Although the intense collective desire for the experience of authenticity impacted almost all aspects of Thirties culture, this did not mean that just anything had the power to convey the real.

Certain media and methods had more persuasive capacity during this period, and specific ideas seemed more closely wed to authentic experience, such as the local, the small, and the particular. Anecdotal accounts and small-town sketches abounded of the peculiar dialects and mores of "local" Americans. These characters played important roles in the discourse of the real.

What is intriguing is that during the period there also were other heroes whose claim to authenticity seems to have been premised on entirely opposite grounds. "The common laborer" was the most respected of this alternate sort of character, a man who was "a damn sight realer," (Stott quoting William Saroyen 56) who made up the so-called backbone of American society.

How could these two different archetypes, the Common and the Peculiar, both have captured the 1930s imagination, both have been invested with ultimate authenticity? In part, this may reflect something basic about how the democratic or pluralist impulse functioned during the time.











Juliet Gorman, May 2001






Links within this discussion:

Were you intrigued by the pluralist impulse during the period...?

Ideas about the nature and role of history are another important part of the framework of belief during the 1930s...

Links outside of this discussion:

Want to find out which media were particularly persuasive?

What about these anecdotal accounts and small-town sketches?