In the beginning of Vertigo, there is a brief history of the United States that shows a vast amount of progress and positive changes occurring. The meaning of this brief history of America presented in ‘1929’ is to show how far the country had come and how much was accomplished in the time before everything changed during the depression. There are sharp differences between the ‘1929’ chapter and the chapters that follow, but at the end of the ‘1929’ chapter there is warnings of unfortunate events to come. When the chapter is coming to an end there is a rainstorm that ruins the carnival for many people. This foreshadowing tells a little about the pain and suffering that is in the chapters ahead for the three main characters, the boy, the girl, and the gentleman.
Throughout the chapter with the brief history there are many images of men working, building great skyscrapers, constructing railroads, and exploring new areas. The many pictures of the great work showed strong, very fit men doing the work; whereas, many of the men in the later chapters were shown to be small, thin figures. The differences between the men used, showed a strong correlation between the health of the country and the health of the workingman.
The man telling the brief history at the graduation ceremony spoke of all the good that can come when you work hard and dedicate yourself to a higher purpose. Like the transformation of the workingman doing masonry at first and then the skyscrapers being erected by the end of the history, with a similar looking workingman. This was intended to inspire the young audience to go out into the world and work hard so one day they could be part of a better country than the one they are walking into. The inspiration is quickly turned into desperation, which is highlighted when the boy steals from the man who wrecked his car over a cliff. This shows a drastic change in the once innocent boy that has been turned into a desperate man by the hard and unforgiving world he found shortly after his graduation. His desperation leads him planning to mug a man in an alley, and eventually selling his blood to the old gentleman when he has no other options.
At a further look, the man telling the history also talks about fighting that took place, and immediately after the war picture there is a page with men traveling out west, and exploring new lands. This shows that even if there is war and fighting there can be a positive outcome. Later in the book there is also more fighting and war with the workers and the National Guard with an outcome that is not as prosperous as in the brief history. When the old gentleman ordered the National Guard in, there is intense fighting between them and the rioters, except these pictures of the fighting are more graphic and are shown to be more harmful than the ones shown in the history.
Furthermore, the old man’s health is suffering greatly after the riots because of the business problems he may be having or the remorse he has for calling in the National Guard. Regardless of the reason, this is a far different picture after the prosperity shown after the fighting in the brief history. Since the author is an advocate of unions, I think he showed this to say there is sometimes a good reason to use force and other times it is not beneficial to anyone involved. He also wanted to portray the old gentleman as a person who does not care much about people and only about his business earning money, regardless of what he has to do.
In conclusion, the brief history is a summary of the ups and downs that a society will face throughout time. There sometimes needs be periods of war, despair, and instability before true progress can be made. In the end the author never reaches the part of progress for the boy, girl, and the old gentleman, possibly because he did not want to give his audience false hope. He may not have known what would be next for the country and he was simply telling the story as he saw it. There was little hope for the characters, as there may have been little hope in the country during that time.