The Great Depression

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The Great Depression

Though most Americans are aware of the Great Depression of 1929, which may well be "the most serious problem facing our free enterprise economic system,"( ) few know of the many Americans who lost their homes, life savings and jobs. This paper briefly states the causes of the depression and summarizes the vast problems Americans faced during the eleven years of its span. This paper primarily focuses on what life was like for farmers during the time of the Depression, as portrayed in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, and tells what the government did to end the Depression.

In the 1920's, after World War 1, danger signals were apparent that a great Depression was coming. A major cause of the Depression was that the pay of workers did not increase at all. Because of this, they couldn't afford manufactured goods. While the factories were still manufacturing goods, Americans weren't able to afford them and the factories made no money (Drewry and O'connor 559).

Another major cause related to farmers. Farmers weren't doing to well because they were producing more crops and farm products than could be sold at high prices. Therefore, they made a very small profit. This insufficient profit wouldn't allow the farmers to purchase new machinery and because of this they couldn't produce goods quick enough (Drewry and O'connor 559).

A new plan was created called the installment plan. This plan was established because many Americans didn't have enough money to buy goods and services that were needed or wanted. The installment plan stated that people could buy products on credit and make monthly payments. The one major problem with this idea was that people soon found out that they couldn't afford to make the monthly payment(Drewry and O'connor 559).

In 1929 the stock market crashed. Many Americans purchased stocks because they were certain of the economy. People started selling their stocks at a fast pace; over sixteen million stocks were sold! Numerous stock prices dropped to fraction of their value. Banks lost money from the stock market and from Americans who couldn't pay back loans. Many factories lost money and went out of business because of this great tragedy (Drewry and O'connor

By the 1930's, thirteen million workers lost their jobs which is 25 percent of all workers. The blacks and unskilled workers were always the first to be fired. Farmers had no money and weren't capable of paying their mortgages. Americans traveled throughout the country looking for a place to work to support themselves and their family (Drewry and O'connor 560-561). John Steinbeck, born in 1902, grew up during the Depression near the fertile Salinas Valley and wrote many books of fiction based on his background and experiences during that time and area of the country. One of his great works would be the Grapes of Wrath In this book, Steinbeck describes the farmers plight during the Great Depression and drought. When the rains failed to come, the grass began to disappear. As the farmers watched their plants turn brown and the dirt slowly turn to dust they began to fear what was to come. In the water-cut gullies the earth dusted down in dry little streams. As the sharp sun struck day after day, the leaves of the young corn became less stiff and erect; then it was June and the sun shone more fiercely. The brown lines on the corn leaves widened and moved in on the central ribs. The weeds frayed and edged back toward their roots. The air was thin and the sky more pale; and every day the earth paled. (qtd. Steinbeck 2-3). The farmers worst fears were realized when their corn and other crops began to die. The dust became so bad they had to cover their mouths with handkerchiefs so they could breath (Steinbeck 3- When the drought hit the Great Plains and the soil turned to dust, many farmers moved to California because they could no longer farm their land(Drewry and O'Connor 561). The...
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