Question 1 (Document-Based Question): 55 minutes Suggested Reading period: 15 minutes Suggested writing period: 40 minutes Directions

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Sylvia Lee, Caitlyn Crowe,

Jonathan Cummings,

Anthony Overton, Sarah Shahabi

P.1 3/17/15

Question 1 (Document-Based Question): 55 minutes

Suggested Reading period: 15 minutes

Suggested writing period: 40 minutes

Directions: Question 1 is based on the accompanying documents.  The documents have been edited for the purpose of this exercise.  You are advised to spend 15 minutes reading and planning and 45 minutes writing your answer.

Write your responses on the lined pages that follow the question.

In your response you should do the following:

·         State a relevant thesis that directly addresses all parts of the question.

·         Support the thesis or a relevant argument with evidence from all, or all but one, of the documents.

·         Incorporate analysis of all, or all but one, of the documents into your argument.

·         Focus your analysis of each document on at least one of the following: intended audience, purpose, historical context, and/or point of view.

·         Support your argument with analysis of historical examples outside the documents

·         Connect historical phenomena relevant to your argument to broader events or processes.

·         Synthesize the elements above into a persuasive essay that extends your argument, connects it to a different historical context, or accounts for contradictory evidence on the topic.

1. Analyze the effects of the Great Depression on American Culture (1929-1945)
Document 1

Source: Al Cunningham, youth during the Great Depression, "How I Came to Love the Classics" (1999)

“Movies were one of my greatest pleasures and I would try to go every weekend, although that was seldom possible. It wasn't often that my folks were able to come up with the price of a ticket (ten cents), so I had to be creative and find other ways to find the money. Hunting for returnable soda bottles in order to get refunds was one of my methods. Another was searching the gutters along the curbs of the busy shopping areas.

Sometimes the only way I could get to see a movie was to sneak in. My best bet was at a certain theater about five miles from home … Unfortunately, my only pair of shoes had holes in the soles, which were bigger than the size of quarters. Even though I would cut out pieces of cardboard and place them inside my shoes, the long hike would wear through them long before my journey had ended”


Document 2

Source: Escapism and Leisure Time 1929-194, Ed. Richard C. Hanes and Sharon M. Hanes, 2002

The 1930 census indicated that 12,078,345 families, or 40 percent of the population, had radios.

In 1930 attendance at professional baseball games numbered 10,185,000 while players in amateur leagues numbered 241,766.

In 1930 there were 30,000 miniature golf courses.

Between September 1932 and March 1933, 10 million jigsaw puzzles were purchased per week with total purchases amounting to 100 million for the period....

Swing music rescued the recording industry. In 1932 just 10 million records had been sold in the United States. By 1939, however, that number would grow to 50 million.

Radio serials mirrored pulp fiction genres; in 1940 soap operas made up 60 percent of daytime radio programming.


Document 3

Source: Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck, 1939

[the tenant farmers:] But if we go, where'll we go? How'll we go? We got no money. (5.31)

What do you want us to do? We can't take less share of the crop – we're half starved now. The kids are hungry all the time. We got no clothes, torn an' ragged. If all the neighbors weren't the same, we'd be ashamed to go to meeting. (5.13)

Document 4

Source: Depression of 1929 - Popular Culture, Richard H. Pells, 2014

".... Inexpensive amusements included backyard games, puzzles, card games, and board games such as Monopoly®, which was introduced in 1935. Even the national pastime, baseball, changed profoundly during the Great Depression. Major League rosters and players’ salaries were cut, 14 minor leagues were eliminated, and, in an effort to bolster attendance that had fallen by more than 40 percent by 1933, night games were introduced. And with the end of Prohibition in 1933, nightclubs became legitimate places not only to consume liquor but to socialize, dance, enjoy the entertainment, and be seen wearing the latest fashions."

Document 5

Source: National Allied Publications, 1938

dbq pic.jpg

Document 6

Source: Woody Guthrie, musician and singer, 1940

As I went walking I saw a sign there

And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."

But on the other side it didn't say nothing,

That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,

By the relief office I seen my people;

As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking

Is this land made for you and me?

