How was the cultural life of America in the period known as Great Depression?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Culture in America was profoundly impacted by the poverty and lack of power caused by the economic crises of the time.  There was greater impact found in documentaries that depicted reality as it was.  Even fiction moved towards this realm such as in the works of John Steinbeck, who articulated the condition of the dispossessed.  The films of the time period were vastly different from the ornate and wealthy extravagance of the previous decade.  The films of the 1930s focused on the "common man," and sought to bring the message that individuals can do great things.  This message might have been advocated because it was believed that individuals had to become the miracle they sought for government was not in the position to help anyone at the time.  The time for governmental miracles was supplanted by heroines like Scarlett, who vowed "to never go hungry again," in Gone with the Wind or Dorothy who had to go to the ends of the earth to understand that "There's no place like home" in The Wizard of Oz. Poets like Langston Hughes in works such as "Waitin' on Roosevelt" gave voice to the idea that the time period brought unique challenges for people of color who were feeling pressure on both economic and racial fronts.  In the end, culture of the 1930s profoundly mirrored Shahn's murals where the different faces of pain, hunger, want, and barrenness were evident.

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