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The short story ‘Marigolds’ by Eugenia Collier, explores the impact of poverty from the Great Depression not only in the lives of the adult, but also in the children. The confusion of hopelessness and fear of there future is explored throughout the story. During the Great Depression much artwork and literature reflected these concerns of the working class. One piece that stands out is ‘Cotton Pickers,’ by Thomas Hart Benton. The oil painting depicts a similar setting to that of the short story with its depiction of a poverty stricken area, and the feelings both works emit.
When the narrator, Lizabeth, recalls her childhood she remembers her lack of understanding the poverty that surrounded her. The narrator describes her town’s living and financial situation as being, ‘just as hungry and ill-clad as we were’ (Collier). This shows the wide extent in which their poverty stretched and their lack of communication with people from another place. Benton’s painting also touches on the poverty of African-Americans during the time of the Great Depression. The artist shows a young child sleeping under a makeshift tent as, most likely, his mother works throughout the day. The artist does this to show how, during this time, families had to work long and hard hours to give for their children. The vast area of farmland Benton depicts, reflects the idea that Lizabeth conveys when she says that poverty was all she knew. The similar settings of improvershipment in both works allow for a better understanding of th lives of the African-Americans during th Great Depression.
The short story also touches on the struggles Lizabeth’s family endured to keep up income and give for their family. Her mother ‘works well into the evening’ (Collier), and her father struggles to find a job. Although the artwork depicts people with a job, Benton does well in showing the excruciating conditions they work in. This painting gives insight into what Lizabeth’s mother could have had to deal with on a daily basis to give for her family. The huge plantations they had to pick from in the heat with only the help of a few horses to carry large loads of cotton back to the owner, were everyday struggles these African-American workers had to deal with. Both pieces show the struggles workers had to go through to stay alive during the Great Depression. The author of ‘Marigolds’ and the artist of the ‘Cotton Pickers’ both show the realities if African-Americans during the Great Depression. While Collier concentrated on the inner struggle of Lizabeth, Benton shows the outer struggles of the workers. Despite this contrast, both depict the strength the poor working class maintained in the mentally tiring state of the Great Depression.
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