Document 7

Source:  (Unknown), 2000-2015

" Literary work of the 1930s focused on the rejection of the notion of progress and a desire to return to an earlier age of purity and simplicity. John Steinbeck’s 1939 novel, The Grapes of Wrath, glorified a simple, rural way of life. Jack Conroy’s The Disinherited, a 1933 chronicle of an average industrial worker’s life in the Depression Era, conveyed disillusionment and cynicism. William Faulkner also emerged as an important American writer, examining southern life in novels such as A Light in August, published in 1932, and Absalom! Absalom!, published in 1936."


DBQ Notes

Prompt: Analyze the effects of the Great Depression on American culture (1929-1945)

Thesis: Possible thesis statements could include the following.

  • The Great Depression led to an upsurge in escapist works and attitudes in American culture

  • The Great Depression led to a cynical attitude in Americans and the rise of realism

  • Americans’ lack of money and resources led to a rise in inexpensive entertainment and leisure activities

Analysis of Documents

As explained in the scoring notes, to earn full credit for analyzing documents, responses must include at least one of the following for all or all but one of the documents: intended audience, purpose, historical context, author’s point of view. Although examples of these elements are listed below, these examples of analysis must explicitly be used in support of a stated thesis or a relevant argument.

Document 1

Source: Al Cunningham, youth during the Great Depression, "How I Came to Love the Classics" (1999)

  • Intended audience: Cunningham writes about his youth in the depression toward those who interest in the depression and the life on someone who experienced it first handed.

  • Purpose: Cunningham talks of how he had to sometimes sneak his way into the escapism of the movie theatres because of the lack of money his family had. Cunningham also talks about how his shoes had holes worn into them but replacing them was not an option, and he essentially explains that in some aspects, the depression life was hard even for a young boy.

  • Historical Context: During the swing of the Depression, many families could not afford luxuries or even what's sometimes considered a necessity like shoes, and so in order for a moneyless child to entertain himself he would have to earn the money himself through bottle caps or sneak into theatres.

  • The author’s point of view: Al Cunningham lived during the depression in his youth and experienced the familial hardships first-handed. He lived through the times of having to sneak into the theatre or earn the money to do it himself.

Document 2

Source: Escapism and Leisure Time 1929-194, Ed. Richard C. Hanes and Sharon M. Hanes, 2002

  • Intended audience: Those who want to learn about Great Depression culture.

  • Purpose: To present statistics about leisure time and entertainment to show that Americans preferred escapism to realism

  • Historical Context: During the Depression, Americans largely preferred escapism which can be seen through interpretation of the statistics presented.

  • The author’s point of view: As a historian, the authors attempt to present the facts in an as unbiased way as possible. Since the authors did not experience the Depression first hand, they would not have felt the mood of the time period.

Document 3

Source: Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck, 1939

  • Intended audience: Steinbeck wrote his novel Grapes of Wrath toward Americans who suffered hardships and faced a lack of economic security. Grapes of Wrath could also have been specifically targeted toward famers who had lost their property and jobs in the Depression

  • Purpose: Steinbeck writes of the failing economy and how it causes american families to suffer. Steinbeck also intends to display the realism and difficulty of a farmer during the dustbowl and depression, and what effects they endured.

  • Historical Context: The Great Depression hit farmers arguably worse than it affected any industrial dweller. The depression put many farmers out of business and out of a home, also the dustbowl came and caused massive droughts during this time, only to pile up the farmers’ difficulty.

  • The author’s point of view: Steinbeck did not come from a family of farmers but grew up and worked on ranches in his younger life, and lived in an agricultural town. His writings such as Of Mice and Men often dealt with the severity of farm life and the struggles of a farm laborer

Document 4

Source: Depression of 1929 - Popular Culture, Richard H. Pells, 2014

  • Intended audience: In this context the authors audience is really those who want to learn about depression culture

  • Purpose: To inform of the introduction of monopoly into the culture so that people could at least pretend they could pay rent and make money, since not much of that was happening in real life, as well of the shift into nightwatching of baseball. The author tells of how people essentially shifted to becoming more focused on escaping reality by means of entertainment.

  • Historical Context: During the Depression, many people had low income that leisure spending was virtually nothing in many households. So people turned to what they could afford, like monopoly, and at that time movies were actually cheap so that too.

