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Loss of Identity Throughout the Great Depression Essay

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The sources for the aspects that define identity have change over time with social climates altering moral priorities. This fluctuation of values was seen over the course of the great depression as tragedy befell millions of Americans who lost everything that they had spent most of their lives striving towards. The most common examples were families being foreclosed and thrown out of their homes because of lack of work. There were more and less extreme examples all having the same devastating effect of eroding away the things that they used to identify with; there houses, jobs, clothing, family keepsakes, and more just to survive. The economic depression during the 1930’s lead to the destruction of American morale as individuals’ identities rooted in their homes and jobs suddenly disappeared leaving people with no foundation. Motivated by personal crisis, Americans wrote political figures hoping to regain some semblance of normalcy without having to forfeit their pride when describing the loss they had experienced to strengthen their pleas.
One object that many Americans had pride in was their ability to provided for themselves and as they were threaten they began to write their letters to political figures to help them keep their pride as self-reliant American citizens while still asking for assistance. One example was the letter from a mother-to-be asking for provisions for the baby she was about to have clearing stating, “I do not want charity, only a chance … to repay the amount spent for the things I need” that she would not accept the charity only the opportunity to become independent again. This was a common theme throughout many letters written during the great depression to leaders. Americans firmly held the belief th...


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... there families from the burden of taking care of them.
The great depression put strain on thousands lives. Obstacles from those dark days served as the petri dish for the creation of social welfare from the federal government and with this increased responsibility more power. These challenges also provided examples for Americans to reference for other social disasters to see how citizenship and the government needs to stay in constant flux to deal adapt to the needs of the victims and solve the source of the problem. These letters expressing the threats to their American identity should be used to formulate what constitutes American identity and how does one defend it.



Works Cited


McElvaine, Robert S., ed. 1983. Down & out in the great depression: Letters from the forgotten man. Twenty-fifth Anniversary ed. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.



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