Down And Out In The Great Depression Summary

Powerful Essays
On October 24, 1929, also known as ‘Black Thursday’, one of the greatest economic and social crisis in the United States of America begun. On that day more than 12 and half million shares of stock were sold, which was triple the usual amount. Next, over the following 4 days, the stock market prices fell 23 percent. Afterwards, the Americans had to face suffering and obstacles for the next 10 years. In 1933, the unemployment had risen from 3 percent to 25 percent of nation’s workforce and those who were able to keep their jobs faced harsh reductions in wages. Not to end with the economic disaster in the United States, Americans of the Midwest had to face over cultivation and a drought called Dust bowl. This resulted in a drastic end for agriculture…show more content…
Many Americans decided to write letters to the government and beg for change. In 1987, Robert S. McElvaine published a shocking book collection of letters in a book called Down and Out in the Great Depression: Letters from the Forgotten Man. Since the Americans showed great interest in the topic of the Great Depression, McElvaine decided to look at it from a different perspective. Until then, all the writings on the thirties described the causes and consequences, portrayed the data about the unemployment and government actions to stop it. However, McElvaine wanted to portray the image and feelings of an ordinary American, ‘the forgotten man’. As he says in the introduction: “The lack of personal experience makes it essential for us to seek new methods of understanding what life was actually like during the Great Depression.”1 Therefore, McElvaine emphasizes the work of Stud Terkel, Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression. This work can revive the lost human element of the Depression, however as McElvain says: “Memories are notoriously fallible.”2 Hence, the only way how to examine the ‘real’ aspect of life of ordinary people in the thirties, since there were no video recordings, is through the letter written to the public figures. The words of the men, women, and also children addressed to persons that were thought to be responsible for all the suffering and pain, can give us a better feeling of what it was like at that time. Therefore, McElvaine’s work, Down and Out in the Great Depression: Letters from the Forgotten Man, gives us the best insight about that time period and precisely describes the feelings and motifs why the letters were sent. Also, he smartly divides the letters into different sections, each characterized by the same group of senders. For example, he examines the letters from white men in one chapter and the elders in other. In this paper, I
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