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Moral Standards During The Great Depression

Info: 4992 words (20 pages) Essay
Published: 8th Sep 2021 in History

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Through out time there have been rules that have kept people a civil and not a barbaric society. These rules are called laws. These laws help with telling the public what is good and what is wrong. They have been laws as far back during the time of Moses with the Ten Commandments. From there we as a human race based our morals around the commandments. Since then we have added and more laws. A moral is “habits with respect to right or wrong conduct” (dictionary.com). Laws are constantly being changed throughout time because of what is happening with the politics and the economy. They are meant to keep the people as a group a more civilized community and less barbaric. They prevent people from stealing, murder, and doing other evil deeds. Laws and rules are broken daily weather it be temptation of having a good time or just out of survival. Morally it is more incorrect for a person to break the law when they do not need drink alcohol when it is illegal, rather than having to steal from someone in order to feed your starving family. During the 1920s and the 1930s people broke the law daily. They both committed the same crimes but the intentions of the crimes were different than each others time period. The books The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck display the moral standards of the 1920s and the 1930s. The 1920s is known as “The Roaring Twenties”. During this time everyone lived freely, immorally, and broke the law daily. The 1930s is known as “The Great Depression”. During this time everyone lived poorly and immorally as well but there actions were justified by the situation the people were in.

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The Great Gatsby takes place during the 1920s, right after the American victory of World War One over Germany in 1918. America was becoming a more equal country for women, with the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920; this gave the women the right to vote. The current president during the beginning of the 1920s was the 28th president Woodrow Wilson, and the people did not agree with his liberal policies. The first election of the 1920’s was between the Republican Warren G. Harding and the Democrat James M. Cox. Harding won the election of 1920 by 277 electoral votes. Harding’s administration seemed to be an immoral one. They had a scandal call “Teapot Dome Scandal”. This was a secret leasing of federal oil reserves by the Secretary of Interior, Albert B. Fall. Fall was able to get the oil for lower rates. If the government was to have low moral standards then so will the American public. The scandal showed that the government was corrupt. From the government, the corruption then enters the publics’ lives. Harding died before he could complete his first term as president in 1923. He died of a heart disease while touring the United States and giving speeches. Harding’s vice president Calvin Coolidge was the next in line for the job. He supported and maintained Harding’s conservative ethics. When Coolidge was in office the United States lived a prosperous time, from 1923 to 1929.

The Great Gatsby took place during an era known as “The Roaring Twenties”, which began an amazing time for economic prosperity, as the recession during the end of World War one came to an end and was swiftly replaced by financial growth. The stock market flew to ineffable heights because of the “Second Industrial Revolution”. It was the beginning of new inventions that would change the American life forever. The invention that changed day-to-day life the most would be the automobile. Henry T. Ford created the Model T, the first automobile. Ford was also developed the assembly line. “Ford’s assembly line [was the] means of production was the key” (http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1564.html ). The assembly line made it easier to produce mass amounts of product. Each employee would work on one part and then when they were down with that part it would go to the next employee and it keeps on going until the product is finished. The automobile gave the Americans easy access to suburban and rural areas, and they were able to get out of the congested cities. The middle class that worked in the cities were able to move out of the cities, live in a less busy community and still have a job in the city. Other inventions that ranked with the automobile were the airplane, radio, and motion pictures. These inventions along with the conservative economic ideals added to this economic growth. “The nation’s total income rose from $74.3 billion in 1923 to $89 billion in 1929” (http://www.lejardinacademy.com/~awebb/apush/UNIT_11/Ch%2034-%20Depression%20&%20New%20Deal/CaausesofDepression.pdf).

