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Analysis of the Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan

Timothy Egan is the author of the book “The Worst Hard Time,” published in 2012. Egan was born in Seattle, Washington, on November 8th, 1954, and is an American novelist. As a freelance writer for the “New York Times,” Egan received a Pulitzer Prize for National Coverage for a series of articles. Egan has penned seven novels in his career, and he has received several awards for his writing skills, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

When the Great American Dust Bowl struck in 1932, the economy was at its worst. “The Worst Hard Time,” tells the story of individuals who persevered. ‘The hardest hard period’ is a book on American history when the Great Depression struck Wall Street. The book chronicles the experiences of those who made it through the Great Depression and the ensuing Dust Bowl. The book concentrates on the lives of the individuals, describing the difficulties they faced and the hardships they had to suffer to survive what economists have referred to as the most difficult time in human history. Natural and societal consequences of the Dust Bowl may be seen in this depiction of environmental devastation. As a warning to the present generation, it serves as a stark reminder of the environmental ramifications of increased pollution and environmental deterioration.

Egan’s book depicts the Dust Bowl of the 1930s in all of its gloom and gore. When it comes to a devastating natural disaster, this author explains how humans contributed to it and how they responded. Dust storms that ravaged the high plains of the United States during the Great Depression were unlike any natural calamity ever witnessed before. Throughout America, cities and towns were devastated by the environmental calamity depicted in The Worst Hard Time. On the closing days of the Greatest Generation, Egan focuses on the individuals who experienced the nation’s greatest economic slump and the nation’s worst weather calamity, which is one of the great unsung tales of the Greatest Generation. Many individuals are going through much hardship during this period, yet there is a reoccurring theme of optimism and rebuilding when it all comes down to it.

This argument is supported by several passages in the book, including chapters 1, 5, 2, 11, 13, and 21, which exemplify how individuals persevered during a hard time. A few examples: In chapter 21, he writes, “No broken ground, no blazing heat, no searing wind, no insects are a lasting match for the intrepid American farmers, who have sustained us through dark days, and encourage us with their self-reliance, perseverance, and fortitude,” ( [Egan, pp 5). This comment bolsters the book’s message of perseverance, which appears to be one of its secondary themes since the American farmer’s cattlemen and their households persevered no matter what was happening around them on the field.

The novel’s first chapter mentions the Apache, Comanche Tribe, Germans, and Jewish people, all of whom had their lives turned upside down by the Dust Bowl and fought back out of a sense of optimism. For example, I read a piece that explained how the Dust Bowl affected the Apache Indians. The United States’ actions have proven devastating to land and indigenous people from the early days of the country’s colonial expansion” (Heston, 2014). More than just Americans were forced to rebuild since land was what everyone was living on, which illustrates that the dust bowl was not something the government could manage.

This lonely territory, known as “no man’s land,” became a city for individuals impacted by the Great Dust Bowl in the book’s second chapter. Having faith and hoping for the best was the only way to survive in the country of the living dead. Boise City is compared to Dalhart to provide a more accurate comparison. There is a sense of optimism in this chapter, as though Boise City may turn out to be something nice. Dreams may take flight with the final snort of a dying horse in Dalhart, but the next cluster of people up the road lived in a community where the exact reverse occurred. The author of an essay about the so-called “no man’s land” writes, “If you would want to have your heart crushed, simply come out here,” about the topic of hope (Worster, 2004). This phrase demonstrates that no one was optimistic about this region at one time, yet it all changed because of hope.

As the author of an article dealing with families during this period points out, “working-class women invented numerous inventive techniques to cope with unemployment, poverty, and uncertainty during the Great Depression,” the author’s message of optimism is reinforced (Helmbold, 1987). Chapter 21 talks about how families have banded together to face these difficult times. The recurrent topic of hope is introduced at the beginning of the story in chapter one of the most difficult period in the novel. This chapter will learn about how the world’s largest grasslands came to be, despite being created amid calamity. The author’s intention in this chapter is to leverage the themes of restoration and optimism. For instance, the author writes, “The traveler was going to settle there and see what the earth would deliver him in what had been the world’s biggest meadows” (Egan, pp 5). The Roaring Twenties saw a great number of individuals venturing out into unknown areas to find a more prosperous existence. Many individuals relocated to the southern plains and made that new land their home. These people were mentioned in a book about the American dust bowl, which dealt with dust bowl. “The plains people, on the other hand, were a tough-minded, leather-skinned race who were not easily disheartened, then as today,” says the author (Worster, 2004).

To better understand how people would think in locations that are now unsafe and ecologically devasted, Egan examines the thoughts of individuals who suffered rather than move. Climate change has been linked to increased African migration to Europe at record rates, which might have severe repercussions for both countries. While many factors influenced the choices made by the Americans in Egan’s novel about whether to stay or leave their homeland, some of the most important included the following: what are the economic and social prospects elsewhere? Will I be isolated in other countries? What are my familial connections to where I am now? And does migrating equate to giving up any hope for the future that I once had? Many people who opted to endure the Dust Bowl did so, knowing well that they were committing themselves to a life of suffering and certain death in the worst cases. This teaches us a valuable lesson about the human consequences of future environmental disasters.

