Essay on America’s Greatest Generation

Published: 2021/11/04
Number of words: 1425

Every generation tries to stake claim on being “America’s greatest generation”, but who holds the title when everything boils down to the bare bones? Do you think it is our generation? You may be able to name unnumerable achievements for this generation, but as far as Jeffrey DeRoven is concerned, this award goes to the Great Depression for having America’s greatest generation throughout the history books. He wrote this mindful essay, “The Greatest Generation: The Great Depression and the American South”, as a student while he was studying at Kent State University for a history course in 2001. Although DeRoven’s essay appears to be a report, it is being presented as an argument with the reasoning that Americans who survived The Great Depression of the 1930s should be considered America’s “greatest generation,” a claim that is effectively supported by DeRoven’s use of logos, pathos, and ethos despite the portrayal of poverty being “cured” by the government towards the end of his report.

As the reader journeys through this work, DeRoven brings to light the issues that the South faced during these trying times, financial insecurities, lack of a formal education, and food insecurities as well. The American South triumphed over all odds and came out victorious throughout the years and challenges that the Great Depression brought with it. The perseverance and resiliency of the South during these years of war and poverty has echoed throughout the generations to come as a reminder of how much our ancestors had to bear over their years of life.

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His use of repetition, comparisons, and saddening emotional appeals as he quotes Southerners who have been deprived of both educations and basic human necessities due to the poverty stricken years they faced are some of the rhetorical strategies that follow up to the facts that the South has endured and rose above every challenge that met them during the Great Depression. DeRoven stresses that the South’s endurance and their fortitude is the staple building block that has led them to success in a dying economy, leading to incredibly resilient generations to come. He explains economic difficulties that the South struggled through and takes his audience on a winding trip through the experiences of poverty-stricken Southerners who have lived through the days that the Great Depression brought them into. Leading the readers to believe DeRoven’s theory of the Great Depression generation being the highest esteemed generation for years to come, he concludes that surviving through those days is well enough to win them the title of the greatest generation of the history books.

DeRoven’s documentaries of the poverty of the South influencing the educational systems during the Great Depression also rings sound to his claims. One such example here is DeRoven’s nod to the economic impact on the educational systems in the South, which resulted in a deficit of children attending school due to the costs of higher education being more than the poverty-stricken families could afford as their children grew up. Overcrowding in the schools causing lowered educational standards was another notable reasoning that DeRoven makes in the argument of how the educational needs of children living in the South during the Great Depression were not able to be sufficiently met. He makes notes of humbling quotes from Southerners that lived through the days of the Great Depression such as Mrs. Abercrombie about her lack of education–recalling that “Me and Jon both went to school for a few months but that wa’n’t enough for us to learn anything (Abercrombie, p. 2).” He goes on to elaborate that many of the schools were both operating on shorter terms, lower capacities, and lower standards than the previous years (DeRoven, p. 2). As well as the educational deficits, DeRoven also notes that the Southern industries did not have the investment capital to turn their local resources into profitable commodities. The National Emergency Council report concluded, “Penalized for being rural, and handicapped in its efforts to industrialize, the economic life of the South has been squeezed to a point where the purchasing power of the southern people does not provide an adequate market for its own industries nor an attractive market for those of the rest of the country.”(Coclanis, pp. 76-78)

DeRoven makes his argument really hit home in the reader’s hearts by analyzing precisely how poverty stricken the South had become in the days of the Great Depression, quietly pushing that this should be the reason that readers should agree and feel that the generation that lived through the Great Depression days were the greatest generation in the history books. They were deficit in many ways, both in health and education, yet they persisted through every obstacle that was placed in front of them as stumbling blocks. Although Southerners have survived through both educational poverty and financial poverty, they spent many of their years struggling through the Great Depression with food insecurity and job insecurity as well. DeRoven highlights exactly how poorly they were living through these days with his arguments about the living conditions and the working wages also, noting that the WPA was paying their workers eight cents an hour for common labor and the workers being ecstatic when the wages were raised to thirty cents an hour. The author highlighted “The South did not enjoy the United States’ economic successes in the early part of the twentieth century and in many ways was a third world country within our own nation.” (Coclanis, pp. 76-78). While he is not wrong in this thinking, logically speaking–President Roosevelt did fail the South as well by not stepping in to lend a financial hand sooner. When the government finally did step in, pulling the South out of their third world country level of poverty, they took off and rose like a thriving wildfire.

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Breaking down DeRoven’s argument into bite sized pieces for the reader can be somewhat of an overwhelming challenge since he has crammed a lot of information and research into a smaller sized report. As the report draws to a close, the reader is left with a treasure chest full of information to mull over and decide for themselves whether he is accurate in his reasoning of the Great Depression being the greatest generation in our history books. With DeRoven’s portrayal of logical fallacies, both speaking on the level of unbelievable poverty that the South faced in the Great Depression and the lack of formal education during those years have rang true to the research he shas provided to the readers in this report. The truth can be denied and muddled, numbers can be bluffed or ignored in time–although they remain true, nonetheless. In the situation of DeRoven’s argument of the Great Depression being the greatest generation in the history books, he makes a very believable argument to the reader with research soundly backing his words up. Most readers will believe sound research and choose to side with DeRoven’s influences while reading this report as well due to the copious amount of time and research he has poured into it. It is a very believable claim that the Great Depression is the greatest generation, if not simply because they were the most resilient generation who was able to overcome the odds and survive throughout those years of poverty and times of war.

Now, as the report ends and the reader is mentally satiated with DeRoven’s words and research, the question of who holds the title of “America’s greatest generation” can finally be answered with confidence. Without a doubt, America’s greatest generation is the Great Depression generation, they survived through what could be considered hell on earth and rose above it as a nation. Even though DeRoven’s argumentized report seems to be cliché in the beginning, he flows into an informative and full-fledged voice for the generation of people who survived through the Great Depression while utilizing logos, pathos, and ethos in his writing. His logical fallacies will burrow into his readers’ minds like earwigs–leaving them with both a haunting perception of what their ancestors went through during the days of the Great Depression, as well as a resounding understanding of DeRoven’s reasoning in this report.

Works Cited

Abercrombie, M. (n.d.). Oral History Project. Trumbull: Kenneth J. Bindas.

Coclanis, C. a. (n.d.). Confronting Southern Poverty.

DeRoven, J. (n.d.). The Greatest Generation: The Great Depression and the American South. Trumbull.

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