In 1919 an amendment was passed. This amendment was the 18th amendment or also known as the “Volstead Act”. It was when “U.S. Constitution banned the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcohol” (http://history1900s.about.com/od/1910s/a/18thamendment.htm). Its main purpose was to stop the consumption of alcohol completely, but it the American public paid no attention to it. Its ultimante job was to help the American public to achieve the virtue Temperance. Temperance is “moderation and self-restraint, as in behavior or expression. Restraint in the use of or abstinence from alcoholic liquors/intoxicants” (http://www.virtuescience.com/virtuelist.html). The American public paid no attention to it, it let only created a new career, called “Bootlegging”. Bootlegging was when people would make illegal alcohol called “moonshine”. These people who picked up the career of bootlegging were called “Bootleggers”; they made, sold, and transported alcohol when prohibition was in act, to supply the Americans with moonshine, illegal alcohol. The “bootleggers” and the consumers of the alcohol displayed low moral standards because they broke the law and did it recreational. Prohibition was the reason for the start of the organized crime. Gangsters would open clubs called a “Speakeasy” to sell their alcohol to the public. “The federal government hired only hired 1,500 agents to prohibition” (the history book pg 648). The gangsters would pay off the police so they would turn the other way while they delivered the illegal alcohol or just leave that club alone. Again, they broke the law and took the easy way out and not pay for the consequences of their crimes. It is an immoral thing to do. Their actions did not justify the situation they were in; they did it out of the temptation of having a good time. The government let these crimes undertake because the United States government had the Laissez-Faire policy during the economic boom of the 1920s. Laissez-Faire is French for “let it be” or “leave alone”, and it were so the government would not interfere with peoples’ businesses. The 1920s was a prosperous time because the United States stayed isolated from the rest of the world. With all this prosperity in the United States, it influenced the social life of the people.

The Great Gatsby took place during the social revolution of the 1920s. With women finally able to vote, everyone was able to participate in choosing who was in the government. Women and minorities were beginning to be more common in the work force. Immigrants and women were able to work in the work force and this helped with crimes because everyone was finally equal. With the stock market souring people began to enjoy there riches. Silent films became extremely popular. In 1927, “talkies” came out; they were a talking film. The radio was the main form of entertainment for the average American. The radio was also away for the news to get out in the public, instead of relying on the newspaper. The first radio station was “National Broadcasting Company” otherwise know as “NBC”. The Harlem Renaissance created the genre called jazz. Louis Armstrong was one of the most popular trumpeters of New Orleans. Men and women changed their fashion styles. Men dressed like they were young again. While the women created a new fashion called “flapper”. A flapper was a female who smoked, drank alcohol, drove automobiles, exposed their legs and had sex freely. The way they would dress showed the carelessness of their morals. The flappers lived immorally because they would commit adultery, and broke the law prohibition by drinking alcohol. People actions did not abide by the law and showed they had a low or no moral standard.

“The dominant influences on F. Scott Fitzgerald were aspiration, literature, Princeton, Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, and alcohol.”(http://www.sc.edu/fitzgerald/biography.html ). Fitzgerald met Father Sigoureny Fay when he attended the Catholic prep school in New Jersey during 1911 to 1913. There he learned from Father Fay to follow his ambitions for personal achievement. Fitzgerald attended Princeton and was a member of the Class of 1917. He neglected his studies for his love of literature. He wrote the scripts and lyrics for the Princeton Triangle club musicals. Since he was on academic probation he thought he was not going to be able to graduate so he joined the army in 1917 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the infantry. When he got back from the war he fell in love with Zelda Sayre. He married her in 1920. The couple went on vacation to France during the spring of 1924. Zelda had an affair with a French naval aviator while there. He wrote The Great Gatsby that summer. The novel theme could be a satire of the morals during the 1920s. Zelda showed low moral standards for herself and cheated on F. Scott Fitzgerald. The novel involved many of the characters to have affairs with each others. Zelda’s actions could have influenced Fitzgerald to write about these affairs.

The Grapes of Wrath took place during the late 1930s. The 1930s era is known as “The Great Depression”. This Depression started on October 29th, 1929, a day known as “Black Tuesday”. President Hoover promised the public that the recession would end quickly and that the United States would live prosperously in the soon future. President Hoover was wrong about prosperity being soon, because the economy took a nose-dive causing the greatest depression that has ever happened in United States history. The United States was not the only nation that was in a depression, the entire world was in a depression. Many Americans lost their homes and jobs. Many shantytowns known as “hoovervilles” began to pop out of no where. These shantytowns were named after President Hoover because many Americans believed he did not help the public. The economy worsened, still President Hoover did not help gift any federal assistance to ease the suffering. In 1932 Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt of New York ran for president. He won by a landslide, he won with 472 and Hoover obtained only 59. Roosevelt pressed hard and passed a bunch of laws called the “New Deal”. The “First Hundred Days” of his presidency, Roosevelt and Congress were able to pass almost all of the “First New Deal”. The Emergency Banking Relief Act was passed in 1933. It allowed the president to control exchange rates and all other banking transactions. Another act was created; it was called the “Glass-Steagall Banking Reform Act”, which helped create the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to assure everyone’s banking deposits. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation rebuilt the faith in banks, because when the stock market crashed the banks closed and everyone lost their money. That act also made it so if a bank collapsed that person would not lose their money. The New Deal formed the Agriculture Adjustment Administration to provide federal subsidies to farmers and created many jobs for farmers and created many job opportunities through the formation of “Civil Conservation Corps, the Civil Works Administration, the Public Works Administration, and the Tennessee Valley Authority” (one of keatons). In 1937 Roosevelt cut back extra spending, thinking that the worst part of the depression was over and hoping the economy will pick back up again. The depression was not over just yet. The economy was not ready to pick up on its own yet, the economy crashed again, leaving millions jobless and homeless once again. After this second recession the American public voted many congressmen, who supported the New Deal, out of the senate. With only a small amount of support for the New Deal, it quickly collapsed and it was not until World War Two that the economy came out of “The Great Depression.

