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Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 631

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One powerful example of the way that Agee's prose helped to capture the unending difficulty of these tenant farmers' lives comes from his description of George's house on page 354:

Every few minutes George would get up and open the door a foot or so, and it showed always the same picture; that end of the hallway mud and under water, where the planks lay flush to the ground; the opposite wall; the open kitchen; blown leaves beyond the kitchen window; a segment of the clay rear yard where rain beat on rain beat on rain beat on rain as would beat out the brains of the earth and stood in a bristling smoky grass of water a foot high...

The incredible repetition of "rain beat on rain beat on rain" is just one of the many places where Agee is able to capture the way that nature and other forces that were outside the control of even the most astonishing efforts of these farmers seemed to conspire against them. These descriptions ably complement the photographs that Walker Evans took for the book.

Walker Evans also contributes a number of meaningful passages. One example is his discussion of how the camera functions in the portrayal of the ideas he and Agee wanted to focus on:

This is why the camera seems to me, next to unassisted and weaponless consciousness, the central instrument of our time; and is why in turn I feel such rage at its misuse: which has spread so nearly universal a corruption of sight that I know of less than a dozen alive whose eyes I can trust even so much as my own.

His eagerness to use the camera in an honest way is striking, particularly when compared to his observation of the fact that it has so often been used improperly to spark his rage. Coupled with a knowledge of his life's work, it helps to highlight the intellectual integrity that both Agee and Walker brought to the project.

One other particularly powerful passage comes when Agee attempts to describe how to avoid the temptation to lump all the struggles into one—to forget that each person in the story is an individual and so too their struggles are individual:

All that each person is, and experiences, and shall never experience, in body and mind, all these things are differing expressions of himself and of one root, and are identical: and not one of these things nor one of these persons is ever quite to be duplicated, nor replaced, nor has it ever quite had precedent: but each is a new and incommunicably tender life, wounded in every breath, and almost as hardly killed as easily wounded: sustaining, for a while, without defense, the enormous assaults of the universe:

So that how it can be that a stone, a plant, a star, can take on the burden of being; and how it is that a child can take on the burden of breathing; and how through so long a continuation of cumulation of the burden of each moment one on another, does any creature beat to exist, and not break utterly to fragments of nothing: these are matters too dreadful and fortitudes too gigantic to meditate long and not forever to worship.

His reminders that each adult and each child carries their own burden, that each one has struggles that cannot be duplicated, helps to give the entire project more power in portraying these lives to the reader. His admission of the fact that the bravery and fortitude of these people lead him to worship them helps the reader to place themselves in his shoes and the shoes of with the people he built relationships with and who were willing to share their lives with the world.

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