiographies. First, it is narrated in the third person; second, it is frequently sarcastic and humorously self-critical.The Education repeatedly mentions two long-standing friends of Adams, the scientific explorer of the Far West, Clarence King, and the American diplomat, John Milton Hay.The Education does not discuss Adams's marriage, and the illness and 1885 suicide of his wife, Clover; it skips twenty years from 1872 to 1892. Adams, splendidily reflective and self-critical in so many other ways, did not articulate what, if anything, he had learned from these sobering experiences. But he did, in fact, reference his marriage in indirect ways. For example, he lamented how the memorial he had constructed for his wife had become something of a tourist attraction. More generally, it is clear that his outlook changed after her death.