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Discuss how the Great Depression affected national morale, individual morale, and family life.

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Introduction

1 Claire Peach, Access to Teaching November 11th 2004 Discuss how the Great Depression affected national morale, individual morale, and family life. The Great Depression of the 1930's was an era of hopelessness and fear for many. Coming soon after the prosperous Coolidge era, the Depression affected a nation of people who had based their self esteem around their ability to work and provide well for their families (Clements, page 67 - 69). Individuals and families had to contend not only with an existence that pushed people close to suicide and starvation, but a total loss of self worth and the haunting memories of the cars, radios and relatively luxurious lives they would have led five years previously. As with many disasters, the effect on individuals was varied, although with unemployment at 28% (not including eleven million struggling farm workers (Clements, page 74)), it is doubtful that anyone totally escaped the effects of the Depression. Amongst the worst affected were men who became known as Hoboes- migrants who travelled the USA frantically searching for work. According to a testimony by Louis Banks (Cements, page 74), many men were so in need they regularly risked their lives hitching on trains to try and find employment- if they didn't fall, there was always the chance of being shot by the train police. ...read more.

Middle

Families crowded into small homes in stressful circumstances were apt to become irritants to each other, and this could lead to family breakdown. An added stressor was the guilt felt by parents struggling to provide "What about the little children who's (sic) parents can't give the children the little things... who will get the blame... the father of course". (McElvaine, 180). In order to survive, many women returned to work- usually poorly paid jobs designated as "women's work" which were less vulnerable to the economic situation. This affected the morale of the families and husbands. The stresses broke down the marriages which were vulnerable, although as McElvaine (page 181) pointed out, stronger relationships survived "We got enough at (sic) get along on and we got each other. That should be enough at make anybody happy." Children were also family members affected by the Depression. Children are always vulnerable to the strains within a family environment, and are very receptive to signs of problems. Additionally, on a more practical level, many children could not attend school- either because of a lack of basic equipment or the need for them to work- and many lost out on what we would call a childhood. ...read more.

Conclusion

This became a generation used to sacrificing all for their country, and the survival of that country. It is also the case that whilst the adults would have memories of much easier times to motivate them towards reclaiming their future , the children had no such solid reality to aim for- just a vague idea and hearsay that things could be better. In conclusion, I would suggest that the psychological damage and adverse effect on the national morale was felt by all, simply because of the pervading sense of fear. In so called 'natural disasters' national morale tends to improve as people rally round, secure in the knowledge that they are unlikely to suffer the same fate. In the Depression things were very different; nobody knew who would be next to suffer. The majority of those affected must have gone on to suffer effects such as a lack in long term confidence and some level of a mistrust in banks. However, for the worst affected, the most difficult effect on morale must have been the lifelong memory of seeing their children and family suffer, and having no power to change this. For the lack of power to change the future is the exact opposite of the 'American Dream'. 1189 words.not including references. ...read more.

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