What is one famous book that portrays the great depression?

In this article, we try to understand the history, causes, and mental health effects of the great depression. With this, we also look at the most famous book that portrays the great depression. 

One famous book that portrays the great depression. 

When we talk about famous books that portray the great depression, the first book that comes to our mind is  The Grapes of Wrath, a widely known novel by John Steinbeck, published in 1939. The Pulitzer prize-winning novel calls upon the harshness of the Great Depression and arouses sympathy for the struggles of migrant farmworkers. The book came to be known as an American classic.

The novel records the dust bowl migration of the 1930s. John Steinbeck tells the story of an Oklahoma farm family, the Joads who are driven from their homeland, forced to travel west to the promised land of California. With their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of an America divided into Haves and Have-Nots evolves a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, radical yet plainspoken, tragic but ultimately stirring in its human dignity. A portrait of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, of one man’s fierce reaction to injustice, and of one woman’s stoical strength, the novel captures the horrors of the Great Depression and probes into the very nature of equality and justice in America.  

The Joads face immense troubles through their journey and during their stay in California.  They face any obstacles on their way, where GRAndma and grandpa JOads die. On reaching California, they are shown the reality of lack of jobs and poor payment. The Joad family sees various downs in their life here. From the Rose of Sharon’s husband abandoning her to Tom having to kill someone. Living their lives in a camp they face various hardships until they leave California and end up at a barn. 

The book portrays the aftermath of the great depression with a dramatic fictional story that leaves our heart weeping. 

List of other famous books that can be read to understand the great depression. 

Apart from The Grapes of Wrath, here is a list of other books that portray the great depression. 

  • Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee and Walker Evans. 
  • America’s Great Depression by Murray Rothbard.
  • The Forgotten Man  by Amity Shlaes
  • Monetary History of the United States by Anna Schwartz and Milton Friedman
  • Miss Lonelyhearts (1933) and The Day of the Locust (1939), Nathaniel West
  • Come Back to Sorrento (1932), Dawn Powell
  • They Shoot Horses, Don’t They (1935), Horace McCoy
  • Call It Sleep (1934), Henry Roth:

What is the great depression? 

The Great Depression was the greatest and longest economic recession in modern world history. It began with the U.S. stock market derailment of 1929 and went on until 1946 after World War II. Economists and historians cite the Great Depression as the most catastrophic economic event of the 20th century.It was marked by steep declines in industrial production and in prices (deflation), mass unemployment, banking panics, and sharp increases in rates of poverty and homelessness.

Causes of the Great depression 

In the United States, the Great Depression crippled the presidency of Herbert Hoover and led to the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932. Promising the nation a New Deal, Roosevelt would become the nation’s longest-serving president. The economic downturn wasn’t just confined to the United States; it affected much of the developed world. One cause of the depression in Europe was that the Nazis came to power in Germany, sowing the seeds of World War II.

Stock Market derailment of 1929

Remembered today as “Black Tuesday,” the stock market derailment of October 29, 1929, was neither the sole cause of the Great Depression nor the first derailment that month, but it’s typically remembered as the most obvious marker of the Depression beginning. The market, which had reached record highs that very summer, had begun to decline in September.

On Thursday, October 24, the market plunged at the opening bell, causing a panic. Though investors managed to halt the slide, just five days later on “Black Tuesday” the market fell, losing 12% of its value and wiping out $14 billion of investments. By two months later, stockholders had lost more than $40 billion dollars. Even though the stock market regained some of its losses by the end of 1930, the economy was devastated. America truly entered what is called the Great Depression.

Bank Failures

The effects of the stock market derailment rippled throughout the economy. Nearly 700 banks failed in the waning months of 1929 and more than 3,000 collapsed in 1930. Federal deposit insurance was as-yet unheard of, so when the banks failed, people lost all their money. Some people panicked, causing bank runs as people desperately withdrew their money, which in turn forced more banks to close. By the end of the decade, more than 9,000 banks had failed. Surviving institutions, unsure of the economic situation, and concerned for their own survival, became unwilling to lend money. This exacerbated the situation, leading to less and less spending.

Reduction in Purchasing Across the Board

With people’s investments worthless, their savings diminished or depleted, and credit tight to nonexistent, spending by consumers and companies alike ground to a standstill. As a result, workers were laid off en masse. In a chain reaction, as people lost their jobs, they were unable to keep up with paying for items they had bought through installment plans; repossessions and evictions were commonplace. More and more unsold inventory began to accumulate. The unemployment rate rose above 25%, which meant even less spending to help alleviate the economic situation.

