Mead‘s Response to Freeman's Literary Criticism

Margate Mead's Letter to Derek Freeman

Margate Mead wrote a letter with respect to Freeman’s two letters dated May 10, 1968, and October 3, 1968. Derek Freeman had previously challenged and opposed the ideas of Mead in the book Coming of Age in Samoa. In the letter, Mead addressed some of the censures and responded to Freeman’s literary criticism about seeming defects in the appendices of the book. One of Freeman’s questions was the protection of the names of her research samples. She argued that her basic concern was to disguise her subject’s identity which was a conception or theory required in every research procedures. Moreso, the data could be made use of by other research workers in their reanalysis. Freedom proclaimed that Mead's conclusions of the adolescent behavior in Samoa were misleading and not relevant facts. She answered by affirming that her use of the heterosexual term was to mean full intercourse and no other practices, which many people regarded as offensive. Mead concluded her letter by asking Freeman of preferred methods he could have used as a researcher to conceal the identity of his subjects.

Coming of Age in Samoa

Through the studies and research conducted on a sample of sixty-eight girls living in three communities in the western part of the Ta'u Island, Mead concluded that the Samoan life was not stressful. In the book Coming of Age in Samoa Mead shared her experiences which acted as evidence that the cause of adolescent stress was a result of culture. The Samoan culture was more accepting of the ideas of premarital sex, which had the potential to minimize the societal pressures after the commencement of the phase of puberty. The book shined a light on the adolescent sexual behavior, especially in a Polynesian society. She focused her research on young females within Samoa and making a comparison to the young women in the American civilization. The two cultures were similar only during childhood. At that stage of development, both cultures concentrated on the teaching the children core skills needed in life as adults. The Samoan culture required the older siblings to teach the younger ones those basic skills. The young girls were baby sitters until they learnt to work in the plantation. In order discourage children from becoming subordinate, the young girls were given little responsibilities and duties when they turned six; the roles provided them with a growing sense of authority. Unlike the Samoan girls, the American girls are troubled by decisions or pressure from their parents and the society. Through her research findings, Mead discovered that culture only influenced personality and not genetics.

Letters and Images of Life in the Field

While doing her research in Samoa, Mead did not keep a field diary; however, she was in contact with a broad range of people including her family and friends by writing a series of bulletins. The most significant letters were those she wrote to her friend Ruth Benedict. The letters recorded her activities and various emotional states in great detail. Enhanced by photographs, the letter dated on February 10, 1926, tells the story of Mead’s passionate understanding of the preliterate culture. Mead wrote several other letters expressing her love for Ruth. Her life individually turned on those with whom her soul could get along. She wrote to Ruth asking for advice on decisions that were difficult to make alone and also regarding her marriage and feelings.

Work Cited

“Margaret Mead: Human Nature and the Power of CultureSamoa: The Adolescent Girl.” Samoa: The Adolescent Girl - Margaret Mead: Human Nature and the Power of Culture | Exhibitions - Library of Congress, Accessed 12 Sept. 2017.

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