America

Protest Songs: A look at ‘Strange Fruit’ and ‘Brother, can you spare a dime?’

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(659 Words)

The 1920s and 30s in America was a time of racial discrimination for the black people while economically it was a time of the Great Depression. Times were not only hard but also scary with hatred and desperation flowing across the cities and plains of America. Like prisoners in shackles, the unfortunate ones at the bottom rung of life did not have a voice and ways of expressing how they felt inarticulate terms.  This is why protest songs grew in prominence as they had a purpose, sentiment, and specific issues while invoking the reader to be shocked and angry. This is notwithstanding that these songs were meant to inspire the reader to acknowledge and change the situation. For this essay I have chosen two protest songs that epitomize the era of discrimination and depression; ‘Strange Fruit’ and ‘Brother, can you spare a dime?’ I will highlight their literary merits and social criticism.

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The thought provoking “Anne of Green Gables”

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Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

(1244 Words)

This movie takes the viewer back to the start of the 20th century; to a time when people were prim and proper and life actually seemed a little dull as there was not much imagination to lift the spirit. People just dealt with life with appropriateness. That is the picture painted as we go into the world of Mathew and Marilla Cuthbert, as they await an orphan boy they are going to adopt. The movie which was made in 1934 from a book written in 1905 must have been a great eye-opening for the public at both times; making some people do a lot of soul-searching about their attitude towards people of lesser means. As such, the film shows people’s narrow-mindedness and perception of others that can lead them to behave in strange ways without a thought to their own actions.

To begin with, the viewer is faced with Mrs. Rachel Lynde, the busybody neighbour, who is proud of her blatant self-righteous views. She sticks her nose in where it is none of her business. While gardening she notices that Matthew is dressed in a suit and off to town. She immediately goes to Morilla’s house to enquire as to this change from the norm. Marrila tells her that she intends to have an orphan boy. Mrs. Lynde’s contempt for this idea is stark and she does not mince her words, as she describes these sorts of people as ghastly creatures who will only bring sorrow for the Cuthburts.

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“Brother, Can you Spare a Dime?”: The Depression Era

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(624 Words)

What became infamously known as the Depression Era saw the crippling of a great country from 1930 to 1936. It had followed the epoch of the Wall Street Crash which rocked the American economy to the ground and hit every working man. Near on fifteen million people were out of work, and even those fortunate ones who before had had money were left with nothing, not a ‘dime’. And, this was not England where welfare is given, these men had nothing. So, how do you capture this moment in history? E. Y. Harburg’s ‘Brother Can You Spare a Dime is one of the most famous songs of that era that encapsulates all that was happening in those desperate times as the protagonist protests his woes.

To begin, the opening lines of each verse tell us what this hard-working man has done for his country; ‘they used to tell me I was building a dream’, ‘once I built a railroad, I made it run’, ‘once I built a tower way up to the sun’. This guy has made an investment in his country, he has worked blood, sweat, and tears to make it better. He was one of the many that helped build the infrastructure; railroads, towers, to make America prosper and grow. Now, this average Joe’s dream of building an all-powerful country where he continues to work for its prosperity has been smashed to the extent that he has been reduced to begging in the street with only his past to think about.

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