The Effects of Greed

My first encounter with mortgages was when I first played the video game Animal Crossing. The premise of the game is that you play as a human who arrives at a town of animals. The first thing you do is pick out a one-room house.  A racoon named Tom Nook is the one who sells it to you, and the price is outrageous because he is a greedy crook. But there is no other choice, so you agree to take out a large loan that can be paid off in increments. It’s just a video game, so it is not nearly as complex as the real-life mortgages we have been reading about in The Big Short and The Turner House, but it is the basis of my knowledge about mortgages.When our class first started reading The Big Short many of us outwardly agreed that it was confusing, and Dr. McCoy pointed out that of course it is confusing, because the situation the people in The Big Short are dealing with does not make sense. Steve Eisman and company spend much of the book attempting to get to the bottom of it, and they realize that banks have been giving nearly all mortgages good ratings in a nonsensical manner. The CEOs of the banks didn’t understand it either, but they seemingly did not care to understand it since they were profiting. 

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Intent and Consequence in the Big Short and The Turner House

In my first reading of The Big Short, to say that I was confused was a bit of an understatement. I couldn’t wrap my head around the lack of responsibility that Wall Street displayed in response to the 2008 Housing Crisis. While Micheal Lewis’s book functioned more so as a literary textbook, throwing random bits of information that framed a series of events, whereas in Angela Flournoy’s novel, The Turner House, character development and her usage of flashbacks played a central role in humanising the ways in which I was able to make sense of the 2008 Housing Crisis and the importance of deciphering intent and facing the consequences of our actions.

In the final chapter of The Big Short, Michael Lewis posits that the problem with money was that “what people did with it had consequences, but they were so remote from the original action that the mind never connected the one with the other.” I will admit that when I first read this sentiment, I wasn’t sure what to do with it. But when I read The Turner House and returned to the comfort of narrative prose, I found myself questioning how characters like Lelah, for example, deal with their shortcomings and cope with the resulting consequences of their actions. Early on in my reading, I was able to focus specifically on Lelah and the relationship she had with her daughter and position within the Turner family with the help of the novel’s usage of the third person omniscient point of view. Having all of the thoughts and feelings of the Turner family, specifically when it came to Lelah, made it all the more accessible when attempting in deciphering how she confronts the consequences of her gambling addiction. Unlike The Big Short, The Turner House sets the scene, so to speak, and we see how characters develop through their actions by first establishing their intent or Mens rea.

 For example, when Lelah is forced to leave her apartment, she chooses to ignore the calls from her daughter Brianne and refuses to seek help from her siblings. Instead, she opts to take up residence in her vacant family house.  In her reasoning behind her decision, Lelah makes the point that, “A house with electricity couldn’t be classified as abandoned, and an individual with a key to that house didn’t fit the definition of a trespasser.” I was particularly interested in this line of reasoning primarily because it highlights exactly what the legal Latin term Mens Rea refers to: guilty mind. According to Cornell Law School, Mens Rea refers to criminal intent or a guilty state of mind that is required in order to convict someone of a particular crime. According to Lelah, she does not consider herself a trespasser because she holds a key to the house, yet, the very definition of trespass, as defined by Cornell Law School, is “the act of knowingly entering another person’s property without permission.” Just because Lelah had a key for the house does not necessarily mean she had permission to enter her family house. The question of whether or not Lelah was trespassing however, is not a question of her integrity but rather the consequent actions that follow.

Lelah, unlike those in The Big Short, was well aware of the fact that she was an addict. In the description of her gambling addiction, there are instances in the novel where she recounts that she should have walked away from the gambling but couldn’t. There was something irresistible in the act of gambling that Lelah simply could not resist. Lelah’s addition, highlighted the very problem that those in The Big Short may have confronted. In Chapter 6 of The Big Short, it is evident that the casinos were most successful in helping gamblers delude themselves, offered them a sense of “false confidence” as Lewis puts it. This seems to be demonstrated particularly well with Lelah, who also benefits from the false confidence that Lelah herself acknowledges at the end of Motor City, when she recalls:

It wasn’t Vernon’s fault she’d ended up a gambler; she would never say it was… When she felt like she was flailing, back on Yarrow not doing anything worth anything with her life and tired of being alone, she could sit right here, put her hand on the chalky surface of the chips, and be still for a moment in the middle of all the commotion of the casino floor (50).

