Hillbilly Elegy Theme

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A universal concern among people of all ages is the search for fulfillment in life, and how to obtain such a thing. This topic is also extensively explored in literature. For example, the short fictions and poem I examined reflect leaving toxic relationships to better one’s life. Also, the theme is explored in a memoir about a man who had to overcome major adversity, and rearrange his life in order to gain success, as well as through two characters in a play, who had big aspirations but did not even attempt to accomplish them. After examining the individuals in the pieces, it is clear that people who take action to control their lives are the ones who have the most success, happiness, and fulfillment, while those who fail to do so continue…show more content…
Vance identifies the reasons for lack of economic and social success amongst people living in Appalachia, and how he broke out of it. As a child growing up in this poverty stricken area, Vance is well aware of all of the issues keeping “Hillbillies” from moving up the social and economic ladder. Aside from bare lack of money and abusive drug use, he recognizes how “Hillbillies learn from a young age to deal with uncomfortable truths by avoiding them.” In his story, he talks about how people in economic hardship would not try to change their bad work ethic or lack of education, they would just continue to labor in their same low paying job. Ultimately, this caused many of his peers to sacrifice their dreams; Vance accounts, “Psychologists call it “learned helplessness,” when a person believes, as I did during my youth, that the choices I made had no effect on the outcomes in my life.” Basically, the people Vance speaks of are their own biggest enemies; by accepting their unfortunate lives, they never go on to do anything productive, and they lose sight of their hopes and dreams. This issue is further explored in the article, “Learned Helplessness” by Jeanette Nolen, which accredits “learned helplessness” as the reason “why individuals may accept and remain passive in negative situations despite their clear ability to change them” (Nolen). Fortunately, Vance is able to break out of this vicious cycle, and ultimately graduate from one of the most prestigious law schools in the country due to his knowledge that he could control his own
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