Great Depression Assignment
In your own words, answer the questions below based on the reading: The Great Depression
Remember to use complete, grammatically correct sentences (no bullet points). 3-4 sentences for each numbered item (9-12 sentences total). Remember to be specific and use examples from the text. Direct quotes will not count toward overall sentence totals.
John Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath based on primary sources from the Dust Bowl migration. He borrowed field notes written by Farm Security Administration worker and author Sanora Babb. Babb collected personal stories about the lives of displaced migrants in preparation for her own novel, Whose Names Are Unknown. Her supervisor, Tom Collins, who served as the director of Arvin Camp in California, shared her reports with Steinbeck. Steinbeck also used Collin’s records from Arvin Camp, photographs taken by Dorthea Lange, and conducted his own field research.
Steinbeck then wrote a series of seven articles for the San Francisco News, which ran from October 5-12, 1936. These articles served as the basis for the novel, The Grapes of Wrath. In a long letter to editor Pascal Covici for the Viking Press, Steinbeck wrote: “Throughout I’ve tried to make the reader participate in the actuality, what he takes from it will be scaled on his own depth and shallowness. There are five layers in this book, a reader will find as many as he can and he won’t find more than he has in himself.” He is later quoted to have stated, “I tried to write this book the way lives are being lived not the way books are written.”
1. What perspective does this excerpt provide regarding socioeconomic class standing in U.S. society during the Great Depression?
2. How can we as historians use fictional novels like The Grapes of Wrath to better understand historical causality, events, and the legacy of the Dust Bowl Crisis and the Great Depression?
3. This novel received both acclaim and negative attention when it was released. For example, Oklahoma Congressman Lyle Borden participated in ad hominem attacks on Steinbeck, stating, “‘this book exposes nothing but the total depravity, vulgarity, and degraded mentality of the author.’” Throughout history, the book has become more celebrated in American literature, with return to critical attention throughout history.
○ Based on the lectures and this reading excerpt why do you think reception to the novel has changed over time? What does this suggest about the preservation of the history of the Great Depression, or about U.S. history in general?
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