“First Wave” starts with the collapse of The First National Bank of Dalhart. The bank’s residents and clients are waiting outside the bank for it to open. As a result of the substantial financial harm that has resulted from the bank’s liquidation, its clients are devastated. Except for the 126 homes, no other places were doing well. The prostitutes who worked at Dalhart’s brothel could not make ends meet. Despite the harsh economic conditions, the area acquired new furniture and other home items that others considered a luxury because of the country’s current economic upheaval. After all, Mrs. Walker still had money left over to drive a pink Cadillac to the meeting place. Bank closures were a persistent drag on the economy throughout that year. The reduction in stock prices of industrial businesses’ shares was a clear indication of the consequences of the slump. For example, the president of Union Cigar committed himself after seeing his company’s stock price plummet from $103 to $4 in a single day. More than a million Americans lost their employment since Dalhart’s demise a year earlier (Darby, 1976). Egan discusses the determination of the majority of people to cultivate their property and farm it themselves. Farmers are losing much money despite a bumper crop because of the low market pricing. The price of a bushel of wheat dropped to historic lows due to a plentiful harvest, and most people couldn’t afford to purchase it.

At the same time, Egan delves into the issue of racism that was prevalent throughout the Dust Bowl era. The governor of Oklahoma, William Henry David Murray, elected in 1930, is a subject of particular fascination for him. Alfalfa Bill earned a legal degree and passed the bar to live up to his moniker. His position as statehood convention president followed. To achieve Oklahoma’s full potential as a great state, he advocated separating whites and African-Americans in Oklahoma, as he did as president. “I admire the elderly darkie who comes to me talking gently in that modest attitude which would define their deeds and relations with the white man,” he said at a constitutional symposium. With the help of the National Guard, Murray enforced his laws and took action as necessary. As a case in point, the closing of three thousand oil wells boosted oil prices after hitting an all-time low. When Murray was in office, he declared martial rule 34 times.

Rabbits also made an appearance. Most people saw them as food sources, although ones that were a hazard to human health since they dined on the crops that humans depended on. A first-ever rabbit drive was set up one day to combat their plague. Thousands of people were killed. Consequently, they organized weekly meat drives, but the practicalities of utilizing the meat for meals were problematic since they couldn’t keep it fresh enough. Even after the massive snowstorm had passed, the wind continued to howl in Dalhart. The dust storms that occurred in March were not as powerful as the snowstorm in January. The animals were sickened and irritated as a result of their presence. As a result, the dust storms in March were shorter and less severe. The winds and dust storms were more frequent and intense in April. The youngsters at Hazel Lucas’s school were terrified by one of the most significant dust storms in April. The storm damaged the windows in the classrooms, scattering shards of glass everywhere. A few of the students caught up in the blizzard were so overcome with emotion that they couldn’t stop sobbing.

The story of Bam White begins in ‘New Leader, New Deal,’ the ninth chapter of the book. A cowboy on the open plains, he was a lone wolf. He spent the year traveling the vast plains of the United States. Since the citizens of Oklahoma had to put up with such deplorable living circumstances, his journey across the state was miserable. Nothing could be planted on the property since it had become overgrown and unable to yield anything. There was no grass for the cattle to graze on, and the inhabitants were forced to dwell in makeshift shacks made of orange crates.

There were abrupt changes of power in the political system. For example, the Democrats won control of the Senate in 1930 after defeating the Republicans in the midterm elections. They had gained Seventeen seats in the Senate. Due to widespread pressure, Congress also decided to raise taxes on the rich. Amidst the morbidity of this period, the author conveys the message that there is still life and that farmers should wait for it to come to their land. For the duration of this chapter, Egan has us clinging to the faint hope that things would improve in the place we call home. For example, “On a normal day, the dust measured 227 particles per square millimeter – not a good reading for someone with health difficulties.” There were so many horrible things going on at this time. According to locals, some animals did not die immediately; they lingered in agony and wailed, their screams borne by the wind at night (Egan,2005).

Author Timothy Egan concentrates on this point in chapter 13 of the novel’s most challenging hard time: even though the air is unbreathable, the land is dangerous, and the people don’t want to stop even though they know what’s to come. This chapter’s closing sentence perfectly captures the settlers’ optimistic view of the area. As one observer put it, “High Plain’s nesters were closer to nature than anybody else in the United States” (Egan,2005). According to an article on land following the disaster, this novel’s settlers had as much optimism as those who lived through the great dust bowl in actuality.

The Dust Bowl and the Terrific Depression is a tale that most people don’t want to read about, yet author Timothy Egan did a great job. This novel will give you a better understanding of how far American hope can go and how the words and positive vibes of a few “settlers” can be put into motion and turn nothing or the “worst hard time” in their lives into something that will be talked about decades later. The Dust Bowl might not sound like an exciting thing to read about; it might even seem like a dull point in history.


Congress, L. O. (2000). Dust Bowl During the Great Depression – American Memory Time.

Darby, M. (1976). Journal of Political Economy. Three and a half million U.S. Employees have been mislaid: an Explanation of Unemployment, 1934–1941.84(1). 1–16 Print

Egan, T. (2005). The Worst Hard Time. Boston: Houghton Milfflin Company.

Helmbold, L. R. (1987). Black and white working-class women during the Great Depression. Beyond The Family Economy, 629-6555.

Heston, R. (2014). HOW THE DUST BOWL HURT NATIVE AMERICANS. Retrieved from

Worster, D. (2004). Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains In The 1930s. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


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