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The Great Depression Essay

1546 words - 6 pages

The Great DepressionThough most Americans are aware of the Great Depression of 1929,which may well be "the most serious problem facing our free enterpriseeconomic system", few know of the many Americans who lost their homes,life savings and jobs. This paper briefly states the causes of thedepression and summarizes the vast problems Americans faced during theeleven years of its span. This paper primarily focuses on what lifewas like for farmers during the time of the Depression, as portrayedin John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, and tells what the governmentdid to end the Depression.In the 1920's, after World War 1, danger signals were apparentthat a great Depression was coming. A major cause of the Depressionwas that the pay of workers did not increase at all. Because of this,they couldn't afford manufactured goods. While the factories werestill manufacturing goods, Americans weren't able to afford them andthe factories made no money (Drewry and O'connor 559).Another major cause related to farmers. Farmers weren't doing towell because they were producing more crops and farm products thancould be sold at high prices. Therefore, they made a very smallprofit. This insufficient profit wouldn't allow the farmers topurchase new machinery and because of this they couldn't produce goodsquick enough (Drewry and O'connor 559).A new plan was created called the installment plan. This plan wasestablished because many Americans didn't have enough money to buygoods and services that were needed or wanted. The installment planstated that people could buy products on credit and make monthlypayments. The one major problem with this idea was that people soonfound out that they couldn't afford to make the monthly payment(Drewryand O'connor 559).In 1929 the stock market crashed. Many Americans purchased stocksbecause they were certain of the economy. People started sellingtheir stocks at a fast pace; over sixteen million stocks were sold!Numerous stock prices dropped to fraction of their value. Banks lostmoney from the stock market and from Americans who couldn't pay backloans. Many factories lost money and went out of business because ofthis great tragedy (Drewry and O'connorBy the 1930's, thirteen million workers lost their jobs which is25 percent of all workers. The blacks and unskilled workers werealways the first to be fired. Farmers had no money and weren'tcapable of paying their mortgages. Americans traveled throughout thecountry looking for a place to work to support themselves and theirfamily (Drewry and O'connor 560-561). John Steinbeck, born in 1902,grew up during the Depression near the fertile Salinas Valley andwrote many books of fiction based on his background and experiencesduring that time and area of the country. One of his great works wouldbe the Grapes of Wrath In this book, Steinbeck describes the farmersplight during the Great Depression and drought. When the rains failedto come, the grass began to disappear. As the farmers watched theirplants...

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