The Depression started when the stock market began to crash on October 21st, 1929. Eight days later on October 29th, 1929 the stock market crashed and “dropped 43 points”(the history book 660). There were some things that led up to the ultimate crash of the stock market that caused the depression. There was a lack of diversification. During the 1920s the prosperity of the country was relying on construction and automobiles. Another factor was misdistribution of wealth. This is when the farmers and factory works made more than what was needed to keep up with the demand of the booming economy. They were not paid proportionally and were paid less than what they needed. Another factor was after World War One when most of Europe was in dept to the United States. The United States instead of letting the European nations pay of what they already owed, they loaned more money to them. It made it harder for those nations to pay back the United States and it collapsed the international credit structure causing a global depression. Unemployed workers demanded the government to do something and aid them. President Hoover declined the federal relief was essential. In 1932 the “Bonus Army”, it was a group of World War One veterans and families, went down to The United States Capital demanding the help of the government in this economic time. President Hoover rejected their cries for help and permitted the use of force to remove the protesters. Prohibition was repealed with the 21st Amendment of 1933. The 21st Amendment was repealed let the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcohol legal again. The reason why the 21st Amendment was passed is because it would give people job opportunities and it also let the government tax something that was already happening, the illegal distribution of alcohol. The main assistance of the second New Deale was the “Works Progress Administration”. They work instead of just giving people free money otherwise known as welfare. They would give people jobs to build roads, buildings, airports, and schools. Those who would have artistic talents, such as actors, painters, and writers, were hired under the Federal Theater Project. Another agency was the “National Youth Administration”. It gave a part-time job to the students, and supplied finical aid to students who did not have a job. This “Works Progress Administration” was able to help nine million people who were jobless. This depression gave birth to the “Social Security Act of 1935”. It was for the elderly. This arrangement was funded by the taxes on the pay of current workers, with a fixed rate of income, no matter how high or low they are paid. World War Two help the United States out of this depression. It created jobs for the unemployed and it also let people get out of the United States, serve in the army and fight over seas.

The Grapes of Wrath was hard on the public. When President Hoover was in office during 1929, the stock market crashed, the banks failed, and many businesses struggled to survive during this financial crisis. When the banks failed, they closed their doors to everyone leaving millions of Americans penniless. The government tried to tell everyone that prosperity is right around the corner, but while they were trying to do this the economy was still falling. It left over millions out of jobs and on the sidewalks. Families could only eat at soup kitchens. Families lived in shantytowns called “Hoovervilles”. They were called that because the American public believed he was the cause of the depression. The worst drought happened during the great depression. The great plains, from Northern Texas up to North Dakota, were full of farming and the drought turned this farmland into a dust bowl. The drought made it impossible to grow crops. Their would be dust storms and they would suffocate the crops and animals. The farmers left their farmland and went to the coasts in search of jobs and new opportunities, these people were called “Okies”. As World War Two came, many people signed up for the draft and fought for the army. This helped with a lot with getting people of the streets and it gave people money.

“Steinbeck’s novels can all be classified as social novels dealing with the economic problems of rural labor” (http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1962/steinbeck-bio.html ). He wrote The Grapes of Wrath in 1939. In 1939, The Great Depression was still going on. Since was Steinbeck living in California, he was able to see the dust bowlers moving from “The Great Plains” to California in search of opportunity. This influenced him to write about The Joads family in The Grapes of Wrath.

