The description of the Oklahoma plains is one of the most powerful parts of the story. How does the book's setting reflect Billie Jo's Journey?
Oklahoma at the time of the Dust Bowl was a horrific time for America, as one of the largest man-made disasters torn through the Mid West. On the Oklahoma panhandle in 1934-5, Billie Jo and her family are right at the center of the tragedy, in both time and space. Aside from the dust storms and tornados, the failing crops and starving people, the family (and the nation) is also in the grips of the Great Depression and so must struggle with additional hardships.
The purpose of a setting so full of strife is not only to provide conflict and tragedy for the Billie Jo and her family. Rather, the horrors and hardships of the land and the nation act as a mirror to Billie Jo's personal losses and tragedies. The gruesome death of her mother and newborn brother from kerosene fire, the guilt and blame Billie Jo holds for herself and her father, the loss of her piano-playing abilities – all these are a reflection of the larger scale turmoil and loss.
Billie Jo's journey doesn't end in loss, however. Through pain and empathy, she is able to forgive herself and, especially, her father for her mother's death. She is able to build some semblance of a relationship with him and accept his new fiance. She even believes she may recover from the burns on her hands and play piano again. The possibility of hope and recovery in Billie Jo's life give a possibility to the recover of the dusty earth as well.