The Great Depression
Throughout the 1930’s, the United States of America underwent its worst economic hardship ever. This struggle, known as the Great Depression, affected every aspect of American life. As the result of economic disparity brought on by the First World War and the great stock market crash of 1929, the depression sent America into a downward spiral into poverty. Businesses filed for bankruptcy, farmers were unable to sell crops, and banks were incapable of providing people with their money as the once booming economy came crashing down. The most profound impact that the Great Depression had, however, was on the social lives of the American population. As poverty struck, numerous Americans were left without food, jobs, and, of course, money. Eventually, the people were forced to move into broken down communities, which they named “Hoovervilles,” after president Herbert Hoover. The depression even had many gradual psychological effects on the unemployed workers. Family status also changed during this time as unemployed men spent more time at home and the influence of wives began to increase. Much American Literature about the hardships of American life, by authors such as John Steinbeck and William Faulkner, also became prominent in the 1930’s. Overall, aside from its obvious economic effects, the Great Depression also significantly altered the American way of life.
As the Great Depression stretched throughout the country in the early 1930’s, many families were left without money and forced to live on stale food and even garbage. Needless to say, these people were unable to make the necessary payments on their homes and apartments and were forced to live elsewhere. As thousands of unemployed Americans roamed about the country without food or shelter, small decrepit communities made of cardboard boxes and other trash were created. As mentioned before, these communities were called “Hoovervilles.” The Great American Depression forced most Americans into a new unaccustomed and un-welcomed lifestyle.
As unemployment became a common status in American life, the efforts put out by workers to find new jobs steadily decreased. After awhile, the jobless people simply began to give up in their efforts to find employment. Those who had held jobs all of their lives became ashamed of themselves and simply lost their ambition. Also, due to the mal-nutrition of the people during this time, the unemployed simply lacked the energy to do anything about their status. Few protests were held as unemployed workers instead chose to simply linger outside the Municipal Employment buildings. Basically, the common unemployed American was starting to accept his social status rather than fight it.
The Depression also had a profound affect on many American families in the 1930’s. First, it caused a huge drop in the birthrate from 27.7 per thousand in the 1920’s to o18.4 per thousand in the 1930’s. During this time, the unemployed men also had much more free time on their hands. This often meant that they were able to spend more time helping their wives with their duties, such as cooking and spending time with the kids. Some men, however, became impatient with their families and refused to help around the house or began to drink. The support of wives also became more important as the husbands continued to struggle with unemployment. Most of the time, wives were sympathetic. Some, however, were contemptuous when their men came home without food or money. Basically, the depression made close families closer and made weak families even weaker.
As the Great Depression raged on throughout the United States, many American authors began to critically analyze American lifestyle. In The Grapes of Wrath, author John Steinbeck described the hardships of farmers that were forced to sell their lands and migrate to California. In this novel, Steinbeck portrayed the fearful and brutal lifestyle that many Americans were forced to live. Author William Faulkner also highlighted the immense poverties that plagued the South in many of his writings, such as Sanctuary and As I Lay Dying. While American society reached an all time low, many American authors, such Steinbeck and Faulkner, illuminated the faults and weaknesses of life in the United States.
As America passed from the “Roaring Twenties” to the disastrous thirties, many aspects of society were altered. When disaster struck, numerous Americans were forced into unemployment, homelessness, and “Hoovervilles.” As the depression wore on, many jobless citizens gave up on any hopes of possible employment and became stagnant. This unemployed status of many husbands had a large impact on their home and family life. These changes in social living were criticized in the writings of American authors John Steinbeck and William Faulkner. Although the Great Depression was an economic issue, the impact that it had on the social fabric of the country was the greatest in American history.