Faces of Poverty
In the United States, the Great Depression started soon after the stock market crash of October 1929, which sent Wall Street into a panic and wiped out millions of investors. The Great Depression was the deepest and longest-lasting economic downturn in the history of the Western industrialized world. Over the next few years spending and investment stopped causing steep declines in industrial output and rising levels of unemployment as failing companies laid off workers. Times were tough, and by 1933, 13 to 15 million Americans were unemployed and nearly half of the country’s banks had failed. The Dust Bowl was the name given to the Great Plains area when devastated by drought during the 1930s. In the midst of the Great Depression, the states of Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico experienced little rainfall, light soil, and high winds. When drought struck between 1934 to 1937, the soil lacked grass as an anchor so winds picked up the topsoil and swirled it into dust clouds called, “black blizzards”. These reoccurring dust storms choked cattle and caused chaos driving most of the population west. Poverty, land foreclosures, and drought forced them out of Lower Plain states. Most of the dust bowlers went to agricultural rich states, such as California in search of work. Desperate, hungry, and homeless these migrant families set out on journeys to the unknown. Many loaded a few belongings into their beat-up, old, and raggedy vehicles with only enough money for gas and little food. The book, The Harvest Gypsies by John Steinbeck, played a significant role in the federal Resettlement Administration policies. Steinbeck’s descriptive articles were important because they reflected the reality of starving Americans and their harsh living conditions. (1) The title, The Harvest Gypsies, provided a reflection on the subject and informed me with the main idea of its contents. As I pondered the title, many images came to mind. Some of these images linger longer than others. The images of crops, seasons, pickers, and hard-working individuals seem to cloud my mind. The titles, The Harvest Gypsies and Their Blood is Strong, each tell about the experiences of the families that were forced to move west in search of work, food, and shelter. They also similar because they were both used with the intentions of helping the migrants gain better treatment and ultimately better lives. (2) In California, the small farmers attitude towards the migrants showed a level of empathy and were friendly and understanding. The small farmer was sympathetic to the migrants because they understood the circumstances which forced them to relocate. The large rancher and the community shared the same feelings and attitude towards the migrant workers. The large ranchers and the community hated the migrants and viewed them as ignorant, dirty, and disease carriers. As a result, the ranchers and community treated the migrants very cruel and often expressed attitudes of hatred. The attitude towards the migrant workers is interesting to me. I think the reason that the ranchers hated the migrants is because they feared the loss of control. The large rancher was angry at the fact that the harvest gypsies were U.S. citizens. This is important because these groups of people have fundamental rights that can be exercised. The ranchers knew that it would only be a matter of time before they organized. This scared the ranchers because they would not be able to use control, fear, and intimidation any longer. In addition, the ranchers would be mandated to provide appropriate living conditions which would hurt their pocket book. (3) John Steinbeck defines dignity by describing his subjects in an objective manner. He Begins to show the definition of dignity in chapter 2 when he uses three families in a squatters camp as examples. Steinbeck begins with creating word pictures in which he describes the materials used...
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