This is a movie that wouldn’t be out of date if put on the big screen today. Despite the technology from the 30s I would say the material of the movie and its emphasis on the environment is something we talk about nowadays. Lorentz gave us a beautiful piece of movie that talked about the story of the great plains with in-depth understanding and aesthetic pleasure.
When I watched the few few minutes of the clip I didn’t know how it was going to connect to the bigger topic we are talking about in the class. The visual representation of the exploration of the plains was very invigorating yet not abrupt when the music gradually going up prepared us. It was talking about the spirit of expedition embedded in the American spirit and how the pioneers didn’t give up even though they were 200 miles from water and town. (8 min) Lorentz gave us a peaceful and almost idealistic depiction of the farming life in the plains before the WWI. I’m not an expert with movies in the 30s but other criticizers were saying this was pioneers in movie making for the smooth and simple story telling. When the movie reached the New Hope given by the WWI the music started changing a lot. We can’t deny the fact that there were trace of propaganda and political preferences in the movie as the movie talks about the war and the chances given to the farmers almost sarcastically. One of the weirdest places was when the movie showed cuts of the tanks and the tractors back and forth. It also gave a direct comparison between the farmers driving tractors with the people parading during the war. The farmers were even moving their bodies left and right, which was hilarious. Obviously the movie was under a lot of influence from the FDR administration. I mean it was funded by the government. But the movie was aesthetically great too. Especially at (10:12) and (11:50) it was talking about the new opportunities for the farmers it incorporated the music and the video so well that some criticism say this started a new genre. Lastly the movie gave a close depiction of the drought and the dusts around the plains. The depiction reminded of the documentary talking about the air pollution in China made last year by Chai Jing. The environmentalism in this movie was extraordinary for being made in the 30s when everyone was barely feeding themselves. It was great.
The river was a movie dedicated to the Mississippi. I loved the music in the movie but liked the scripts in the movie as they sounded like a poem to me. It was not a movie It was a poem reading with music. “The water comes downhill, spring and fall; Down from the cut-over mountains, down from the plowed-off slopes, down every brook and rill, rivulet and creek, carrying every drop of water that flows down. two-thirds the continent” The music of course worked together with the script as it rose up and then the Lorentz named the places it goes down to while the music goes into deafening whistling. It was so powerful and so wrathful. I could feel the rage and the the despair when he was repeating so many phrases. It went to the point where it almost felt like another Hitchcock movie. I adored the movie. There is so much nostalgia in the movie where the Americans look for their hometown in the continent. It shows how the Americans start to view themselves as the children of their home, their mother, their mother river, Mississippi. Of course it also talked about the FDR’s moves in the Mississippi. It’s another place where the propaganda or art argument fits in. I think it both. So powerful, so beautiful.
Now that you are here, there are several things I must tell you. First, America is not the place where ‘gold is lying around on the roads.’ I mean there is gold, but you are going to have to work hard for it. Real hard. Some might mistreat you, but that’s no biggie. You weren’t treated anything better back in your hometown I suppose?
Gold digging is a business, but it’s not really sustainable nor reliable or anything like that. I would recommend working on the railroads. They offer pretty good salary, some might actually pay what they promised, which is great. Oh yeah right, this place you just landed at is called California. Pretty cool place. Good weather, not as warm as you are from (Canton). Governor Haight, who you don’t have to pay attention to anyways. I mean it’s not like you can vote here. Mr. Haight might say things that you might not like. I have heard him calling Chinese ‘Stream of filth and prostitution poured in from China’ (travel guide 56) and when you see people that belong to ‘Working Men’s party’, you might want to take a detour. They don’t like you guys that much and they sometimes get a little violent. (Travel guide 57) One of the things you can do is to unite together and gather your power to resist the violence. There are these places where you Chinese gather and form little towns. Other races sometimes get confused and think you guys are just unwilling to participate in the community or becoming actual American. You know they are misunderstanding you guys but I wouldn’t argue against them. They are the judge of the argument anyways.
