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Understanding the Great Depression Essay

There are instances when the world shares its miseries to a greater number of people rather than just one. One of the best examples of such was the Great Depression. During these times the suffering held by each is held by almost all. The problem presented itself in a way like other problems don’t. It was devastating it affected everyone it was a nationwide crisis. There are a lot of reasons why the great depression came to be. It is however futile to delve on such matter because the answer to such would not have solved the problems of the people.

The primary problem would probably be that a majority viewed the Great Depression as something negative. People during these times lost hope. They surrendered to the idea of a crumbled economy and a time of lesser opportunities and low employment rates. A contrary view held by a few however allowed some people to rise above the Great Depression. These few people viewed the great depression as an opportunity, as a reason to strive even harder due to the hard times. These two views both positive and negative are very well reflected in the two books subject of this paper.

The Grapes of Wrath by Josh Steinbeck and Growing Up by Russell Baker show two opposing ways to view the great depression. Such conflicting views were evident amongst all those who were able to experience the great depression and such views caused the difference in experience of each. The book growing Up by Russell Baker is practically an autobiography of his life. The book was a stunning masterpiece written by Russell Baker. The book accounts for his life experiences and how he and his family made it through the great depression.

Russell Baker gave much credit to his mother to his success in life and for surviving, conquering the time of the great depression. Russell Baker as a writer as he is now was recognized at an early age. His mother because of a wonderfully written prose when he was younger praised his work and told him that he should be a writer. This was how he wrote it as quoted from his book: “One evening when I was eleven I brought home a short “composition” on my summer vacation which the teacher had graded with an A.

Reading it with her own schoolteacher’s eye, my mother agreed that it was top drawer seventh grade prose and complimented me. Nothing mores was said. But a new idea had taken root in her mind. Halfway through dinner she interrupted the conversation. “Buddy”, she said, “maybe you could be a writer”. (Growing up by Russell Baker) Be that as it may being a writer was not something easy to accomplish especially during those times. Keep in mind that Russell Baker lived in the time of great depression. The opportunities were rare and almost impossible for some.

The economic system was a failure as it failed to sustain jobs and create employment opportunities. Yes it was indeed a continuous struggle. Even with the great depression the faith of Russell Baker’s mother on his son never flinched. She knew that her son would pull through and one day make it as a successful writer. This unwavering faith of his mother continued to influence Russell Baker. She continued to encourage Russell Baker despite the hard times. For this Russell Baker gave much credit to his mother for his success. Russell Baker did not let his mother down.

He succeeded in doing so and became a writer any mother can be proud of. This is not however to say that Russell Baker had only one influence in his life. The point stressed is simply that among all other influences Baker had, the single most important to him was that influence by his mother. Baker quoted his mother saying “make something of yourself” and remembered not feeling any admiration to those words in fact he said: “Lord how I hated those words”. But Russell’s mother did not budge despite the great depression she insisted that his son made something of himself and that he did and he did it brilliantly.

Baker’s family just like most of the families during the great depression did not have it easy. His father was an alcoholic who died at an early age. He was left for the care of his mother and grandmother. Still no obstacle became too big for Russell. Despite all the problems life threw at him and despite the great depression his focus on his goal on being a writer eventually lead to the achievement of such goal. The Grapes of Wrath by Josh Steinbeck on the other hand show the opposite view which the majority had over the great depression.

It talks of trouble instead of triumph. It talks of misery instead of opportunity. The theme and the tone used by Steinbeck was sad and tragic. Note that both books were written during the Great Depression and with no doubt both books were written when life was hard. The difference however lies in the fact that in the book of Baker his positivism and will to succeed carried him through and right from the start there was a goal he wanted to accomplish. In the book of Steinbeck however it focused on the pains and hardships of the Joad family.

The Grapes of Wrath as the title implies shows the intertwined burden and wrath carried by a family due to hardships resulting from the great depression. The grapes of Wrath portrayed how hard it was to be living in a time of great depression. Their whole family was subject to suffering. It made particular mention of a bank which bought out and forced all little farmers to abandon their lands. This is a showing of how crippled the economic system is during the great depression. Families like the one subject in the Grapes of Wrath were left with no choice.

The family subject in the Grapes of Wrath was forced to move west. They had no choice. They had to leave. The Grapes of Wrath is a sad story of a family in a predicament. The time of great depression was a time for lesser opportunities. Many families were victims of these hard times and the family subject in the story Grapes of Wrath is not an exception to those families. The employment opportunities during those times were at its bare minimum. This scarcity of opportunities was readily apparent and cited even in the book Grapes of Wrath as one of the greatest terrors in life.

The book said: “They’s rules—you got to be here a year before you can git relief. They say the gov’ment is gonna help. They don’ know when. And gradually the greatest terror of all came along. They ain’t gonna be no kinda work for three months. In the barns, the people sat huddled together; and the terror came over them, and their faces were gray with terror. The children cried with hunger, and there was no food. ” (The Grapes of Wrath by Josh Steinbeck) Upon realizing that there would be no work for three months they faced their greatest terror.

A simple job during these modern times might not mean anything. Still during the great depression any job because of the low opportunities from employment was a blessing. The Grapes of Wrath continued on with the tragic and sad story of the Joad family. The economic system was crippled during The Great Depression. They needed to overhaul the economic system in order to save the state the people were in. Conclusion The Great Depression as earlier contended has been viewed differently by people. This difference in views also differentiated their experiences.

The two books subject of this paper clearly depicted the state of the people during The Great Depression. It was able to stress clearly and describe clearly the scarcity of employment opportunities. The two books also had the occasion to stress on the weakness of the economic system. The economic system was faulty and lead to the cripple of the once strong economy. It is clear however as evidenced by the two books subject of this paper both set during the time of the Great Depression that there can be different effects.

One can progress through a state of crisis like this just like in Growing Up by Russell Baker. One could see this as a reason to further strengthen ones will to succeed. One can also view The Great Depression as an opportunity. An opportunity to do something different it is an opportunity to rise above the occasion. On the contrary just like the family in the Grapes of Wrath by Josh Steinbeck. A family can take the state of Great Depression to heart thus becoming intertwined with burdens of the current crisis. These families however cannot be blamed for there indeed was a crisis.

The problems caused by The Great Depression were widespread and it was felt by everyone. The story of the Grapes of Wrath is proof of how a weak economic system and lesser employment opportunities can destroy a family. The Grapes of Wrath showed us the kind of burden a family bore during the Great Depression. The book Growing Up however was an inspiring story on how to deal with the great Depression. It was a flicker of light a flicker of hope for all those who suffered the Great Depression. It is an example of how one should see things.

It is an example of how one should approach a national crisis. The Great Depression is just a state a nation is in. The Great Depression is just a problem shared by everyone. The Great Depression cannot crush the hope of every individual. The key is keeping this hope alive amidst the crisis. This was best portrayed by Russell Baker in his book growing up. The Grapes of Wrath on the other hand gives us an example of how much a burden a state of crisis can be to a family. Works Cited The Grapes of Wrath by Josh Steinbeck Growing Up by Russell Baker


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