The novel The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald seems to write about a stray love story between a man and a woman, but the main theme of novel is a satire on pursuit of the American Dream. The original American Dream is “is the freedom to choose exactly how we will undertake anything we wish to do in this life, provided that in doing so we respect the rights of all others to do the same thing” (http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/stone/021121) otherwise known as the pursuit of happiness. Jay Gatsby, the main character of The Great Gatsby, pursuit of happiness was to get the love of his life, Daisy. Daisy and Gatsby had a love prior to World War One. Gatsby went of to war and Daisy found a new lover named Tom Buchanan. Tom was a wealthy man wealthy man. He cheats on Daisy but she stays with him through the novel because he is a wealthy person and can support Daisy’s materialistic needs. The color green is always mentioned with her. We see this reputation of a “green light at the end of Daisy’s dock” (Fitzgerald 180). The color green has a connotation “of nature. It symbolizes growth, harmony, freshness, and fertility. Green has strong emotional correspondence with safety. Dark green is also commonly associated with money.” (http://www.color-wheel-pro.com/color-meaning.html). When Gatsby saw this light he felt harmony and was peaceful with his life because he was in love with Daisy. This green light also describes Daisy because she was hungry for money. She began to fall for Gatsby because of his wealth. She represents a flapper during the 1920s. Flappers were a satire to the American Dream because they would break the rules to benefit themselves. Daisy benefited herself by using Gatsby hospitality and let him take the blame for the death of Myrtle. Another Character in The Great Gatsby that represents a major part of “The Roaring Twenties” is Meyer Wolfshiem. He represented organized crime. Wolfshiem has cufflinks that are the “finest specimens of human molars” (Fitzgerald 72). Cufflinks represent sophistication and wealth. Being that they are human molars it becomes a barbaric type of sophistication. Crimes have a tendency to be barbaric. Gatsby claims that “He’s a gambler [and]…fixed the World’s Series back in 1919” (Fitzgerald 73) which makes Wolfshiem a likely candidate to represent organized crime. Wolfshiem was an associate with Gatsby. Wolfshiem was deep in the crimes scene. His character is a mystery to the reader because he is only in two scenes of the novel. We know that he has to do with crime; he might supply Gatsby with moonshine. It is a disgrace to the American dream because they are breaking the law to get what they want. These characters give the reader an impression that the 1920s was a crime invested time. It can even make the narrator seem bias.

Nick is the narrator of The Great Gatsby. He is a first person omniscient narrator. He is one of the main characters and is part of the story. He is the one that introduces the “great” Gatsby. He remains a mystery until chapter three. When Gatsby first shows up in the novel, he is in his library, drunk. Nick introduces Gatsby in an indirect way because he gives the reader a people that give their opinion on who Gatsby is. Before the first meeting with Gatsby, Nick was talking to some ladies at Gatsby’s party. They said “I’ll bet he killed a man” (Gatsby pg44). Nick’s tone throughout the novel is two sided. He is fascinated and interested in Gatsby’s lifestyle as a bootlegger but he also disapproves of his actions.

All of the sins of the 1920s can be related to the bible story of “Sodom and Gomorrah” (genesis ch 19). The story was about two cites that had a lot of sinners in them. They lived immoral lives and broke the Ten Commandments that God had given them. God sent two angels to warn the people to change their ways or else God will destroy them. Only a few people listened this warning. When they were leaving the village before it was destroyed they were warned again not to look back or they will die. One of them looked back and turned into a pillar of sand. This story relates to “The Roaring Twenties” and “The Great depression” because the people of the United States of America are paying for their sins of the 1920s by having to live through the greatest depression that has ever happened in American history. The 1920s was full of corruption and sin. No set morals. Most people would break the law in order to get what they wanted. They lived luxurious lives and then it went to nothing. People began to live on the streets and would line up at soup kitchens to be barely fed.

John Steinbeck portrays the theme of brotherhood in his novel The Grapes of Wrath. During the Great Depression people would have to help each other to survive. Jim Casy helped the Joads throughout the entire book; he even gave his life so the Joads could get away from the police. The Joad family symbolizes 1930 okies. The story of the Joad family is ironic because the person the kept the family strong and together through all of the hardships. It was ironic because women at the time were not leader roles, which were usually the men’s job. The narrator is an anonymous, all-knowing, third- person omniscient. This narrator knows is very sympathetic and knows what goes on with the Joads, other migrants, and works. He has a mournful tone. His tone gets the reader to feel sympathetic for the people who had to survive the Great depression. Tom Joad is the main character of The Grapes of Wrath. We first see him when he is released from an Oklahoma state prison. He was in prison for manslaughter. He was able to get out for his good behavior.

