National character is a most elusive will o' the wisp, and probably it has never anywhere or at any time been more difficult to discover than it is in America today. Yet Richard Engler has made a valiantly thorough and sincere attempt. Taking ight communities intended to represent and typify the East, West, North and South -- New Bedford, Charleston, Santa Fe, Houston, Iowa City, Boise, Racine, and Seattle -- he seeks to isolate the key traits, the common denominators from among the bewildering ""strains of diversity."" In this sense the book is a study of identity that confronts and must encompass pluralism, but it is as well a study in the very essence of meaningful communications: ""For it is in communications with one another that free individuals and groups refine hopes and aspirations and weave their varied goals into institutions."" A smooth blend of personalized history and social psychology, Dr. Engler's text weaves together the historical sources and contemporary issues with clarity, forthrightness, and infectious faith in his method. Through the ""crucial concept of 'role'"" he tries to illuminate the current struggles over- minority rights, foreign relations, and socio-economic reform. He is looking for our birthright, and offers at least several valuable clues to its general location.