The New Deal: The National Level

By John Braeman; Robert H. Bremner et al. | Go to book overview

Eric Solomon


Fiction and the New Deal

Half the people without jobs and half the factories closed by strikes. Half the people on public dole won't work and half that couldn't work even if they would. Too much cotton and corn and hogs, and not enough for people to eat and wear. -- William Faulkner , Delta Autumn

He did not think in any abstractions, but in deals, in sales, in transfers and in gifts. He thought in shares, in bales, in thousands of bushels, in options, holding companies, trusts, and subsidiary corporations. -- Ernest Hemingway, To Have and Have Not

Some people would consider themselves lucky to've missed the last decade. -- F. Scott Fitzgerand, The Lost Decade

FOR AMERICAN NOVELISTS, THE NEW DEAL, AS SUCH, WAS INtractable material. For journalists, and for novelists writing nonfiction about what they really saw in their travels across the country, the New Deal, its agencies and programs, and personalities and plans, could be clearly and effectively documented in their prose. Only a few novelists focused on positive aspects of the Roosevelt administration; most fiction written throughout the 1930s reflected anger at depression conditions and disinterest at the efforts of the federal government to discover remedies.

Some reasons for novelists' lack of interest in the achievements of the New Deal come immediately to mind. Literature generally takes a stance of opposition to authority, to institutions, usually to government, as Shelley insisted when he stated that all true poets must be revolutionaries.

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