As a nation often celebrated for its commitment to independence and fearless individualism, America has at the same time learned to despise, discredit and dismiss the solitary and reclusive mentality. To the contrary, this inquiry is a paean vigorously endorsing America's lone wolves, cultural hermits, and all such solitary, marginalized figures who are the cultural bedrock of the nation that detests them.
While we look up to literary loners like Poe and Melville and Dickinson, the man in the street is a compulsive joiner of clubs, and herds from university frats to the Order of the Pink Goat. Contrasting independent thinkers, nonconformists, and individualists with the team player, the company man, and the go-along-to-get along mentality, the book examines America's heroes real and imaginary, and asks where our values really belong.
This is a broad-spectrum, academically-oriented book, an historical, sociological and ideological examination of the continuing acrimonious mutual conflict waged between America s loners and joiners. Divided into five chapters, it is generously researched, provocatively iconoclastic, contrarian and comical.
The initial chapter defines and copiously illustrates the plight of individuality and its collision with collaboration in American life. It then moves from classical and renaissance culture and philosophy into the subject as it is tellingly, abundantly and amusingly illustrated in American literature from Franklin through Emerson, Hawthorne, Poe, Melville, Whitman and Twain.
The second chapter advances into the 20th and 21st centuries, exploring the essence of the conflict as illustrated biologically, socially and anecdotally the object being to elucidate the causes of division between the minority who function well as hermits and the majority that inexorably forms itself into insidious herds.
Chapter 3, What Price Affiliation? examines such nefarious matters as Group Think, the rise of corporate culture and trade unionism.
The fourth chapter examines even more intensively the intellectual and emotional costs of fraternal life.
The fifth, final chapter looks closely at the American intellectual as loner and outcast.