  • The author’s point of view: Pells is a historian who, in this excerpt, focuses on the depression culture and its changes from 1929. He writes about how the lack of money and financial difficulties led people to turn to cheap forms of entertainment.

Document 5

Source: National Allied Publications, 1938

  • Intended audience: The intended audience for Action Comics were kids as well as adults interested in a different source of entertainment.

  • Purpose: To offer an alternative to normal books and novels. More importantly, to serve as a new way for distraught individuals to temporarily escape the horrors of the Great Depression.

  • Historical Context: Roosevelt Recession, Foreign entertainment competition, Foreign movies began to play in theaters, needed a new American escape medium, inexpensive entertainment, Roosevelt 2nd term problems, tensions leading into WW2.

  • The author’s point of view: Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster originally placed a villain, Superman was changed into a positive character because of the authors restlessness about yet another negative in life.

Document 6

Source: This Land is Your Land, Woody Guthrie, 1940

  • Intended audience: Woody Guthrie wrote his music for the part of the American public who did not see the true extent of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. In essence Woody Guthrie wrote his music to bring to light the worst of America to it’s people especially those least affected by it.

  • Purpose: A response to the song “God Bless America” by Irving Berlin, in order to truly show how America and it’s people were doing. To show the oblivious American public the horrors of the Dust Bowl and share experiences of the Great Depression. To create change and get help and recognition to the suffering peoples of America.

  • Historical Context: Last two verses (about the relief office and freedom) were cut out of the released version in order to lessen the song’s impact on society and the negative (yet true) depictions of many Americans’ lives. The years after the Great Depression but during World War II and the Dust Bowl when America was still struggling but getting more firmly back on it’s feet.

  • The author’s point of view: Woody Guthrie wrote and sang about his life and experiences during the Dust Bowl without embellishment. He used folk music to protest against the 1940s escapism and to try and show people what life for many American’s was really like. He believed the world needed to see the effects of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression so something could be done about and so that there would be change.

Document 7

Source: (Unknown), 2000-2015

  • Intended audience: In this context, the author’s audience is people who want to learn about the Great Depression

  • Purpose: To focus on literary works during the 1930’s and their tendencies to highlight the Depression

  • Historical Context: During the Depression, the average American searched for escape from the realities of their circumstances. In response, some artists chose to portray the Depression as realistically as possible.

  • The author’s point of view: N/A

Analysis of outside examples to support thesis/argument

Possible examples of information not found in the documents that could be used to support the stated thesis or a relevant argument could include the following.

  • The WPA’s effects on jobs for artists

  • Woody Guthrie’s other folk works which also reflected realism

  • John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men whose characters reflected the common laborer’s life.

  • The production of classic films such as Frankenstein, and Gone with the Wind which added to the large pool of escapist art

  • The growing popularity of the blues and folk music which focuses a lot on Americans’ troubles

  • The popularization and widespread use of the radio made music and soap operas easily accessible.

  • The temporary increase in unemployment due to the “Roosevelt Recession” during Roosevelt’s 2nd New Deal.

  • Retelling of the novel War of the Worlds

Contextualization: Students can earn a point for contextualization by accurately and explicitly connecting historical phenomena relevant to the argument to broader historical events and/or processes. These historical phenomena may include, but are not limited to, the following

  • Realignment of Republican and Democratic parties as a result of the election of 1936 and Roosevelt’s 2nd term

  • Increased support for unions and workers

  • Roosevelt’s step away from the gold standard.

  • Nye Committee - Economic ties were the root and cause of WWI.

Synthesis: Essays can earn the point for synthesis by crafting a persuasive and coherent essay. This can be accomplished providing a conclusion that extends or modifies the analysis in the essay, by using disparate and sometimes contradictory evidence from primary and/or secondary sources to craft a coherent argument, or by connecting to another historical period or context. Examples could include, but are not limited to, the following.

  • A comparison of escapism and realism to transcendentalism and naturalism.

  • Explain how major events influence the art of the era

  • The civil rights movement was a catalyst for the hippie movement and the popularization of folk and rock music among young people. Just like how the Great Depression caused a rise in escapist and realist work.

