Bailey Foster/ Dr. Beth McCoy/ English 111-01 / 14 December 2022
Literature is very subjective and can be viewed from many points of view, and some texts can have a similar interpretation around a core concept. King Lear, The Big Short, The Turner House, A Mercy, and Parable of the Sower all have one concept in common; expulsion. This commonality can in turn relate all of these texts to the 2008 housing crisis, and whether the books were written long before or after the crisis; they can all be analyzed in terms of a financial crisis.
“On Sept. 29, 2008, the stock market fell 777.68 points in intraday trading. It was at the time the biggest point drop in history (Investopedia).” This fall in the stock market was due to a bubble bursting that held billions of dollars of worthless investments in subprime mortgages. Many involved in the stock market started to lax the qualifications of getting a mortgage, to the point where many, who had no idea what was going on, were given major mortgages and were not able to pay them back. Even those involved in the fast money-making scheme had no idea what was going on at some points during the building of the bubble, and this, unfortunately, led to many getting expelled from their home that they could never afford in the first place. In The Big Short, Michael Lewis writes, “…Goldman Sachs created a security so opaque and complex that it would remain forever misunderstood by investors and rating agencies…(page 72)” This quote shows that many just went along with Goldman Sachs’s idea with no investigation because it was making money, so there was no point in questioning a system that was so complicated but worked so well. When the system was finally considered though; it was realized why many did not understand the system that was making them millions, because it wasn’t supposed to work. On page 127 of The Big Short it says, “”In the course of trying to figure it out, we realize that there’s a reason why it doesn’t quite make sense to us. It’s because it doesn’t quite make sense.”” All of these events led to what is known as the Great Recession, and the 2008 housing crisis because so many were expelled and left with no place to live. The bursting of the bubble was a monumental event for not only Wall Street and the lower class, but also the U.S. government (who bailed out Wall Street with no consequences because they had to).
In Parable of the Sower, the community is already in the middle of a financial crisis where basic needs are barely being met. This novel, though written before the 2008 housing crisis, is relevant in terms of topics that are associated with the crisis. There is growing pressure from the outside world that Lauren is worried about. Though some important people in her life do not feel this pressure that she is trying to warn others about. This is like in The Big Short when Dr. Micheal Burry was worried about the longevity and credibility of some tactics that some were using to make quick money. He was subsequently shunned from Wall Street for this. Lauren’s family did not shun her, but they did not heed her warnings and died because of it. Lauren and a few others are expelled from their original home that is Robledo when ‘pyros’ break in and set fire to everything. Though before this happens Lauren’s brother, Keith, leaves on multiple occasions and returns just as much; it is revealed that he joined a group of killing criminals. This is similar to how Lelah in The Turner House gambled an unhealthy amount during times of financial crisis for the Turner family. This compensates for the fact that during times of crisis, financial or not, people can turn to some very bad habits to cope with or counterbalance all the chaos that is going on in one’s life. If the U.S. did not bail out Wall Street when the market crashed; the story that is the Parable of the Sower could have been the reality for many. Little to no food, water, money, or necessities that many take for granted in this day and age.
This course is all about seeing literature through financial and housing crises, yet it teaches more than just financial terms and the stock market. It teaches one to be able to see literature through lenses that may not be visible to the reader at first glance. GLOBE wants Geneseo students to, “reflect upon changes in learning and outlook over time” and this course helps students do just that. I had already read King Lear before the start of this semester through the lens of analyzing it based on common core literary devices. I had never seen the play having anything to do with finance, but it became very easy to pick out all the connections to finances and property. For example when Lear divides all of his land between his daughters; this is a great example of liquidity because the land is an easily transferable asset, and Lear easily gives his land to his daughters with just a statement. This quote from Lear, “Nothing will come of nothing…(King Lear, Act 1 Scene 1, line 89)” I had never thought about being important. Though after reflecting on it, it had so much significance in terms of the course as a whole, and how the quote came up every time we read a new text. This practice of looking for examples of financial terms and expulsion in different kinds of texts, over a broad range of topics; has changed how I analyze and look at literary topics from now on. For example, Parable of the Sower could easily be compared to the dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 in the sense that both books could be possible futures of the U.S. Another example could be that A Mercy is seen through the context of historical fiction, and young girl forced into slavery, and how she escaped it. Instead, through this class, it was seen how this girl, Florens, was expelled multiple times throughout her life. In the future I might not be looking for housing crises or expulsion, I can now focus on seeing different interpretations of one or more texts.
Many taking this class was only four to eight years old and probably have very little recollection of the event occurring unless their family was a victim of being expelled during this time. I was only four and had no idea this major event occurred until I took economics. My family has never moved in my entire life, but I have known that my family has struggled financially through the years. I had asked my Father about the 2008 housing crisis and if we were affected by it over Thanksgiving break because I was just so curious. He said that we were not directly because we had already bought our current home with a mortgage for a better part of a decade before the market even crashed. Then he explained that he and my Mother worked very hard to get their credit scores back to a better number because they had made some bad choices before they bought our current home. He further explained that we probably have a smaller home and we could have had a bigger mortgage, but they did not want to risk their credit score if they were unable to pay it back. I know that I was not affected by the Great Recession, and other than that I know no one that was affected by it. I am very grateful for that. I am excited to go home for the intersession so that I can talk with my former high school economics teacher about all that I know about the 2008 housing crisis, and have riveting discussions with him to further understand its impact.