I found this particular exploration of Lelah’s connection to gambling indicative of the lack of depth that was evident in The Big Short. As I’ve pointed out in numerous discussions, Lewis’s novel rightfully condemns the gamblers of The Big Short, and we as readers, are eager to categorise them as villains. Yet, in The Turner House, one can’t help feel sorry for Lelah because she isn’t depicted as a villain. Her state of mind isn’t one of self-destruction, she’s just trying to cope. But one of the questions I have been asking myself through all of this is, can the same be said for people like Michael Burry, who knew exactly what he was doing when he placed bets against the crappy loans. If there’s anything The Turner House explores in relation to The Big Short, I think it has more to do with examining character intent and positing how they are able to move forward. When I consider Lelah and her desire to be her own woman, free from the shackles of the patriarchy, I consider the fraught relationship she has with Brianne, whom she urges to be independent and not rely entirely on Robbie. If I were to consider Brianne’s perspective of Lelah, I might argue that she believed her mother to be harsh and overly critical, but when given the background of Lelah that we have and considering her own previous relationships, it’s evident that Lelah’s intent is not push her daughter away, but to protect from dwindling down a path that she herself can’t seem to escape from.

While Lelah’s intent is not to cause harm, the consequences of her overprotectiveness result in Brianne pushing her away. That being said, it’s a shame that those responsible for the housing crisis were not confronted with the consequences of their own actions, but rather received quite large bailouts instead.

The Importance of a Narrative

Ever since I was a young girl, I was infatuated with storytelling. I’d beg my parents, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, anyone who I deemed as “old and wise” to tell me a story, a true story. I think the thing that I always searched for in these stories was some type of emotion I didn’t fully understand yet. I would ask my parents, on a smaller scale, how 9/11 impacted them, and at a larger scale, how it impacted their community. This community started at the neighborhood, stretched to their workplaces and dove even further at a nationwide scale. I would ask my grandparents how they individually felt during the Vietnam war and World War 2, and how their community as they knew it changed. I would focus on the emotions in their voice as I asked them to reflect on a really scary time in their lives. A time where they couldn’t see the future and didn’t know how the story would end. I can’t explain it, but there was some part of me as a young girl that was jealous of their experience with pain, loss and uncertainty. I felt as though it gave them depth, caused them to see the world a little differently than my innocent self could. Now, as a young adult, I am beginning to understand the pain they went through, and I regret the jealousy I felt towards them. As a junior in college, I have been asked to undergo an unforeseeable and uncontrollable change due to the global COVID-19 that is traveling faster than the thoughts in my head as I am writing this blog. I am beginning a narrative that I never saw coming, where I was asked to cut my semester short and move back to Long Island with my parents. Where I was asked to leave my friends without a proper goodbye, friends I may never see again. Where I was asked to end my Ultimate Frisbee season before it has even begun, not knowing my last tournament with my team would have been the last. I did not consent to this change. Please excuse my french, but so much shit has hit the fan in the past 4-5 days that I am not really sure if this blog will answer the prompt I was given, but at least my thoughts are on paper (or on your computer screen) and I am connecting with my readers.

Now that my rant (for now) is over, I will attempt to connect what our world is enduring with our class content. In 2008, The United States experienced a housing crisis that asked families to undergo a change that was unforeseeable. Families lost their houses, they were displaced, and lost so much of their lives in the matter of seconds. I was too young to remember what our country went through, what my parents went through, and the pain that they felt. I am now understanding this pain and this uncertainty, and I hope and pray to God that my children and my children’s children never feel this pain. As a class, we were asked to read The Big Short by Michael Lewis and The Turner House by Angela Flournoy. They both tell their reader a narrative of the same story, and I believe that The Turner House sheds light on what was missing from The Big Short. I believe that they work together to fill in the missing puzzle pieces to a narrative that affected so many people’s lives.

After reading my classmate Kaitlyn Papaccio’s blog “Liquidity of Narratives”, she helped me wrap my head around how these two works of literature work together to create a single story. Kaitlyn wrote, “With both narratives working side by side we can see how these narratives are quite similar, despite their scale and it is arguable that without the pairing of these two narratives a well-rounded perspective of the crisis is lost”. I completely agree with Kaitlyn’s statement and will build off of our agreed claim. In class, we agreed that The Big Short was a difficult read due to the lack of prior knowledge on the Housing Crisis and the terminology that went into it. Lewis threw terms at the reader such as “liquidation” and “credit laundering” (pg. 141) that required me to constantly stop reading and start defining. As a class, we compared it to reading a text book that provided the stone cold facts of the 2008 crisis. In fact, I was one of the many that watched the film in order to feel some type of emotional connection. However, I will say that without reading this narrative before reading The Turner House, my personal narrative would be very different. In The Big Short, I was given the cold truth of what went down behind the scenes. We then read a narrative that told us an emotional story of how individuals were affected by the Housing Crisis, and it all seemed to come together. The Turner House makes The Big Short seem more real and more emotional than what Michael Lewis portrays it to be. However, I do think it is important that Lewis wrote a narrative in this textbook style because there is no sugarcoating or dramatizing the events and experiences of those affected. It is important because there is no bias to the words written on the page and Lewis understands that every individual was impacted differently.

After re-reading what I have so far, I see that I am writing backwards as to what the prompt asks, ” Does The Turner House shed light on what was missing from The Big Short‘s story telling? If so, how? If not, how not? So what? Who cares? “. I need to slow down. I think I am saying that The Big Short sheds light on The Turner House, and there is something so interesting about that because it was not intended and it was unforeseeable. I want to say that they shed light on each other and it is not a one way street. We need both a story that is unbiased and gives the facts and a story that tells an emotional rollercoaster of individuals impacted by these events. We need both because as a reader who does not remember the Housing Crisis taking place, I want to know WHY these events happened (through The Big Short) and I need to now HOW these events impacted families (Through The Turner House).

Angela Flournoy’s work makes the events that happen in The Big Short seem more real. She manages to show the reader how families were impacted financially, physically and mentally. In my opinion, The Big Short lacks or downplays the physical and mental components and focuses mainly on the financial aspects that were impacted. In this way, The Turner House sheds a light on the missing puzzle pieces to the narrative. Flournoy talks about really deep things such as addiction and the struggle with sobriety. The 2008 Housing Crisis caused many people to fall into old habits and self sabotaging routines that affected their lives and their families greatly. These two works of literature allow us to create a deeper understanding of a single event that can’t be told by one perspective or point of view.

When I was first learning about the world wars, it was from personal accounts from family members that were filled with emotion and personal perspectives. I then relearned the world wars in grade school and high school. I tried to keep my grandparents stories separate from the text books stories and my teachers stories. I finally realized that that was impossible. Instead of forcing ourselves to separate these narratives, we should combine them to create a story filled with facts and personal events and emotions. Through The Big Short, we have the data and the statistics. Through The Turner House, we have the emotions and the personal accounts. Together, we have a beautiful narrative that includes truth, pain, and uncertainty. Something that our world is going through right now and something that we will once again come out of stronger than ever before.

Motives Behind Madness

                       As humans, we are faced with infinite choices and it’s natural for us to judge the choices of others especially when they don’t align with what we believe to be best.  The Turner House sheds light on the true motives behind what drives our choices as people whereas The Big Short revealed the motives behind those who pursued justice or the truth. Even though both works read like novels, we shouldn’t mistake that life reads the same way. Better understanding the motives behind people’s choices, good or bad, can bring us closer to better understanding our own humanity and that of others whom we have otherwise dismissed as just “bad people.” After all, humans are born with the ability to make choices, not with the ability to make only good choices. 

           In The Turner House, Flournoy explores the lives of the Turner children focused on throughout the novel and how they grew up influenced decisions they make now. The family is a small-scale view, the individual Turners on an even smaller scale, of a financial crisis that in its largest scale affected the world’s economy in some way or another. Even though this novel takes place during the housing crisis, it feels as though it is only an underlying current while we delve deeper into the lives of the individual Turners and what has shaped them. Throughout the novel, we explore the Turners’ motivation to their actions and even though we have special insight as readers we are left wondering what Tina also wonders when hearing about Cha-Cha and Alice: “Can a human being ever truly know another person’s heart?” (Flournoy 290). Cha-Cha’s actions are largely shaped by his haunting father and the fact that due to all of the weight on his shoulders, he doesn’t feel like he’s being listened to. What drives him to pursue a relationship with Alice is that there is someone who he feels finally is listening and validating the good and bad of him. Lelah acknowledges her addiction to gambling as the possibility of victory rather than the possibility of a fortune: “The exact amount wasn’t as important to her while in the thick of the game as much as the feel of her stack of chips” (Flournoy 49). It’s easy to see a person who gambles and question why they would continue with large money at stake rather than look for what they really are getting out of it such as the chance to actually succeed at something. Often the truth behind our actions may not be known to others or even ourselves. As Francis Turner puts it: “It took courage to let a woman in on one’s disappointment, one’s fear” (Flournoy 278). Sometimes it’s difficult to be vulnerable in why we make our choices to other people, so we instead don’t offer an explanation or don’t expect one we’ll receive to justify the judgments we cast on the action.

           In The Big Short, Lewis explores actual people’s lives and while he discloses what went on behind the curtain of those uncovering the crisis from beginning to burst. Lewis focuses on bringing the understanding of the reader from the viewpoint of those working against CDOs. After reading the book, you had very real humans exploring a version of the same side through the lens created by their own lives. It also becomes apparent that money was a big motivator for both sides of the equation, not just those who were screwing people over but also those betting against them. However, we still get their backstory and how their circumstances have shaped who they are. Steve Eisman was known for his blunt personality and we learn that although it may not directly correlate with his financial decisions, his son’s death played a big part in his life thereon after. As Eisman puts it, “’From the point of view of the history of the universe, Max’s death was not a big deal,’ said Eisman. ‘It was just my big deal’” (Lewis 12). Our experiences may not seem to matter in the grand scheme of things, but the ripple they can take on in our own actions unto others are infinite. Burry always believed himself to be defined by his glass eye until he later discovered that he has Asperger’s. Both parts of him were viewed both negatively by himself and others but they are part of what drove him to make important life decisions. With Vinny Daniel, he was motivated to be inclined to see the darker nature of humanity that we tend to overlook because of his experiences: “Maybe it was Queens, maybe it was what had happened to his father, or maybe it was just the way Vincent Daniel was wired, but he viewed his fellow man with the most intense suspicion” (Lewis 10). Lewis gave us these insights into why these people were motivated to look for and/or bet against Wall Street, but his lack of exposing the deeper motivation behind those at Wall Street leads us to just take their unethical choices as purely villainous.

           Although The Turner House is a novel, The Big Short also abides by storytelling elements especially when introducing the “characters.” As mentioned by Sandy in class, The TurnerHouse appears to humanize the villains we see in The Big Short. However, I believe we feel like this because The Turner House works to expose the real human motives behind what we may gauge as bad choices. When telling a story, the “why” is something we search for to explain the characters’ decisions, actions, and words. This was only delved into from the point of view of those working “against” the unethical practices of Wall Street while those in higher positions seemed to only be ruled by ignorance or greed. To me, the people in these positions aren’t painted as not human, but rather they only represent the worst in humanity itself. This is a part of humanity we willingly turn a blind eye to or cast under the label of the classical villain. I am also eager to do so when initially reading The Big Short, however, this part of humanity is very real and needs to be understood if hope to better understand ourselves and the choices we’re inclined to make. Maybe this knowledge will also help us think twice about the why before we carry through with the do.

