Term Paper: Nation on Wheels: The Automobile

Pages: 4 (1383 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Transportation  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] For example, Foster blames part of the inward movement of people from outdoors to indoors in suburbia on the automobile, citing "As numbers of vehicles rapidly expanded, so did levels of noise and air pollution. Porch sitting simply became less pleasant. For children, playing in the street became for (sic) more dangerous" (Foster 60). While he does acknowledge other factors in this hypothesis, including the television, he fails to recognize many other arguments, including the "porch sitting" of the past, when horse drawn wagons and buggies churned up unending dust on unpaved roads, and children playing in the street faced danger from runaway horses and fast-moving wagons. Therefore, as the book continued, I began to question some of Foster's suppositions along with his proofreading. I also really disliked his basic ignoring of the dangers of the automobile, except for a few paragraphs here and there, until the last chapter of the book that looks forward into auto safety of the future. Driving a car is not simply a joyride, it can be extremely dangerous, and automobiles kill thousands more people than air crashes every year. It seems rather irresponsible of the author to continually show the positive sides of driving, from his analogies on vacations to drive-in movies, while not mentioning the dangers of autos, and how many happy teenagers they kill every year. The subject of drunk driving, another unwelcome addition to our society by the auto is also completely ignored. The author spends more time on the environmental concerns of cars today and in the future than on safety issues, and this seems to be a major oversight on his part.

This lack of some backup in his thinking did not totally take away from the book, and some sections were absolutely delightful. One of my favorites was the author's discussion of automobiles and the freedom they offer to teenagers. Remembering my own first car, and how proud I was to drive it to high school every day brought back many memories of young freedom. I felt like I was the "king of the world" driving my first car, and that nothing bad could ever happen to me. The very American drive-in theatre played heavily in my young driving days, and the section on drive-in movies dredged up many happy memories of summer nights, popcorn, and young love.

The history of Michigan is secondary in this book to the national history of the automobile. While it is clear the auto's production and development created and made Detroit, that is not the author's purpose for writing the book. His purpose is to show how our lives would be drastically different if the car had never developed, or had developed into mass transit and urban transportation only.

The history of Michigan is certainly interwoven with the history of the automobile, but an entire culture and belief system is also interwoven with the auto, and that is more important in this study.

In conclusion, this is a sometimes delightful and sometimes disappointing discussion of the auto's great and continuing affect on American society. Our world revolves around our automobiles today, and some commuters spend as much time in their autos as they do in their homes. Today we eat in our cars, talk on the phone in our cars, view videos, work on computers, and practically live in our cars. They are an extension of our lives, and they tell the rest of the world "who we are." If we can afford to drive a prestigious luxury car, we feel better about ourselves than if we drive a 20-year-old broken down sedan. Cars have influenced everything in our lives, from where we live and vacation, to how we watch films and listen to music. They also influence us in many other ways, from horrific accidents to drunk drivers who kill innocent drivers and passengers. Foster's book is an interesting read, but would have been more credible had he lengthened it just a little, and added a bit more detail on the down side of driving the American dream machine.

Works Cited

Foster, Mark. S. A Nation on Wheels: The Automobile… [END OF PREVIEW]

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