After staying in California for a couple years you will understand. There are a lot of Americans even, who try to come to California because it’s where the ‘Heaven’ is. People love it here. Four years ago, 1929 has been really bad for American economy. Lots of people lost their jobs throughout the country. Lots a people from the states like Oklahoma have been rushing into California. They often think of California as the terminal point. (Gross 7) Most of them are not going to find any good life here though.
California has people from every place in the world. There have been many waves of immigration and I would bet there would be more in the future. You will meet people from Mexico, from Philippine, from Japan. And they are not treated much worse than you. Yeah I get it you don’t like Japanese that much but to most Americans you are no difference. (Travel guide 60)
Finally when you save up enough money after working and sacrificing your lives for ten years you might want to take a trip around the state. It wouldn’t be that hard because California is one of those places you can see car tracks and gas station almost everywhere. People call us the ‘Vacation land’ (Gross 9) But careful about this thought. It’s their vacationland and it your home. When people takes trips to Chinatown after spending the day on the beach they are on vacation but you are not. You will learn to survive I this state. It’s gorgeous. California has such great oranges, such awesome sun and nothing could be better than the pacific. If you look hard enough into the ocean, you might see where you are from. But now, your home is here, California.
‘Being elsewhere’ gives an analysis on what led to the increase of American vacations and road trips. It argued that the government activities had a lot to do with the road trips taking place and the labourers taking vacations. Author argues that vacations became ‘Institutionalised feature of American labor relation’ (Being Elsewhere) The American government and tourism advertising agencies also had to do with it. They were under the ‘task of cultivating the travel habit’ Despite how this phrase links back to the name of the course, I would say the travel habit is not a result of promotion from a network of people trying to create a ‘profit-driven America’ It is true that people were dedicated to attract more to travel and take vacations. But I would say these are all activities taking place in response to the disillusioned American dream and the eager to find America again. Also like the famous Lipstick Effect in Economics, the leisure industry expands while the economy is doing bad.
I remember before I came to United States I really liked watching the dusting roads in the western movies. The cowboys riding horses or driving Chevys around the plain, of complete freedom and passion. America is a huge country with cheap gas and high way system connecting every town to one another. This is what really planted the seed of travelling into the American blood. I really like how in some other countries being able to drink responsibly is a symbol of adulthood and in American been given a car is the symbol of adulthood. I guess it makes sense. When Americans are given their first cars, they are given wings of their own will. With cars Americans can cross states, up or down, into the very corner of this vast country. Like the song I included in the post <route 66> ‘If you ever plan to motor west, Travel my way, take the highway, that’s the best. Get your kicks on Route 66.’ As one of the most important roads in the first half of 20th century U.S route 66 was well known especially after The Grapes of Wrath was published and rampaged through the world. It later became the road Forest Gump crossed in the movie. It was also the road where Norah Jones crossed U.S in My Blueberry Night. In movies and literature route 66 to the west was where people found their true selves. But in reality the road had so many people who weren’t able to gain such philosophical realizations. Like mentioned by Wild, the road trips are not always that romantic. A lot of the trip is just dull driving and living without the comfort we are use to. There were so many inconvenient details that make the trip something not as noble and enjoyable as the Data mentioned by Berkowitz and Agee would not have seen.
The roads were indeed an extremely important element of the American culture. As there were more travelers going around in cars the iconic drive in gas station, drive in restaurants, motels and the numerous in and out shops started appearing. They have grown so deep into the American image that now, they, are America it self. To the point where even hotdogs, probably one of the most American things I can think of, is ‘a road side invention’(Agee). The road travelling and vacation habit is a very broad topic to discuss. But I would say that routing from the natural and technological background of this country, they have grown and become one of the Icons of America.
I started reading this book finding it full of cheesy ironies and some of the strangest satires. It felt like one of those reddit posts one would see online that are funny but don’t make any sense. As I progressed toward the end of the book the ironies became more and more gloomy. It felt like when I was watching Jim Carrey. It was funny. But finally, it was sad.