           Understanding people’s motives and better understanding our own may help us think twice when passing judgment on the choices of others. It’s easy to pass judgment as if the world was painted like a movie: there are only people driven by greed or desire who seek to hurt others and there is everyone else who either falls under the heels of the former or rises to challenge them. The reality is that the world is grey, and the worst of the best of what makes us human exists in all of us. In the words of Flournoy, “Here is the truth about self-discovery: it is never without cost” (Flournoy 106). We are influenced by our past, our current environment, our desire, our morals, and our experiences. One decision doesn’t dictate who we are, but the motives behind these decisions and how we deal with the consequences can say a lot about us as people. I think, given at a time like this, exploring motives is key especially when shuffling though all the fake/false news we are being faced with. Right now, fear is behind many people’s actions. Fear is driving a lot of media as well whether the information is instigated by fear or meant to spread it. I hope we can all respect each other’s humanity, the good and the bad, even if we disagree with other people’s choices. In retaliation spread facts and kindness rather than hate since we are all human and we are all in this together. 

Addiction and Human Interconnection

Since humans are inherently interconnected, one person’s addiction, whether it be to a substance or to something else, affects other people. Merriam-Webster defines addiction as “a strong inclination to do, use, or indulge in something repeatedly.” In The Turner House, the various addictions of Turner family members affect other members of the family; however, the addictions of the risk-taking investors and brokers in The Big Short affect the entire economy of the United States. While Angela Flournoy in The Turner House, directly acknowledges addiction and the effects of addiction on individuals, Michael Lewis only indirectly mentions addiction in The Big Short. A direct acknowledgment of addiction, and the effects of addiction, is missing. Therefore, while The Big Short and The Turner House both tell stories of the financial crisis, The Big Short masks the effects of addiction on individuals which The Turner House illuminates.

The Big Short takes a subtle and indirect approach to discuss addiction. Addiction is primarily discussed, and largely dismissed, through the frequent use of the word “obsession.” Lewis describes a group of investors for whom “the trade became an obsession” (106). The use of the word “obsession” seems to suggest, and largely gloss over, a gambling addiction. While this gambling addiction extends far beyond an average poker table, the effects are also much greater; however, Lewis never directly addresses the effects of these large-scale addictions on individuals and dismisses addiction as “obsession.”

The only individual person that Lewis suggests has an addiction is Michael Burry, yet he still never directly calls it an addiction. Within the first paragraph of introducing Burry, Lewis refers to Burry’s “new obsession” (26). He later clarifies that Burry’s “lifelong obsession [is] the inner workings of the stock market.” and that he “dragged his obsession along with him through high school, college, and medical school” (35-36). Lewis’s focus on Burry’s “obsession” shows that Burry is addicted to the stock market, even though Lewis never directly calls it an addiction. Instead, Lewis suggests that this addiction to the stock market is due to Burry’s Asperger’s syndrome: “it explain[s] an awful lot about what he did for a living and how he did it” (183). By implying that Burry’s addiction is due to Asperger’s, Lewis further masks the effects of addiction on individuals and the part that these addictions played in the economic crash. Unlike Lewis’s negligible attention to addiction and the effects of addiction on individuals, Flourney sheds light on the effects of addiction on both the addicts and their families. 

