Ward’s Vertigo is a very complex and intricately portrayed story done through 300 black and white images. The graphic novel takes place within the years of 1929 and 1935. These years were probably the darkest for the United States of America. From late 1929 and until 1939 the Great Depression was occurring. In Vertigo, the times and how they affected most of the American population is shown through the lives of three individuals, The Girl, The Elderly Gentleman and The Boy.
Early in Vertigo, in 1929, while following the life of The Girl, she attends a public speech which depicts a quick look into the history of the United States. The history shows a boat traveling the ocean, men cutting down trees, a revolution breaking out, the move out west, railroads being built, and finally the steel building being built. The final image is the speaker showing off the buildings and city as if that is all that America means. This trust and reliance on big business is what became the downfall once the stock market crashed. The crash in the market was shown in Vertigo during the end of 1929. The girl goes from being happy with a boy, (who turns out to be The Boy) to being thrown into shock and dismay from a big storm breaking through the fun.
With the history of America being highlighted and represented by the big city, Vertigo displays how that reliance backfired and affected all of America. When the market crashed everything became hectic for the nation. The Girls father got laid off and even so much as attempted suicide. The life of the girl is slowly drained through each frame. More darkness enveloped her face and body. The dream to become a violinist that she once had faded to the point that she went into a pawn shop with her violin. The elderly gentleman, while always a lonely man went from going to plays, museums and being mobile became bed ridden and very ill, his once profitable company plummeted into the red. The Boy went from happily married to The Girl to hopelessly searching for jobs all over the country. Even going so far as stealing the clothes off a man who died in a car accident in front of him. Overall the three stories all showed how the American dream can so quickly fade into hopeless despair if the economy cannot hold up those dreams.
While each life portrayed in Vertigo was a separate section, they were all connected in their own ways. The Girl and The Boy had a brief but powerful relationship and The Elderly Gentlemen was responsible for letting go The Girls father and The Boy did a blood transfusion with the Elderly Gentleman. The interconnection is supposed to show how all of America got hurt by the depression, equally and unequally. The family life in America according to Ward suffers and this is shown by the father blinding himself and the girl and boy going from blissfully together and getting married to not seeing one another for years. Big company was withering away as shown by the Elderly Gentleman slowly becoming more and more evil, taking away jobs, beating union members, even killing protesters all from his chair at home with the five dollar phone bought at a pawn shop. Then the hopeless and dog eat dog world of trying to find a job at the times was just shown by how The Boy traveled across the country looking for anything possible.
What is interesting about these relationships is the outcome of all three situations. The Elderly Gentleman becomes more ruthless trying to bring profits up and it brings him near death, until an emergency transfusion with the boy. The transfusion seems to represent the rich feeding off of the common people to stay rich. Post transfusion, The Boy is obviously weakened while the Elderly Gentleman is back to life and his company is back up in profits. All while still being lonely and stoic. However, the boy gets goes from thinking of murdering a man to saving a life, having money and getting back with the Girl.
The ending of Vertigo seems like Lynd Ward had a glimmer of hope for the coming years post-depression. He seemed to know that despite the sudden decline in profits the big companies would recover, no matter what they had to do, and also believed that no matter how bleak life may be and how much one had to struggle, eventually if you keep hope and have love, you might just make it through. Ward composed the novel in 1937, therefore he was still in the late stages of the depression, yet still had hope for the future. With the history of America being built from nothing to being run by big business, life would be bleak once economy crashes, as shown by the most part of the novel. However, with America being built on nothing, going back down to "nothing" while a detriment to society, gives hope to some because coming back up from nothing has been done before and will be done then.