FINDING OUR FATHERS: The Unfinished Business of Manhood by Samuel Osherson

FINDING OUR FATHERS: The Unfinished Business of Manhood

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Even as men today try to be different from their fathers, they are unconsciously fulfilling their childhood vision of masculinity. Thus, argues this Harvard psychologist, the essential therapeutic business of mid-life is to rediscover one's father, to get a mature view of his heroism and his failure. The fathers of the 50's were often at the periphery of the family, where boys saw them as rejecting, incompetent, or absent. There are striking statistics that show how prevalent this was. From the process of separating from his parents and defining himself, the son in this situation internalizes an image that Osherson calls ""the wounded father."" He sees that a father must not allow his vulnerability to show. If he is ""of the world,"" the provider and the final judge, he is also the great sacrificer, a figurehead at a sad distance from the family who often wields little real power. The mother is the effective switchboard. This image of masculinity has been further denigrated by feminism. Men becoming fathers today have little to build on. An intellectual analysis, this book is also a practical guide to self-awareness, and a very personal journal. The combination is not seamless and is sometimes frustrating, as when the recollections and advice meander on logical byways rather than advance the argument. The writing is often dense but generally avoids psycho-jargon and intellectual posturing. The advice given is sensible. Osherson organizes the book more along the lines of his personal concerns than on a cohesive argument. The discussions of mentors and reproductive difficulties as significant passages--though both are certainly common--seem overgeneralized. The book is a treatise on being better men in a time when the currency has changed, when the special values of feminism are touted as the world's salvation. It is a valuable agenda for men at mid-life who would like to show that the male of the species can also be life-giving, life-affirming, reactive, emotional and caring.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1986
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan