Read the full comprehensive summary at Shortform. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis examines the spiritual and social decline of the Appalachian white working class through the life story of its author, JD Vance. Growing up in a post-industrial Ohio town, Vance encountered the symptoms of community and familial dysfunction—drug and alcohol abuse, unstable marriages, lack of education, and evasion of hard work—that underscore the failing values of the culture from which he came. Although Vance eventually escapes the poverty and dysfunction of his roots, attending college and Yale Law School, he finds that even economic mobility can never permanently erase the social markers of his hillbilly upbringing.
Vance argues that hillbilly culture, as lived and practiced in post-industrial towns across Appalachia like where he grew up, has come to celebrate self-destructive and antisocial behavior. He contends that this behavior and a certain set of attitudes are severe hindrances that prevent white working class people from acknowledging the problems in their families and their communities and make it difficult for people to succeed outside of that culture.
Growing up, JD saw that many people in his community viewed work with disdain and struggled to hold down a steady job. His community was plagued by high levels of unemployment, indebtedness, welfare dependency, and poor work habits. JD recalls one young man with whom he worked at a summer job. The man would consistently take hour-long bathroom breaks, call out sick at least once a week, and was chronically late.
Eventually, he was fired. JD makes the case that hillbilly culture has become resentful and insular, all too willing to blame the rest of the world for its problems instead of taking an introspective look at itself. Rather than taking responsibility, JD saw that many of his drug-addicted and impoverished friends and neighbors chose to blame the government and often President Barack Obama specifically. Popular religion reinforced the same themes. It instead gave them a convenient list of bogeymen to fear and oppose—usually LGBT people, liberal college professors, the federal government, abortionists, and feminists.
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Growing up, he heard stories about how close relatives had beaten and shot people in the course of disputes. This was celebrated as a noble cultural characteristic, and JD became an ardent practitioner. When a boy broke up with his sister, he saw it as his duty to violently attack the young man.
When someone insulted his grandmother on the schoolyard, his sense of family loyalty and honor compelled him to start a fight.
Hillbilly Elegy Introduction & Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis | GradeSaver
Looking back, JD now sees this behavior as self-destructive: the rest of the world does not resolve mild disputes or disagreements through violence. Growing up in this world stops young people from knowing how to resolve conflicts in a healthy way and renders them unable to function outside of it. Today, as an Ivy League-educated white collar professional, JD is able to look back soberly at just how much of an exception he is: how little emphasis his community and his culture placed on education.
A college education was a distant and remote pipe-dream, certainly not something parents prepared their children for or treated as an expected life experience. With hindsight, JD attributes this poor record of educational attainment to a culture of low expectations. Children saw poverty, high unemployment, and drug addiction all around them growing up, often in their own immediate families. With such poor models of adult behavior, they never came to expect much from themselves. Throughout his childhood and teenage years, JD saw how his community was infected by a gloomy pessimism and fatalism that encouraged people to abandon any hope that their material condition could ever improve.
Indeed, surveys show that working-class whites are the most pessimistic demographic group in America today. This speaks to a deep spiritual and cultural decline in the community.
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When he went to Ohio State and then to Yale Law School, JD learned to be a keen observer of how successful people thought and behaved versus how people in his community looked at the world. Having now lived in both worlds, he saw that true mobility in America was defined by more than wealth: social mobility mattered more than economic mobility.
Even during periods where his family was earning good money and living in relative material comfort, they maintained all the same destructive social attitudes and dysfunctional modes of conflict resolution that were the inheritance of their hillbilly culture. From high divorce rates to domestic discord, they never made the transition to true middle-class standards of respectability. Later on, in the white-collar professional world, JD discovered how much he truly had lacked in social capital—the networks of relationships that enable individuals to function and succeed.
This lack of social capital put him and his community at a severe disadvantage and still represents a major barrier to social mobility in America. Unlock the full book summary of Hillbilly Elegy by signing up for Shortform. Hillbilly Elegy explores the cultural pathologies of the white working class in America through the personal experiences of its author, JD Vance.
Growing up in a dysfunctional family and spending most of his childhood and teenage years in Middletown, Ohio, Vance saw firsthand the destructive attitudes and values of this culture—attitudes and values that he believes are primarily responsible for its perilous state. They include:. An aversion to hard work and thrift , as shown by the high levels of unemployment, indebtedness, drug addiction, and the widespread propensity of individuals in his community to lavishly spend beyond their means.
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- Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy | West Virginia University Press;
- Hillbilly Elegy Summary and Analysis of Introduction & Chapter 1.
A resentful, insular culture that blames the rest of the world for its problems or just denies their existence instead of taking an introspective look at itself. These modes of conflict resolution may work in the hillbilly culture, but they leave these people utterly unprepared for a life outside it.
- The decay of small-town America and the crisis of working-class morale.?
- While we have you...?
- Hillbilly Elegy Introduction & Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis | GradeSaver;
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Right from the outset, however, his family history was tinged with the loss, despair, and social dysfunction that would come to define so much of his own experience. Mamaw and Papaw left Jackson after Mamaw became pregnant as a teenager and gave birth to an infant who tragically passed away just a few days later.
This tragedy, along with the burgeoning economic opportunities in southwest Ohio, compelled the young couple to uproot themselves and make their way out of Kentucky.
2018 Spring Campus Book Discussion: Hillbilly Elegy
Mamaw and Papaw were hardly alone in leaving the largely rural and undeveloped economy of that part of Kentucky during this time. Indeed, they were part of a mass exodus of young Appalachian families seeking opportunities in the fast-growing and rapidly industrializing Midwest. These companies often encouraged and paid for men to bring their whole families with them, effectively transplanting entire communities.
The wave of migration was so common that stretches of U.
Route 23 and Interstate 75 became colloquially While he treated the children kindly, Bob embodied so much of the hillbilly culture that Mamaw and Papaw had desperately wanted their children and grandchildren to steer clear of. Bob had children from a previous marriage with whom he had a minimal relationship , suffered from poor dental hygiene, lacked even a high school education, and made his living driving a truck. There was also a reckless financial profligacy and a total lack of regard for saving and thrift , behavior that JD would come to see as a consistent feature of hillbilly culture.
Bev and Bob racked up This is the best summary of Hillbilly Elegy I've ever read. I learned all the main points in just 20 minutes. As a result, JD and his sister grew having no idea of how a man ought to treat his family and without any true father figure at all.
Things came to a head when she tried to kill herself by crashing her car into a telephone pole. When she was released from the hospital, things only deteriorated further. She would also subject them to extreme emotional outbursts and episodes of physical violence. Things lingered in this state for a few months, until an event took place between JD and his mother that forever altered their relationship and showed JD just how toxic his mother had become.
I think this is unique to the culture that Vance is writing about. The context of it implies a poor, white, and relatively uneducated population who were basically left behind with the demise of coal and steel. There is some irony because their What factors come into play to achieve upward mobility. Factors that come into play in achieving upward mobility include work ethic, the impact of upbringing, the willingness to make personal sacrifices, and the encouragement and support of family.
Hillbilly Elegy study guide contains a biography of J. Vance, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.
Hillbilly Elegy essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of Hillbilly Elegy by J. Remember me. Forgot your password? Buy Study Guide.
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