John Roberts Tunis - Iron Duke, The - 7

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John Roberts Tunis - Iron Duke, The - 7

Postby ChoChiyo » Tue Jun 18, 2013 8:47 pm

Iron Duke, The

Several years ago, the librarian at the high school decided it was time to clean out the library. Hundreds of vintage juvenile fiction books went into the dumpster INCLUDING THE WHOLE COLLECTION OF ADOLESCENT FICTION BY ROBERT HEINLEIN before I became aware of what was going on. Aghast, I salvaged scores of these books. Alas, I was too late to save the Heinlein collection, with their charming vintage illustrations. :cry:

I became an English teacher because I love books. I love to read and I love to write. The problem with being an English teacher is that I was so busy teaching others to read for pleasure and to write well that I never really had time to read and write for my OWN pleasure. Now that I am "retired," I am working my way through the vintage adolescent fiction books I salvaged. The Iron Duke by John R. Tunis is one of those books.

Published in 1938, this book won the New York Herald Tribune prize for the best book for older boys and girls. It is a "growing up" story about a young man from a small town in Iowa who goes off to Harvard after graduating from high school, following his father's footsteps. (Note: This is a fictional book.)

Reading this book was like watching an old movie from the 1930s or 1940s about college age youth. It has a certain charm. The blurb on the book jacket calls it a "modern and up-to-date" story that appeals to modern youth. I sincerely doubt today's young people would enjoy it at all. I enjoyed it because it is a window into a world that no longer exists. I am sure this world was idealized to some extent, but the novel does include several examples of the activities the kids of this era did to waste their time and amuse themselves back in the day.

I attended college in the 1970s. The experiences Jim had in college were similar to mine in that he had come from a very small midwestern town and had never had to work terribly hard to succeed in high school. It was a rude awakening for me when I went off to college (nowhere as high-toned as Harvard!) and discovered that I had to do more than show up for class and read the assignments to get an A. I went from a straight A average to a C average in my first semester at Winona State. Jim went from being an honor student to being on academic probation. I could relate. I didn't fall that far, but I didn't aim as high as Harvard either. Both of us had to struggle with self doubt--was I really college material? Did I overestimate my own intelligence and abilities? Should I just pack up my stuff and return home with my tail between my legs? How would I ever be able to hold up my head again after failing so miserably?

Jim had to deal with something I did not have to deal with. I was the first in my extended family to attend college. Neither of my parents really wanted me to go. They thought I should just go to work and make money. Jim, on the other hand, had a father who had gone to Harvard and set a high bar, being a player on the football team and being accepted for the Inner Circle. Jim had to deal with being rejected for both and deal with the despair of feeling that he had failed and disappointed his father.

The characters seemed stilted and unrealisticto me--especially Jim's silly, pretentious mother. She seemed like someone from a vintage sit-com. There were many things in the book that challenged my ability to accept their believeability. for example, I seriously doubt that a boy who had never ever trained in the area of track could beat out a bunch of guys who had been track stars in high schools which were preparatory schools for major universities.

I doubt anyone else will be able to read this book as I am sure it has been out of print for many years. However, it is worth a read, just to get a little slice of college life from a time gone by.
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