  • Escapism and realism take a back seat during WWII which was dominated by propaganda


           The Great Depression of 1929 to 1945 struck Americans down to their knees. They had never before experienced a more widespread and destructive recession. Unemployment was at 20% and grew increasingly worse, this destroyed American morale as many had their homes and possessions stripped from them by failing banks. Despite immense economic hardship however, Americans continued to cultivate their own culture, drawing from their difficult circumstances. In response to the Great Depression Americans turned to either escapism, nostalgic for a time of prosperity, or realism, embracing the horrors of the era in its entirety.

           Most Americans turned to escapism during the Depression to forget and flee – even if only temporarily – from the harsh reality of their situation. Artists, such as writers and musicians, created the largest domain of escapism entertainment. Depression era comics often depicted heroic, empowering, action-filled plots about superheroes (Doc 5) and served to distract the public who often went out of their way to be able to afford such pleasures. These comics depicted a world of good vs. bad with a specific villain, where the “good guy” always triumphed over evil despite the hardships placed in front of them- a world that Americans needed desperately to believe in. A man who lived through the depression, Al Cunningham, describes his life as a child during the 1930’s when he scrounged and begged for the money to buy a movie ticket, sneaking in when he couldn’t come up with the money, in order to see cartoons such as “Looney Toons” and movies like “Snow White” for hours of distraction and entertainment (Doc 1). Al felt the full blow of the Depression as he, like almost all families at the time, struggled to find money to stay alive, let alone to spend on leisure. The fact that so many children were willing to break the law in order to escape their sorrow proved that the depression reached all walks of life.  This lack of leisure spending also resulted in many families staying in their own home for entertainment. In addition to movies, American families escaped the depression through immersing themselves in the radio. By 1930, 40% of the population had radios and by 1940, 60% of daytime programming consisted of soap operas (Doc 2). Increased demand and the number of listeners in the 1930’s led to the growth of fictional programming such as soap operas. Furthermore,  the radio entertained people by retelling popular novels of the time period such as War of the Worlds. Americans engrossed themselves in other people’s fictional lives as a way of experiencing eventful, dramatic lives compared to the dullness of their own. Lastly, the Depression saw a huge increase in the popularity of inexpensive puzzles and board games, including the birth of the game Monopoly in 1939 which allowed families who had nothing to pretend that they did (Doc 4). When a family could hardly manage to pay their own rent, they found comfort in being able to purchase and trade properties with cash, even if they were nothing more than squares on a board. Distraction and pretending were the essence of escapism.

While most Americans sought to flee from the Great Depression, many others decided to highlight America’s struggles through their works and attitudes. John Steinbeck portrayed the life of a common farmer by writing from that point of view in his novel Grapes of Wrath , placing a spotlight on their life of poverty (Doc 3). By using common vernacular, he emphasizes the ruggedness and hardship of the 1930’s to the early 1940’s and stressed their impoverished circumstances. He also portrays similar realism in his other novel Of Mice and Men when he writes from the point of two men who find a labor job on a ranch during the Great Depression. Another artist, singer Woody Guthrie, highlighted the adversity that American people faced during the Great Depression in his song called “This Land is Your Land” about the people’s circumstances during the Depression (Doc 6). As he saw Americans struggle to stay afloat both economically and psychologically, he questioned a previously accepted ideal that America was a place of prosperity, that it could be whatever one wanted it to be, and that “this land is for you and me”. Jack Conroy’s The Disinherited added to the growing ambiance of disillusionment and cynicism reinforcing realists that were disenchanted by the American culture of escapism created by the depression (Doc 7).

The Great Depression caused a rift in American culture. One side veered toward escapism where Americans did all they could to avoid the depression while the other side highlighted the depression, displaying it with as much truth as possible. Escapism was to the transcendentalists as realism was to realists, also known as the naturalists, of the 19th century. Transcendentalists focused on physically leaving behind conventions and society in a similar way that escapists chose to abandon reality mentally. On the other hand, realists of the 19th century wanted the truth and nothing but the truth displayed in their art, often portraying common laborers doing their jobs, a complete parallel to the realists of the 1930’s.

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