In John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, the Joads family represent the journey of the Dust Bowlers who needed to relocate in order to survive “The Great Depression”. They display many virtues throughout their journey to California. The one virtue that sticks out the most with the Joads is fortitude. Fortitude is to have “Strength of mind that enables one to endure adversity with courage” ( http://www.virtuescience.com/virtuelist.html). The family had to face many challenges that tested their courage. They needed courage to leave their farm where. They bit the bullet when they were crossing the boarder of Oklahoma; Tom Joad was on parole and not allowed to leave the state. They faced many of the same challenges that the Okies faced. They faced death, sickness, and poverty. They took many risks when staying at federal camps. Jim Casy lost his life because he was caught in one.

Another virtue that the Joads family showed is selflessness. Selflessness is “The quality of unselfish concern for the welfare of others (http://www.virtuescience.com/virtuelist.html). Grandpa Joad refused to go to California with his family. The Joads show an “unselfish concern for the welfare of” him because they drug him and take him along when he is sleeping. They took him with them because during “The Great Depression” the farmland was no longer fertile. The dust would cover the land and suffocate the crops and farm animals. Grandpa Joad still wanted to stay because he started the Joad farm. He loved that land and when he was taken away from it he ends up dying because the family took him from his most natural element. The Joads did not think he was going to die when he was with them. They were just looking out for his well being. The Joads knew that he would not be able to provide for himself. They showed this selflessness for one another, and even strangers throughout the novel.

Jim Casy showed the virtue of self-sacrifice. Self-sacrifice is “The giving up of one’s owns benefit, especially giving up one’s life, for the good of others” (http://www.virtuescience.com/virtuelist.html). Casy gave up his life in order to save Tom Joad’s life, by tripping a police officer who was breaking vagrant camps of farmers. Casy did the ultimate sacrifice, giving his life. Jim Casy is a symbol of Jesus Christ. If the initials do not give it away, then Jim Casy’s sacrifice does. He even says something similar to Christ say on the cross “forgive them, Father, they know not what they do”. Casy says “you fellas don’t know what you’re a-doin” (Steinbeck pg 386). Jim Casy represents Jesus Christ not only through his self-sacrifice but the way he lived his life as a spiritual leader. Where as

Rose of Sharon shows the virtues of service. Service is “Work done by one person or group that benefits another” (http://www.virtuescience.com/virtuelist.html). She gives her service at the end of the novel when they are in an abandoned barn and see an old man who has not ate in six days. He also displays service because with him was a small boy and the man gave him all the food he had. Rose of Sharon gives her service to him by giving him her breast milk. Rose of Sharon throughout the novel is self centered but this ending scene shows that she has some kind of heart for others. She is like Christ’s mother Mary. She gave her child like Mary did and this helped her to be a mothering figure to everyone. She gave birth to a stillborn child, and had to send it downstream. The baby symbolizes the prophet Moses. It symbolizes him because a baby Moses was sent down a river for the greater good of the Israelites. The baby’s corpse symbolizes the struggles of the travelers. Rose of Sharon accepts the baby’s death and feels like it is her duty to help others and give her service to those who need it. She finds a lot of morality with the death of her child.

The 1920s was a time of carelessness and low morals. They did not demonstrate that many virtuous actions. They had greed, one of the seven deadly sins. They were obsessed with money and what it was able to do for them. The police were corrupt and easily paid off. They did not live by any virtues or any moral standards. Gangs started during this time. They broke the prohibition law daily by selling illegal moonshine, and transporting it to speakeasies. “Al Capone is America’s best known gangster and the single greatest symbol of the collapse of law and order in the United States during the 1920s Prohibition era” (http://www.chicagohs.org/history/capone.html). He was careless and merciless. He killed seven of his enemys, which got the police more intreseted in Al Capone. Al Capone did not go to prison because of his illegal activities as bootlegger and being a gangster. He was arrested for tax evasions. He was not a virtuous man. He lived with low moral standards. He broke the law not because he needed to in order to survive but because he was greedy and wanted money and no competition with the providing the public illegal alcohol.

In both the novels The Great Gatsby and The Grapes of Wrath the chase for money is the common bond. When money was easy to get during the 1920s, people wanted more than what they needed which lead to crimes. When money was no where to be found people would help one another to survive. The Roaring Twenties was a carefree time but, when the people came completely careless that is when The Great Depression happened. Morals are what make a man a man. With out them you would never feel guilty for doing illegal actions? Morals give people a respectable name. The actions you perform effect what people think of you. If you go around attacking people, you disgrace your name. Virtues help define a persons morals. Morals are what keep mankind from being a barbaric race and with them we are able to live peacefully. The Great Depression shows that even staring the worst possible economy crisis in the face; the Americans were able to work together for a common good.

Work cited

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1925.




the bible genesis ch 19


the grapes of wrath

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