There’s something absurd about this. The very act of people reporting on the country’s truth; what they writers witness; what people will do for money; what people will do for an article; what nature will do to itself. In all of the readings, I found an element of the ridiculous, whether it be in the scenes, in the sights, or in the conditions.
James Rorty begins his chapters with the realization that our country may be “too big” (Rorty, 11). He also seems to be aware of the impossibility of his assignment, as he calls it an “attempt” to understand what’s going on, and that he would need at least 4 months to begin to get a grasp of the nation’s situation, whereas he only expects to stay at most a week (Rorty, 10). He hints at both the absurdity of his job -- how could be possibly report on the situation of the United States of America? He begins modestly, with a goal to be as fair, or rather sincere, as possible.
Ernie Pyle, with his chapter Drought Bowl also tried to address the ridiculous, but more depressingly so. He emphasized the destruction, the horribly unbelievable scenes that he witnessed -- that in fact were so large in number that he became accustomed to their absurdity. He states, “The grasshopper is a ridiculous creature. [...] He held second place only to the great drought itself” (Pyle, 52). He begins with the simply fact that such a small creature could actually devastate. Then, to make it even more absurd, he talks about how he traveled for “a full half day” just to find a cornfield that has some remnant of the crop still distinguishable, and that in every 150 miles, there was only one field (Pyle, 52-53).
Lastly, Lorena Hickock in a way mocks herself and job by including the poor people’s reaction to her duty. A clearly deliberate choice, she places herself outside of the scene, outside of her job, and emphasizes the contrast. She tells the story of one man who points out the difference between her, as reporter, and his wife. He says:
“Suppose you were my wife [...] run down, without any decent clothes, looking ten years older than you ought to look. How would you like it if some smooth-faced young girl, nicely dressed, all made up, with powder on and lipstick, and pink fingernails, came into your house, sat down on the edge of a chair, and began to ask you a lot of personal questions?” (Hickock, vi).
Even at the most superficial level, physically, is the state of the country absurd. The idea of a woman so nicely dressed in a place to poor, trying to get an idea of the state of the other is nearly impossible and silly to think about. In her writing, Lorena emphasizes this ridiculousness, perhaps even the embarrassment she felt at that moment of realization.
These reporters, as they write, seem to be grasping the gravity of the situation, and the size of their responsiblities as they write. They seem to be convincing themselves while they try to convince their readers.