Monday, September 8, 2014

Vertigo - Life during the Great Depression

            Through a series of images, Vertigo by Lynd Ward represents life during the Great Depression. The book is broken up into three sections The Girl, The Elderly Gentleman and The Boy. Each section represents a different struggle of life. The Girl represents the financial struggle against the American Dream, The Elderly Gentleman symbolizes the struggle between life and death, and The Boy represents the struggle of obtaining employment.
            In The Girl, the girl and the boy visit a fortune teller. The girl is playing a violin for a crowd of people and the boy is shown at a construction site. A few images later in 1930, the boy is show to be leaving in search of employment. In 1932, the girl’s father is shown to be laid off. As he walks home, he sees a billboard advertising for life insurance. The father is then shown pointing a gun at himself. Due to the financial struggle of the Great Depression, the father is most likely contemplating suicide so the life insurance money can be claimed by his daughter. Although the girl walks in on her father’s attempted suicide and stops him, she is not quick enough to completely prevent all injuries. Her father is shown to be taken to the hospital and later with bandages over his eyes. The father’s attempted suicide and blindness represents the impulsive and irrational decisions that people make when confronted with financial difficulties.
            In The Elderly Gentleman, the gentleman is shown to be malnourished and reliant on medications. The gentleman is show to be depressed throughout most of the section. He appears to be fighting to stay alive. However, unlike the girl and her family, the elderly gentleman is portrayed to have some wealth since he has a butler and also owns a company. There are graphs of profits and wage cuts throughout the section. When the profits are low and the wages are cut, the elderly gentleman is presented to be struggling heavily to stay alive, whereas when the profits are higher, he appears to be more alive. Since this is happening within the Great Depression, he never is shown to be living life to the fullest or with any signs of happiness or joy. The elderly gentleman’s struggle with life versus death represents the struggles people had to stay alive both physically and mentally. The gentleman’s life struggle is not directly financial, but the loss of strength due to aging. This aspect of the struggle can be compared to what the people lost during the Great Depression and their struggles to overcome the obstacles.
            In The Boy, the boy is unsuccessful in finding employment. Throughout the section, he is shown to be traveling looking for a job. He goes to several businesses including a placement agency, but does not have any luck. It appears that he tries some jobs, but fails to secure them and has to try again somewhere else. The boy shows how difficult it was to find stable employment during the Great Depression.

            Vertigo represents life of a girl, an elderly gentleman and a boy in during the Great Depression. The girl represents the financial struggles, the elderly gentleman portrays the struggle of life versus death, and the boy represents the struggle for employment. When the Great Depression hit in 1929, it affected people of all ages and wealth. From the girl and her father to the elderly business owner, everyone had struggles. Some people dealt with these struggles with impulsive and irrational decisions, whereas others dealt with them as life. Although this book focuses on the Great Depression, there are struggles in everyday life regardless of the time period. C’est la vie. It’s life.


  1. This essay provides a good summary of the sections and characters of Vertigo. You analyze a few themes that are carried throughout the novel, with referrals to specific images and plot points that exemplify these themes. The prompt said to focus on the pocket history of America in one of the earlier sections of the book, and you need to make a clear connection to this part of the book using the themes you described in your essay. The struggles of the characters that you outline can be looked at in the light of how America came to reach this point in history, or how the depression fits in with the positive aspects of American history that were shown in the pocket history.
    While you definitely connected themes to the plot of each character’s story, there were images and ideas you can expand on. You spend most of each body section describing the plot in pretty thorough detail, and usually only offer a few sentences that tie the plot in with your thesis in the introduction. The boy struggles to find a job and the girl struggles financially, but these ideas can be analyzed to show how they affect the character’s dreams and aspirations, and how these characters are representative of the wider idea of America during the depression, especially in the context of the pocket history in the early pages of the novel. Rather than looking at the overall plot of each section, maybe go into further detail about a few wood cuts that really summarize an important aspect of that character or theme.

  2. While your essay gives a good synopsis of the plot, it fails to focus on the prompt given. The prompt asks for a relationship between the pocket history of the US in the beginning of the novel and the rest of the events in the characters’ lives. The essay does not include any information about the history of the United States, nor does it include a connection. You provide the background of all of the characters as well as examples of the recurring motif of struggle, but the essay would be better by expanding that motif into a more unified theme. It is important to show what Ward is trying to display about the characters’ struggle during the Great Depression.

    It is also difficult to find a clear thesis in the essay. I think it would help if you had a specific thesis related to the prompt to work off of. The essay gives a broad sense of the novel, but I think it would be helpful to focus on some of the details involved in the plot. It seems like you stayed on the surface by describing the plot, rather than building on Ward’s complex use of images. I would encourage you to further develop your ideas in a structured manner, rather than describing the plot of the story and trying to fit that into your ideas. If you focused more on the details, it would be easier to develop more complex ideas that fit the prompt. Overall, you did a good job describing the plot of the novel, but to improve I think you should focus in more on specific ideas and use those to connect the pocket history of the United States to the work as a whole.

  3. Your summary of what the three sections means is ok - it's not a bad approach, but it seems dangerously big & general to me. Usually I like to see people begin with details and work, if possible, up to the big ideas.

    You fall in to those dangers in the subsequent three paragraphs. You aren't following the prompt at all - instead, you are giving a kind of impressionistic account of what the three sections mean to you, without delving into any relevant details. It's not that you're wrong - the problem is that when it's this easy to be right, and when you deviate that much from the prompt, you need to ask whether this is an argument worth making.

    Sure, the boy struggle to find employment. Anyone who skims the book knows that. Sure, the elderly gentleman is struggling to stay alive - again, that's obvious. You summarize it all nicely, but this is a summary, not an argument.