"It Never Was America to Me": An Examination of Great Depression Literature Open Access

Fogg, Ross David (2014)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/8s45q958v?locale=en


This Honors thesis examines the ways in which literature focuses on subjects pertinent to the Great Depression like affirmations and disillusionment with the government's response to widespread unemployment and destitute living conditions; loss of faith in religion and other social institutions; the concentration of power that helped cause the stock market crash of 1929 as well as concurrent class divisions; a systematic dehumanization of man in literature during this time period; ways in which agricultural technology displaced workers; and the appeal and fear of reactionary Communist groups within the United States. The specific literature that this thesis examines includes John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, and Cannery Row. It likewise examines Ernest Hemingway's To Have and Have Not, Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men, and poetry by Langston Hughes and William Carlos Williams. This Honors thesis takes historical data into account like the environmental conditions that caused the Dust Bowl, stratification of classes, unemployment figures, economic theories of John Maynard Keynes, and information relating to the present-day Great Recession. There are also many sources of criticism references ranging from original reviews of the literature presented and present-day analysis.

Table of Contents

Introduction (Page 1)

National Identity, Deterioration of Public Institutions, and an Unraveling of Cultural Narratives in The Grapes of Wrath (Page 4)

Concentration of Power in Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men (Page 21)

Devaluation of Man and Moral Ambiguity in Ernest Hemingway's To Have and Have Not (Page 36)

Opposing Great Depression Narratives in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men and Cannery Row (Page 45)

Depression-era Poetics of William Carlos Williams and Langston Hughes (Page 59)

Conclusion (Page 71)

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