To many, the phrase “hard times in America” brings to mind stark images of the 1930s: Ecological and economic disaster, powerful storms following close upon one another, high crime, starvation, despair, societal depression in every imaginable degree and mode. We may thank Mr. Steinbeck for this mental association: His painting of the “dust bowl days” in The Grapes of Wrath has imbued three generations with a notion of what it’s like when a nation is visited by the Angel of Death.
Most Americans in those days had an idea that a sentence of doom could be carried out from above, below, or somewhere. While the 1920s had been exceedingly prosperous and “liberating” to most classes of people, there was still an honest fear of God left in this country: Like a thief in the night, the Angel of Death snuck up on folks, and even a proud craftsman like Garv Atwood could be left holding the bag.
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