Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Man in rocking chair and woman washing clothes in a tub

Russell Lee,
 “Man in rocking chair and woman washing clothes in a tub” 1936
During the Great Depression of the 1930’s there was a rise in unemployment as many workers were laid off as businesses failed, due this many people had poor living conditions. I believe this image to be particularly powerful as it highlights the poor living conditions but also how patriarchy and gender roles were still upheld even though the economic crisis America had to face.

The photograph I have chosen has two focal points; the man leaning back on the chair and the woman washing clothes who presumably are husband and wife. I believe this image perfectly depicts how even through the difficult financial instability the American citizens faced, it highlights how the social norms/gender roles were still upheld e.g. woman being housewives.

Compared to the other photographs, the image of these two individuals are very contrasting. From the photograph it is evident that the woman seems to be tired and frailer than the man. This could be due to the lack of food but also by the fact that her husband no longer has a job, whereas she still does domestic work, making it clear that he does not contribute it any way to maintaining the household. Also in the image the woman is bare foot, indicating that she does not have a pair of shoes, unlike her husband who seems to be wearing worker shoes. Although he may not have a job, the man still wears his working shoes, indicating that he may go out at times in an attempt to find himself work. This being said, the man is leaning back on a chair looking off in the distance, whilst the woman is stood hunched over a washing tub. The image highlights the lack of interest the man has in his wife’s domestic duties but also how through the crisis, men although made redundant would not help with household chores. Demonstrating how patriarchy was still dominant, as woman would stay at home doing these domestic job, whilst their husbands either sat doing nothing or went looking for a job. This being said, although the woman is working hard to maintain cleanliness, it is evident from the image that the living conditions were not great. Also not only this, the couple’s clothes are also filthy and tattered, demonstrating their lack of money.

In terms of the American Dream, it is evident that these people have not achieved it. However this being said, the man and woman both seem to be coping with the Great Depression, they still have their home and the essentials which will help them. This simple idea can be linked back to the idea of the American Dream of owning land, rather than the money driven idealistic achievement it is today. 

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