Frank L. Boyden
Frank L. Boyden John McPhee's The Headmaster(1966) illustrates the life of Frank L. Boyden, the headmaster of Deerfield Academy. John McPhee writes in his own biographical form done at a specific time and from the vantage point of that time. McPhee writes in such a way as if to paint a portrait of Boyden, using the details of Boyden's life and the history of Deerfield as elements of the portrait. Most of the story is written in present tense to recreate the immediate apprehension of the headmaster. Written at the time soon after Frank L. Boyden's eighty-sixth birthday, McPhee tells the story of Deerfield Academy's headmaster with upmost precision to details, but often strays from the matter at hand making the book interesting yet with excess details.
Although there is no plot, McPhee tells an interesting biography, paying attention to details in the upmost precision, but often strays to the matter at hand.
McPhee builds a very interesting biography about the headmaster Frank L. Boyden of Deerfield Academy. Boyden's life is depicted very accurately through the writing of McPhee.
McPhee tells the many habits and routines Boyden holds as seen in the apprisal of Boyden's daily routine, "He gets up at six, or a little earlier, and while he is dressing and shaving he frequently prays. It is noteworthy that he doesn't stop to pray.
In the words of one member of his family, "He goes into nothing without praying. He prays all the time. He has consummate faith that the Lord will take care of him'"(81-82). McPhee also shows what pride Boyden takes in his school, "He is essentially conservative with money, but he will spend any sum to get what he wants"(79). Therefore, McPhee does a very good effort to capture the reality of Frank L. Boyden in the biography.
McPhee pays attention to all details of Boyden's life. He tells about the town of Deerfield as it changes through the course of the school's raising. McPhee also describes in great detail Deerfield Academy's rules and procedures, "Deerfield has no printed rules and no set penalties, and the headmaster has fired only five boys in sixty-four years"(19). McPhee even goes further into explaining Boyden's reasons for his methods, "I always remember what Robert E. Lee said when he was president of Washington College, which is now Washington and Lee. He said, "A boy is more important than any rule.'(19). McPhee also exemplifies Boyden's love for athletics and the mandate of participating in sports year round. McPhee pays attention to any detail seen.
McPhee often strays from the main idea at hand in his biography. This straying of ideas is seen when McPhee explains Boyden's routines for appointments and his driver, "It was the same way with Fuzzy's father-in-law. In those days the headmaster often used a train called the Minute Man for his longer trips, but, of course, he had to catch it. The Minute Man's route went along the base of hills to the west of the school, across the river. The Headmaster would wait until it went by, then go out and jump in the car and tell Fuzzy's father-in-law to go after it"(102). Unnecessary details are often included in the biography. This drifting causes lack of interest and boredom to the reader. McPhee is found in many instances to stray from the idea at hand, boring the reader with unnecessary details, detracting form Boyden's life.
In this biography of Frank L. Boyden, John McPhee writes an interesting work in which he recreates the life of Boyden in a portrait-like manner. McPhee depicts Boyden's life with the topmost precision to detail, yet sometimes McPhee goes too far in his description of details and events surrounding Boyden. This detraction from the main idea at issue causes the reader ennui.
Hence, John McPhee writes a compelling biography about the life of Frank L. Boyden with great accuracy and detail, yet he often strays from the subject at hand. However, this drifting causes little overall disturbance to the biography as a whole.