The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan - Essay Example

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In his award-winning account of the devastating environmental and cultural effects of the Dust Bowl that enveloped America’s Midwest in the 1930’s, Timothy Egan attributes the disaster to the collective cause of reckless man-made agricultural practices, even as he surveys the tragic individual stories of the people who suffered from it. …
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The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan
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"The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan"

Download file to see previous pages He argues that the combined effects of drought and a heat wave in the early 1930s, and man’s hubris and environmental ignorance and irresponsibility throughout the decade caused the Dust Bowl, and yet finds compassion for the small homestead farmer and the weak and powerless families who inhabited the region and lived through the disaster rather than picking up stakes and moving on. His story is a traumatic history of the relationship between man and nature. In this brief paper, the book’s discussion of this theme will be considered and analyzed through a summary of the tales Egan considers and the arguments he musters in support of his thesis.
Egan begins his account of the Dust Bowl by pointing out that the initial and actual cause of the Dust Bowl was over-farming by the many, mostly family, farmers who inhabited the region. Farmers overturned every available square acre of the vast great plain to plant wheat, without realizing and perhaps without caring that they were thereby removing the grassland covering that had historically held the soil in place and gave it nutrients needed for fertility. Therefore, when the drought and harsh weather hit in the early 1930s – weather that Egan calls “perhaps the most violent and extreme on earth” at the time (p. 2) – the soil was left cracked and devastated. Having spent so much of their effort turning over the land by plowing it under to plant crops, Egan argues that when the heat and wind and drought occurred, the people found that “the earth turned on them” (p. 2). Great plumes of dust kicked up in the rampaging winds that swept across the plains, suffocating people and livestock alike. This caused people, during the time of the Great Depression, when almost a quarter of the population were unemployed, to double down, plowing more land and planting more crops in order to try to survive the economic hard times. A downward spiral of sorts resulted, with the uncooperative weather leading to crop failure and more dust, and the people growing hungrier. Egan summarizes the horror of the resulting decade by describing how cows that had died by suffocation were found to have their insides coated with dust when they were cut open. Children died of a disease the doctors called “dust pneumonia” – that is when they were not given away by parents who could not afford to feed them. These and other effects of the impenetrable dust in the air during the massive storms were found devastating because they involved the threat of death in the most natural of actions, breathing. The Dust Bowl therefore changed the way people related to their environment, to their own health, and to their fellow man. Egan even argues that such a simple act as shaking hands was prohibited because of the unexpected effects of the dryness, which caused static electricity that could knock both men down. He claims that those who lived through it described the Dust Bowl as worse in its nightmarish effects than similar horrors such as the Flu Epidemic of 1918 and either World War I or II (pp. 5-6). His book is an account of the recollections of those people as both a type of people’s history and an environmental polemic. Amidst his discussion of the horrors of the Dust Bowl, Egan juxtaposes two basic needs, the need for compassion for those who are powerless in the wake of natural disaster, and the need for environmental practices that are more in line with earth’s capacity and power. In regard to the need for compassion for the powerless, Egan outlines the stories of many people who were either unwilling or unable to move away from the Dust Bowl but forced instead to live through it. One example of such a case is found by a judge in Texas ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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The topic of "The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan " is quite often seen among the tasks in high school. Still, this paper opens a new perspective of seeing the question. I’ll use the idea for my own example.
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