Check Your Understanding

The excerpt Endangered Dreams: The Great Depression in California comes from a book of the same title. Which specific details in the excerpt and the photograph Migrant Mother depict a key idea of dreams in danger? What inference can you make about the American Dream during this period in U.S. history? Highlight evidence from both the printed text and the photograph to support your inferences, and write annotations to explain your choices.

Acceptable answers include but are not limited to “the hungry and desperate mother,” and “She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food,” both in paragraph 2; and “stranded in a roadside canvas lean-to,” in paragraph 3. These details illustrate how poverty can endanger and destroy a family’s dream of a good life. In addition, the fact that the book and the photograph focus on a desperate “migrant mother” in Depression-era California suggests a faded American Dream that is devoid of hopes and dreams amid poverty, pain, and suffering.

Review each paragraph’s central or main idea and supporting details. Ask yourself what these ideas and details explain, describe, and have in common. Notice how, together, they begin to develop and shape one overall central idea. Based on your analysis, write a sentence that states the overall central idea of the excerpt.

Statements of the overall central idea must be expressed in the student’s own words. Since the central idea in each paragraph focuses on Lange’s famous photograph, an acceptable statement of the excerpt’s overall central idea might be as follows: “Although some critics consider Lange’s masterpiece Migrant Mother to be an example of the photographer’s detachment, others argue that her words and actions, which prompted the government’s delivery of food to the pea pickers, demonstrate a powerful emotional connection to her subject.

How would you summarize the selection? What central idea and supporting details would you include? Write a 5-sentence objective summary of the text. Include only the most important details. Use your own words, but do not include your own judgments or opinions.

The summary, which includes the overall central idea, must be in the student’s own words, although it must be objective. An acceptable summary might be the following: ” Endangered Dreams points out that Lange’s masterpiece Migrant Mother is considered by some critics to be an example of the photographer’s detachment, while others consider it to be an illustration of her emotional response to her subject. On the one hand, Lange didn’t ask the migrant mother’s name. This is considered by some critics to be evidence of her “photographic detachment.” Also, Lange had a history of photographing subjects from a detached perspective. On the other hand, Lange’s vivid memories of the migrant family and her efforts to alert a newspaper to the plight of thousands of migrant workers demonstrate a compassionate response on her part.”

After closely examining the photograph Migrant Mother, write a list of at least five details that you notice. Next to each detail, write a check mark if the detail is also mentioned in the printed text. Then use your findings to state and support a claim as to which medium, in your opinion, provides more information about the circumstances under which this family and many migrant workers were living in California during the Great Depression. Be sure to use evidence from both the photograph and the printed text to support your claim.

Checked statements would include but not be limited to the details that the “migrant mother” has children, is worried, is poor, is probably hungry, and lives in a lean-to tent. Students’ claims will vary concerning the medium they feel provides more information about the circumstances under which this family and many migrant workers were living in California during the Great Depression, but should include evidence from both the printed text and the photograph.

What is the author’s point of view, or perspective, on Lange’s compassion for others? Cite two or more details that show his perspective. Highlight and annotate evidence that supports your answer.

The author’s point of view seems to be that although Lange’s failure to learn Florence Thompson’s name shows some lack of compassion or empathy, critics have overstated this lapse because Lange more than made up for it by going to the press with the story of the starving pea pickers. In paragraph 3, the text states explicitly that “[s]uch a criticism ignores the fact that as soon as Lange returned to San Francisco . . . she rushed with . . . [the negatives] to George West at the San Francisco News, telling him that thousands of pea pickers in Nipomo were starving because of the frozen harvest. West got the story out in both the News, using two of Lange’s photographs . . . and over the wires of the United Press. The federal government, meanwhile, rushed in twenty thousand pounds of food to feed the starving pea pickers.”