American Economic Policy With Europe

As the Great Depression tightened its grip on the nation, the government was forced to act. Vowing to protect U.S. industry from overseas competitors, Congress passed the Tariff Act of 1930, better known as the Smoot-Hawley Tariff. The measure imposed near-record tax rates on a wide range of imported goods. A number of American trading partners retaliated by imposing tariffs on U.S.-made goods. As a result, world trade fell by two-thirds between 1929 and 1934. By then, Franklin Roosevelt and a Democrat-controlled Congress passed new legislation allowing the president to negotiate significantly lower tariff rates with other nations.

Drought Conditions

The economic devastation of the Great Depression was made worse by environmental destruction. A year-long drought coupled with farming practices that did not use soil-preservation techniques created a vast region from southeast Colorado to the Texas panhandle that came to be called the Dust Bowl. Massive dust storms choked towns, killing crops and livestock, sickening people, and causing untold millions in damage. Thousands fled the region as the economy collapsed, something John Steinbeck chronicled in his masterpiece “The Grapes of Wrath.” It would be years, if not decades, before the region’s environment recovered.

Mental health impact of the great depression.

The great depression of 1929, followed with a huge impact on the people. It left humankind with poverty, unemployment, and loss of a dream, hunger, etc. 

The hardships of the Great Depression had a tremendous social and psychological impact. Some people were so demoralized by hard times that they lost their will to survive. Between 1928 and 1932, the suicide rate rose more than 30 percent. Three times as many people were admitted to state mental hospitals as in normal times. The economic problems forced many Americans to accept compromises and make sacrifices that affected them for the rest of their lives.

 Adults stopped going to the doctor or dentist because they couldn’t afford it. Young people gave up their dreams of going to college. Others put off getting married, raising large families, or having children at all. For many people, the stigma of poverty and of having to scrimp and save never disappeared completely. For some, achieving financial security became the primary focus in life.

 As one woman recalled, “Ever since I was twelve years old there was one major goal in my life . . . one thing . . . and that was to never be poor again.” During the Great Depression, many people showed great kindness to strangers who were down on their luck. People often gave food, clothing, and a place to stay to the needy. Families helped other families and shared resources and strengthened the bonds within their communities. 

In addition, many people developed habits of saving and thriftiness—habits they would need to see themselves through the dark days ahead as the nation, and President Hoover struggled with the Great Depression. These habits shaped a whole generation of Americans. 

The impact of the great depression is seen to date, both economically as well as socially. The economy of the world is still trying to heal from the losses of 1929. Unemployment, poverty, starvation have all stuck with the world. Not to say that these evils did not exist before the depression, but they worsened after the 1929 blow of the great depression. This exaggeration of the social impact on the world has led to plenty of psychological effects on humankind. 


In this article, we have tried to understand the history, causes, and mental health effects of the great depression. With this, we also looked at the most famous book that portrays the great depression.

FAQs: What is one famous book that portrays the great depression?

How did the Great Depression affect modernism?

In the cusp of modernity in the early 20th century, the world was undergoing major changes, especially in America. From technological innovation such as the invention of the airplane to the suffrage movements that led to the women being given the right to vote, America was the epicenter of development and lead the way for advancements of all sorts. With the great depression of 1929, all these changes were held to a standstill. The ‘American dream’ was broken because of the recession in the economy. 

Why USSR was not affected by the Great Depression?

The USSR was the only communist state at the time therefore it had minimal trade contact with the rest of the world. Because of this, the Soviet economy did not take a hit like that of the capitalist countries whose economies were closely interlinked. The Soviet economy arguably actually benefited from the Great Depression.

How did we get out of the Great Depression? 

At the point when the United States entered the war in 1941, it finally wiped out the last impacts from the Great Depression and brought the U.S. unemployment rate down beneath 10%. In the US, great war spending multiplied financial development rates, either veiling the impacts of the Depression or basically finishing the Depression.

What was literature like in the 1930s?

Literary work of the 1930s focused on the rejection of the notion of progress and a desire to return to an earlier age of purity and simplicity. Steinbeck often wrote about poor, working-class people and their struggle to lead a decent and honest life. Among the themes and issues explored in the literature of the 1930s, the role of African Americans within the larger American society, African-American culture, racism, subjugation, and social equality were prominent.