When looking at Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother photograph I couldn’t help but feel despair for this poor woman and her children.
This image, while taken during one of the most turbulent times in our nation’s history, does not reflect the “American Dream” that I picture in my head. For many, the foundation of their vision of the American dream for lies in having shelter, family and money. But when looking at Migrant Mother and reading Carter Revard’s autobiography Winning the Dust Bowl, it made me wonder about Revard’s reference of the Dust Bowl being a game. How is it that those that truly needed help, like Florence Owens Thompson (Migrant Mother) weren’t getting it? Was getting some kind of government assistance a stroke of luck?
From here, my mind threw together all of these different images of being a poor farmer, doing a grueling trade every day all day even though no significant money was really being brought in; a mother with hungry mouths to feed; a widow; and other people in other parts of the country having resources but not giving them away.
And then it clicked.
Florence Owens Thompson and her situation is very similar to that of Katniss Everdeen’s family in the Hunger Games. Mrs. Everdeen, like Florence Owens Thompson, was a widow who had children to fend for, though she could barely provide for herself. Her family lived in District 12 and was known for coal mining and migrant mother was a pea picker like many others in her area. Both worked tirelessly but couldn’t leave. This is not the ideal image of the American Dream.
Meanwhile, there were people in the Capital (in both places) that were well off; eating food served by those that had nothing. These people in the Capital were living the American Dream, while others who were much worse off got no aid. Is this how we understand America to be? Those who have resources choosing to maintain their unrestrained lifestyle rather than give to those who are desperately in need in, such as the coal miners of District 12, the pea pickers and orange grove farmers in California?
Part of the problem of poverty, as addressed through Dorothea Lange’s photo, in Revard’s poems, and in the Hunger Games is that those with resources are not willing to give them up in order to better support someone else. This is not how I want American to be pictured through any medium. Getting assistance shouldn’t be a stroke of luck, or “if they odds are in your favor,” it should be because someone is in dire need and because people care. The American dream is something that Americans should help their fellow Americans try to achieve rather than just leaving people out in the dust.