The Men from the Boys : Rites of Passage in Male America

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9780803238886: The Men from the Boys : Rites of Passage in Male America
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In other times and places the passage from boyhood to manhood was dramatized and facilitated by initiation rites. In ritualized fashion, the complex problems of personal development were translated into clear and concrete tasks. But in the dazzling variety of modern America there is no universal test or ceremony that bestows manhood: each male must find a group with its special initiations, or devise an initiation of his own. He may climb mountains, play football, join the army, pledge fraternities, impress the girls, and get drunk with the guys. But where do these free-style initiations lead in the end?

To find out, Ray Raphael conducted in-depth interviews with one hundred American males ranging from a Mr. America body-building to a practitioner of witchcraft, from a “right stuff” fighter pilot to a draft dodger, from a self-proclaimed Don Juan to a “superdad.” The Men from the Boys is the first and only book-length study of contemporary simulations of classical male initiations.

The results of this study are unsettling. Initiations today function more as tests to determine who can make the grade than as educational tools that encourage the development of all young men. In the absence of inclusive rituals, Raphael’s subjects struggle to overcome doubts as they negotiate their own paths to maturity. Their personal tales, told with dramatic and emotional intensity, speak to all American males who find themselves torn between a unisex modernity and more archaic notions of masculinity.

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About the Author:

Ray Raphael, who teaches part-time at the College of the Redwoods, is the author of Edges (1986), Tree Talk: The People and Politics of Timber (1981), The Teacher's Voice (1985), and other books.

From Publishers Weekly:

This book of pop sociology attempts to explain modern-day male insecurity by the absence of initiation rituals. In these, boys were elevated to manhood through tribal ceremonies that included often-painful tests of strength and hunting skill, seclusion and name changes. Achieving manhood is more complicated in our post-industrial society, says Raphael ( Edges , Cash Crop ), principally because separate and private definitions of maturity are involved. To make his case, the author interviews 100 American men, aged 15 to 50, and lets them tell their own coming-of-age stories in "oral history" style. Among the contemporary "rites of passage" they mention are military service, athletics, a job involving arduous physical labor, sexual conquests and fraternity initiations. Raphael raises interesting questions but offers no clues as to how his research could help solve the insecure man's dilemma.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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