Oscar Lewis Five Families Summary

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Oscar Lewis’ (1959) Five Families is an ethnographic study that takes a look at five families in five different living conditions in different parts of Mexico during the 1950s. The book is organized by a beginning chapter of “setting”, and a different chapter for each family. In “the setting” chapter, he accomplishes several tasks: 1) he outlines his methods 2) he gives a brief history of Mexico since the Revolution from 1910 3) gives an overview of the standards of living 4) sketching a background of each family. Lewis then delves into a day in the life of each of the five different families. The families are meant to represent Mexican families in different situations of poverty. He begins with the Martinez Family, a family who…show more content…
He also argues that an anthropological study better serves society by looking not at some isolated tribe of 500 people but rather by analyzing individual families in a rural and/or urban setting and not treating the whole of said village or urban vecindad as a homogeneous group. Another argument can be the culture of machismo being reflected in four of the families. Lewis’ case studies presented appears to adequately support his main finding that there is a culture or code of machismo upheld by the patriarchs of each of the families. The code of machismo can be observed in the public ways the patriarchs would act and the subservient manner in which women and children reacted. Pedro Martinez, showed his dominance and authority when he went to the boys’ room and singing ceased (p.55). In the second family, Ester, the daughter of Agustin Gomez decided that she would not ask permission to go to a dance until her father was not at home (p.122). In the Sanchez family, Lewis noted the power of the father figure, “no one spoke because they knew [Jesus] wanted them to be silent (p.271). In the nouveau riche family, the Castros, there was an episode from the autobiography in which David pushed his wife Isabel and his only daughter Lourdes off the bed

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