Charles Cunningham's To Watch The Faces Of The Poor: Critical Analysis

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Social identity, the classification and organization of heterogeneous people based on physical characteristics, is perhaps, one of the most prominent abstraction used in modern discourse. The need to belong to a group has increased; though identification has played a role in how we perceive ourselves and those around us, unfortunately at least one group is put at a disadvantage due to the categorized label that society condemns them off. In Charles Cunningham’s article, To Watch the Faces of the Poor’: Life Magazine and the Mythology of Rural Poverty in the Great Depression, Cunningham speaks of middle-class population wanting to be seen as “the pioneers” (Cunningham 207) as opposed to “blacks” or “white trash” due to the images presented by …show more content…
The construction of an identity is founded and reinforced by the population’s status while at the same time demeaning others, depicted by Life magazine’s interpretation of the “middle-class anxiety about becoming poor, and therefore degrading in [societies] eyes”(Cunningham 207). Cunningham zooms in on the enlarged social gaps that Life tries to increase through racial and social segregation, depicting the white trash as “inherent in their inbred genes or in their profligate ways” (Cunningham 201), while the presentation of blacks as “beneath justice”(Cunningham 204) enforcing that their conditions “should not-be improved”(Cunningham 201). Life Magazine openly demonstrates the creation of “identity”, leaving readers in recognition or disgust; at the time of the Great Depression, when no one was immune to economic hardship. Whites who failed to meet economic standards were often ridiculed as “blacks”, while blacks would much rather prefer to be perceived as “poor” than as “negro”. The degradation of one social class is therefore balanced by the promotion of another, similarly, Delph-Janiurek signify the need to gravitate towards classification as opposed to the distinction between genders by using the tone and pitch of

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