As a book published on 1934, one of the feelings that rushed onto my face was the sense of disillusionment. The collapse of the American economy was influencing the whole American society, spanning all the classes. The middle class, who were supposed to be the backbone of the society were losing their economic and social dignity. While some people were able to overcome the frustration and fight the hardships, more chose to indulge themselves in the world of despair and escape. The cruel reality made everyone look back at their lives and think about all that had happened. Therefore the novel itself is a lot more than a discussion of personal lives or souls. It was questioning the American dream as a whole, and the discontentment toward the American government and society for ignoring the people who were struggling through the hazard. The novel was full of cynicism and sarcasm, as well as cheap ironies. But these little bits and pieces made the novel full. The attitude of the novel is representative of the American people’s attitude toward the world, full of disillusionment.
This disillusionment of the American dream was especially cruel to West. As second generation American, he was given so much hope from parents to make it in the States. He did, in the first half of his life. He was able to attend the best schools and even traveled to Paris like all the other artists at the time. But after his father was entangled in the depression he had to return home because his father was simply not able to afford his spending in Paris. Really soon he started working in Hotel and construction business, just like his father. Although West was not the most professionally trained writer, the lack of great literal instrument did not limit his work at all. Instead it freed him from common literacy barriers and enabled him to create such world of mock hero and bizarre events. Although the book was full of ironies, it was nothing close to comedy. Like how a lot of comedians suffer depression, the book has so much sadness underneath the seemingly cynical tone. Lem was a standard American boy but the reality crushed him so bad. Story started with the kid losing his house. It symbolised the fear of Americans losing their house, their root, their sense of belonging. And off our boy went on the trip to make money, and face obstacles. All these bizarre incidents create this world so strange yet so real. The Chinaman, Shagpoke and even Mr. Whipple all were different from who they were when America had all the material prosper. The alienation of humanity struck me so bad that seeing these broken souls I could almost hear the screaming in between these lines. People doing so much harm to others, betraying others, lying to others, like animals. When the ship of civilization sinks, we all try to save ourselves. And whoever touches the log I am holding is my immediate enemy. I guess it is how it is for West. Such despair. Just like how he started his life as a college kid making friends with poets and artists. After he had to return to states after his father had to face bankruptcy, he must have felt life was just cruel and bloody. And, I mean, he was nothing wrong.
Ma was the most carefully described female in the book. She was the backbone of the family and she represented those who overthrew the male-based America during 1930s. Story is based on the world driven by men and men-ran machine and capitalism. The economic growth in the 20s has its ‘sin’ of oppressing the low-income, the minorities and female. It was also based on harming the environment. The cruel rule of the American society during the 1920s-30s had the characteristic that men and women were separated, human and nature were separated, sentiment and logic were separated. The trip of the family going from the dustbowl, which we might consider as the ‘initial world of chaos’, to the California, where was thought of was the ‘Eden’. Ma Joad was the one who answered the challenges to the women led world.
The scene that not long after the Joad left dustbowl, the dog was killed by the truck. A dog, as the symbol of nature, was killed by a truck, a symbol of machine-driven world. Which represents the conflict between human and nature. And women, Ma for instance, was the one who balanced nature and human. She was the backbone of the family. She arranged food for her family and welcomed even strangers to the family when the family members were also suffering. She made the decision that the family would never separate. She protected her family from the police, bravely, with no fear. All these made Ma the woman who actually took control of the family and with the love she had, she contributed a lot to the final arrival to California. As the matter of fact, the author specially did not mention her given name throughout the book, which hinted some level of how America at that age was a male elite-ruled society.
She was a perfect female, especially a perfect mom. Even not knowing who it was, she let strange guest eating in her house. When Pa wanted to separate the family into two, Ma said no and showed her toughness. Ma’s first appearance was making food for the family. As a typical image of a housewife, cooking represents harmony between her and the family and the responsibility she takes. She took good care of grandparents and her own kids, she stayed in the dark car with the dead body of grandma and when she got out the truck Tom wanted to hold her, she said ‘don’t touch me, I will fall apart if you touch me, i’d be fine like this.’ She was tough and because of her deep love to her family, she took all the suffering herself. Ma had her own purity, dignity and the beauty of being calm, she looked like of 100% confidence that the future would be good, like a goddess, or we might say The Eva.
Women, like the river of life that never droughts, like nature, the mother of universe, that never ends, had the faith that the future will be good. They made the artificial world going back to how it was supposed to be like.
The book talks about the farmers leaving their homes for California but finding the conditions in California nothing as food as they had anticipated. The ‘Capitalists’ take advantage of the excess amount of work force and lower the wages to the point that the workers could barely feed their families. Once the work is done, worker are kicked out and have to stay on the road to find new means of survival. Even the families started to drift apart. They leave for different directions and all disperse into the vast wave of migrant workers. The book is saddening, even that the family is trying so hard to live better. Despite how much reality hurts them, they stayed strong. And that’s the most depressing point. Although the book’s title has wrath, the book is always so calm. It just life, and it’s just this hard.
One of the things that struck me a lot is where Steinbeck talked about how the farm owners were dumping oranges and killing pigs alive, just to maintain the price, while there were thousands of travelers starving to death. When I was little I often heard comments about this quote from the Chinese public school teachers: Capitalism is bad, their burn the oranges and grapes, they bury the stock alive for their own capitalistic benefits. They are corrupted and wasteful. I was really shocked, and didn’t understand. All that I could think was wow that’s such a waste. But after I grew up and learned some basic economics, and especially after I came to U.S I started to understand this. I felt the farm owners didn’t really have another choice. The poor need food and the farm owners need to maintain their farm too. They couldn’t just give food away either as that will bring huge loss and further lower price to the market. No one is Messiah to save the day. Everyone had to rely on their own selves.
I really don’t think we can look at every piece of literature and mark them with a label in the ideological spectrum. The Grapes of Wrath is a depiction of that time, a picture of the struggling humans. Instead of arguing with big and empty words Grapes of Wrath this simple yet deafening. In the lines there are the Okies, Mas, and numerous regular people who want a decent life, a house to shelter under, a table with food. Most people of our age, at least in U.S don’t know what hunger is. But there are still people in hunger, trying their best just to feed themselves. Not to mention the underdeveloped regions, even just in U.S, in NYC, there are people struggling to eat a warm meal, to have a stable shelter. Realizing this, acknowledging the people under luck just around does not mean I am going to eat food, turn up heat or wear my clothes with any shame, the book helps me to understand the meaning of poverty and equality. Can we just summarize the people not working as lazy or ignorant? Are the farmers to be blamed for not able to keep up with the techonogical advancement and survive in the market? Can we just say it’s their own fault that the students from underdeveloped regions know less and uncapable? Some of this capitalism that emphasizes on the competition from social carnanism may make people feel like they are objective and logical, but instead they are just cruel.
I seemed a little strange to think of families when confronted with topics like the tenant workers. To me they seemed like these people who work at farms for a living, barely making enough to continue a life, and definitely did not have enough time or money to afford the family love. But Agee proved me wrong.
He chose the title from the Apocrypha, which symbolically touched on the fact that the tenant workers, especially the family relationships, were not acknowledged widely. To add a little more spice into this pot of irony, Agee’s book only sold couple hundred copies in the first days it was published and it was revisited by scholars and readers year after.
When reading this piece of work one of the most affecting emotion was this sense of guilt he has. Being send by the federal government he always had this sense of guilt and incompetence maybe, to live among these tenants worker, especially being the person committed to writing a story about them that is supposed to bring their lived to the broader audience. It reminds me of the earlier work we read where the writer was found out to be this ‘rich girl from the east’ The great, humble mining folks were unable to accept an outsider, it is natural for Agee to feel estranged a little while he was feeling that he was being sent as a ‘Spy’. I think this existence of the artist in the book, the storyteller’s role is critical. No art is born without a standing point. And whether the artist, in this case Agee and Evans, is trying to portray the art with emphasis of the reality or their own angle of looking is important. Agee and Evans spent a lot of words in the work to let us know how their existence is affecting how the story is told. They exhibit their concerns about how their perspectives are blended into the work. Which I think is great. Because no only as a government employee, it is important to stay honest to the story being told and show the perspectives that may influence the audience.
One of the things I live the most about it was that it shows how the family structure breaks down, or is not as appreciated when facing the rough difficulties of life. The tenant workers were great folks, but the burden put on everyone in the family is too heavy. That facing the requirements to work given by the need to live, the love among families become so vague. It is very true. Love is this affection that people really don’t get to appreciate once the parties in the ‘love’ are confronted with difficulties that are threatening their way of living. Agee states the three stages of living is to live for parents, self-survival and then for the family. But the family stage is taken aback while self-fulfilling stage is threatened. Some might think this is to show the horrible lives of people living at the time, but to me it felt like a warning to our own lives. At least for myself who did gone through some difficulties in the family and saw how who I loved so much, even parents could just straight up betray and leave without much sense of affection. This work really shows how vague and hypocritical this ‘love’, which is not at all voluntary, could be.
You Have Seen Their Faces was a work that talks a lot about politics, systems, economics etc. The author conveys his ideas in why the south is having such struggles. The author obviously has a strong attitude toward the sharecropping system and racism in the south. He talks about the industry, cotton, and how this industry that has been monopolizing the southern economy is bringing the worst to the southerners. He says it pretty bluntly. ‘It is difficult to find a good way to say about such an agricultural system’ He makes comparisons between the plantation system and the then current sharecropping system. He makes observations about how the sharecropping is equally if not more oppressive. Although he talks a lot about the economics, the lives of people and the socioeconomic systems, he holds negative opinions toward the politicians, of whom some were saying things similar to him. ‘Political windbags who would take oath at the drop of a hat that they have, in their own words, the interest of the common people.’ From this reference to the politicians we can see traces of rebellious ideas in him. He is in some sense leftwing but Caldwell also supports eugenics and involuntary sterilization, which brings contradictions to him. But socioeconomically we can probably see that he dislikes the system a lot. Caldwell this that no matter what the person does ‘he is continuing the operation of a ruinous system of agriculture’. Despite anything else he thinks it won’t be fixed until ‘all tenants’ farmers are given an opportunity to a living’ this avocation for equality is most likely the shared voice of many other Americans who yearn for just a living. Seeing how the rich are living lavishly the poor were very discouraged and Caldwell says the words for these people.
In the picture ‘Maiden Lane, Georgia’ He tells out this disappointment with a couple looking sadly into void with a sentence ‘A man learns not to expect much after he’s farmed cotton most of his life.’ We all say to fail is not scary but to lose hope is scary. This loss of hope and confusion toward future is shown in this picture. He also mentions the racial problem. In ‘Fairhope, Louisiana’ it talks about how the colored men get even less that the already barely living white folks. Such life puts people in such position that promotes unrest with the communities and likely will cause problems in the society.In the picture ‘Ocelot, Georgia’ he shows some of his eugenic ideas. The picture includes a woman with two kids, possibly hers. The words write ‘I got more children now than I know what to do with’ Like what was conveyed in Tobacco Road, he brings up this idea that people are giving birth to excessive amount of children and this is problematic. He even brings out this comparison that compare the children to watermelons. I think this comparison is a little troubling in that it objectifies people. This is also one of the reasons Caldwell is controversial among people, especially the southerners, who feel unappreciated by his works.
When I was reading somebody in boots there was this deep despair that ran deeper into me as I kept reading. Nelson’s writing is absolutely brutal realism. He pictures the lives of that era in such way that brings the people to the worst nightmare they would ever have. I did a little research into his life. I found that later in his life he did not like this piece of writing that much. He even tried to ‘disown’ this piece of writing. He said he ‘had too much Marxist ideas in this reading, it was the popular theme back then’.
Nevertheless the kind of life Cass was living was horrifying. They had to get food at ‘Jesus feeds all’ and ironically Jesus only feeds a person twice. The society pictured in this book was realistic. Especially when the protagonist went to the bakery and asked for food, the owner told them to go to the mission because they have just given food to the mission. This is the real American attitude toward the depression in that period. Those that were still managing to live weren’t just cold blood but neither did they want to spend all their life and money in helping others who couldn’t afford to survive. I think this realism comes from his recent training in journalism from UIUC. I could imagine twenty something year-old Nelson wondering around U.S witnessing all this tragedy and experiencing the cruelty desperately trying to see why. Eagerly wanting to find an answer. Like what he mentioned in the book people were all talking about ‘The big problem’.
With that in mind he wrote this book that he thought should tell the darkness of human lives then. In this story people weren’t living decently as human. They were dehumanized to, sometimes, similar to animals. The shame that the protagonist carried from his past completely destroyed his pride. Even the wheels sounded like ‘Loosers’ teasing the starving people of the depression. In this story people had no dignity, people were taken ripped away from the societal apparatus and thrown into war with each other. This was the worst fear for any one. This was probably also the worst fear for young Nelson who was also so confused and so desperate to find the way he was supposed to live.
Later in his days Nelson rewrote the story and made it into a much more subtle A Walk on The Wild Side. He thinks that Somebody With Boots was too primitive and naive. I think it true. But I also think what was precious about this book is it tells the story from a writer who is also entangled in despair with every other American people. It was written with compassion and empathy. True that it was written with little objectiveness. But that’s what historians and analysts do. Nelson incorporated his feelings and experience really into words of this story.
Nelson commented later that this book was ‘an uneven novel written by an uneven man in the most uneven of American times.’ But at the same time it is the unevenness that made it great.
During the era of depression one of the most important crisis the American people face was an identity crisis. For a nation built on immigrants who dream about fulfilling their goals to thrive in this land, their values get distorted. America stands on the economic boom that feeds everyone, that gets people job to supports themselves and their families. The nation really has this fundamental value that cherishes hard work and reward working people with money. And the depression disproves people of their lives in America.
There are people who ‘”Worked like a horse and broke my health, and now I ain’t got a decent place to flop’(21) Also there are people who told the protagonist that if he were to be out of luck, he would go find a job and work. We can see that for most Americans the idea of working hard and make what you get is rooted deep down. For a lot of Americans the way they grew up had them believe that maybe they weren’t doing well because they hadn’t work hard enough. The protagonist, for more than one time is told to go and work, to find a job. They are called bums, liars, and bastards. To me these people are not living as decent human beings. If they were in other countries they would probably be able to find people or institutions that would help the jobless find a place to stay meals to eat. But America, this nation that builds on the idea of self-dependence and the capitalism that regard almost any kind of aid as unfair, is responsible for the citizens who simply cannot live humanely.
Throughout the book one of the points that stood out the most is the inequality among the people. A lot of times the protagonist wonder why would people who have so much refuse to share among others. And he writes about this very realistically, bringing the cruel reality of humans who really only care about themselves. However he does sometimes encounter people that bought him meals or shelter, and he makes sure that he treats these incidents with a sense of discretion that prevents him from becoming an existence of laziness. Deep down embedded in his values, getting things for free is not noble. Even during Christmas time he makes sure that he ‘is not begging’ although he blames it on other who ‘take capital away from a stiff’ (82) But he is still a person who wants to live on his own.
Tom talks about revolution sometimes. He talks about how no stiff would want to have revolution is his belly is full. (72) It is natural to think that under such rough time of depression people would sometimes think of revolutions. But the Americans generally did not commit to that. I think what tom says is very representative of mainstream Americans. They were poor and starving. They were struggling to feed themselves. But they did have food to eat and place to stay, for most people in most times. This is really why America did not take the path that the Russian, Chinese and many other nations took. It is that the Americans, despite how badly we might picture them today, are making the minimums required to survive. When we look at other nations who completely adopted anther ideology, we can see that these nations had millions dead during their economic downs. Yet Americans did not have to revolt. And the nation stood up again with the values they never really give up.
Often times we like to generalise a period of time or a group of people with a word of two that barely touch the skin of what’s really happening. When I think of the depression what jump into my head are the black-and-white images of unemployed people waiting in line for relief, of starving children begging for a bowl of soup, of wall street brokers jumping off the skyscrapers. But like how Lorena puts it, they weren’t “just the unemployed”(One third of a nation ix) they were real living people. They were individuals of distinct personalities and circumstances that together depict the greater picture of the society.
I especially like how Lorena integrate the greater picture of local economic condition with detailed daily events a person might engage in during the end of the depression era. She writes about what a person would need to go through to receive relief in New York City. The use of a second person tone makes it easier for reader to empathise with the NYC citizens. There are details including facing police officers, waiting in lines etc. (One third of a nation 47-48) It’s these details that make the lives real to us. Instead of dealing with dry concepts of history and politics, the writers in this era, by putting themselves onto the front line of the depression, make this reviving documentation of what was happening back then. This is priceless.
Louis Adamic takes a even more personal approach. He tells a story of a coincidental encounter with a girl on the road. I not only like how he portrays this girl but also a realistic depiction of the writer himself as well as the interaction between that make the two small figures in the grand depression era so vivid and so symbolic. When the writer helped her it almost broke my heart when he writes “the whole of her wretched, cold-pierced being engulfed me” (Girl on the road 497) This tangible pain strikes through the readers heart, giving us the feeling of how bad the situation was. This is worth more than a hundred page of dry, dull numbers. Another thing I really appreciated is when he includes how the girl insisted to make the writer say that she did’t ask for the treat, twice, in fact. (Girl on the road) “No I didn’t, by God! I got my pride too.”(Girl on the road 503) And yet she was tough, she was still able to appreciate the beauty of the sceneries, despite how gloomy her life had seemed to be. (Girl on the Road 510) This is what I think brings hope to this nation.
On a separate note, I like these two writers because they did not discuss ideological preference directly. It would be naive to say that these pieces of writings are complete, pure art free of influence from politics. Every piece of work, no matter if it is art or literature, if put into a social context, is a representation of ideas in some degree. But these work made it, at least, subtle enough to leave some level of judgement to the readers. I really appreciate how Hopkins wants Lorena to include nothing but her “own reactions, as a ordinary citizen’ not as a social-worker. Also that Hopkins remind her to “tell me what you see and hear, all of it. Don’t ever pull your punches” (One third of a nation ix-x) This honesty is precious. The artists at that time were able to roam around the country freely and document with their conscience. This may not be easily possible after the second world war, and of course even today.
For Americans, road is a dignified existence. Cars and roads aren’t just transportation means. They are the sources of happines, symbols of speed and loneliness that Americans yearn for when this blessed nations has been filled with similar humans beings trying to realise their American Dream. On the road, people see things they don’t know, they look for their own definitions of America, aside from the familiar scenes of the East Coast. To travel into the heart of America, is a pilgrim for Americans. Like what the ancestors did when the nation was just created, they redo the trips just like pilgrimage of any other religions.
The trips are never really about finding out what the people living there are like or how bad the depression is in the midwest. Maybe they are so to the writers themselves, but to others especially to the locals, they were really just the ‘writers from the east’. living for generations at where the writers spend couple pages on, they are not always trusting the writers to the fullest. Instead a lot of times these locals get really skeptical. Anderson mentions this gloomy attitude among the people in South Dakota where they ask Anderson “Why not come here in a good year?”(Revolt 36) The people in South Dakota are suffering and yet they care about how they are portrayed. They ask the writers “Why don’t you bastards write about the truth sometimes? (the Road 21)because they didn’t want to be fooled around by the easterners. They want to have their own voice. This separation between the two parts of America, both geographically East and West, but also economically the richer and the poorer.
This separation is also seen in the writings of Caldwell. In Saturday Night he writes about the family trying to make it home with their car. They could barely squeeze out enough change to buy the gas they would need to get home. I especially liked how he pictured the hand of Jim, “The other man dug down into his overalls pocket and drew out a tight fist. When he opened it up a nickel and several pennies gleamed in the light.” (Saturday Night 75) This image of struggling barely beyond famine is greatly contrasted with the image of the young man, doing really well. He drove a “bright Yellow Car” and when he Jumped out, he “lighted a cigar”(Saturday night 76) The young man works for the government and is well paid. There is this resentment toward government employees. The locals are the ‘hardcore original Americans’ They didn’t believe in living off the government because this is basically living off the taxes others pay. I think it’s important to notice that the writer portrays the young man similar to what a Tycoon would look like. This reveals some level of the separation between the two parts of the nation.
I think this is what the writers are trying to depict. This gap is causing instability within the nation. Neither ends of the nation know much about the other side and this was okay when the country was doing well, producing a lot and living in wealth. But the depression reveals this gap with such strength that it’s tearing the nation apart. By going on the road the writers are getting to know the nation better and providing insights about how this nation is like. And maybe further, making it possible for the nation to heal the pain of this seperation.