By showing the emotions and inner workings of individuals and their families, The Turner House presents addiction in a way that is far more direct than in The Big Short; this presentation directly shows the effects of addiction on individual people and their families. Flournoy very clearly shows the specific addictions of every member of the Turner family:

There was Francis, who Alice had called an alcoholic […]. There was Lonnie, […] he had dabbled in heroin as young as thirteen and was clearly still on something […] at the age of fifty-three. Troy […] was obsessed with success […]. There was Marlene, and with her Viola Turner herself, not really hurting anyone with their obsession […] they were downright absorbed with the flea market stall […]. There was [Tina], not a Turner by blood, but thirty years rubbed off on people. He felt a pinprick of guilt calling Tina’s church involvement an addiction, but that’s how he thought of it. Now here was Francey standing before him, obsessed with nutrition and vegetarianism and kitchen gadgets. […]. Maybe Cha-Cha himself was addicted to being in charge of the family, or going to therapy with Alice, or even this revived idea of a haint. (Flournoy 85)

Through this passage, Flournoy shows the various addictions of many different people which stands in stark contrast to Lewis’s ignoration of the investors’ addictions. In addition to showing the addictions of the Turner family, Flournoy continues to directly display the effects of addiction on individuals and their families. 

One example of the effects of addiction on individuals and their families is Flournoy’s depiction of Lelah, a gambling addict: “What folks [say] about idle hands and the devil [is] true for Lelah; busyness [is] her best defense against the urge to fondle those chips” (96). Through this passage, Flournoy directly addresses one way that Lelah’s addiction affects her daily life—she needs to constantly keep herself busy. Flournoy also shows the devastating effects of Lelah’s gambling addiction on her life when she gets suspended without pay for borrowing money from her coworkers, and when she gets evicted from her home (45). 

In addition to the effects of addiction on Lelah’s own life, Flournoy shows the effects of Lelah’s addiction on her family members. Lelah needs money, so she searches through the basement of Viola’s house for things to sell. She eventually sells “things that weren’t hers, maybe for a lot less than they were worth” (104). If her siblings were to return for their Asian-style dagger or gold earrings, they would not find them. Lelah sold these things without her siblings’ consent, in order to finance her addiction. Flournoy presents a complete description of Lelah’s gambling addiction, giving addiction a specific face and allowing readers to feel a human connection. Therefore, The Turner House sheds light on what is missing in The Big Short because while The Big Short and The Turner House discuss many of the same concepts, The Turner House personifies these concepts in a way that The Big Short does not.

The Big Short does not emphasize the devastating effects on addiction on individuals; it does, however, indirectly show what happens when individuals in positions of power are addicted to risk-taking and the effects of that risk-taking on the U.S. economy as a whole. On the other hand, The Turner House shows not only the effects of addiction on individuals and families that are struggling with addiction, but also the economic effects of the U.S. economy on these individuals and these families. The addiction of the risk-takers in The Big Short alter the lives of the people in The Turner House, who have addictions of their own. A major difference between both narratives is that the addicts in The Big Short do not take any accountability for the consequences of their addictions, even though the extent of the damage caused by their addictions is far greater than any member of the Turner family. Due to human interconnectedness, one person’s addiction inevitably affects the lives of others. This is a concept that is made extremely clear in The Turner House, yet is mostly neglected in The Big Short. By giving readers a more direct insight into the effects of addiction on individuals and their families, The Turner House allows readers to feel more human compassion. Lewis fails to hold the investors accountable for their addiction, and the effects of their addiction on their families and the entire U.S. economy. On the other hand, Flournoy clearly and directly illuminates the effects of addiction on addicts and the families of addicts, and also shows the devastating effects of the investors’ and brokers’ addictions that Lewis masks. Therefore, The Turner House sheds light on what is missing in The Big Short: a direct acknowledgment of addiction and its effects.

How The Turner House Elevates the Working Class Experience While The Big Short Fails to Incorporate It

Although Michael Lewis’ The Big Short is captivating and offers an insightful glimpse into the events leading to the 2008 housing crisis, it falls short by missing the perspective of those affected most by the nefarious actions of the Wall Street elite. In contrast, Angela Flournoy’s The Turner House flips back and forth from the 1940s to 2008 to display how the economic misconduct of the past can affect a family in the long run, and how these depictions of economic disparity in the past can affect the way individuals react to a modern day recession. The Big Short falls flat because, while it briefly touches up on the economic backgrounds of some key characters, unlike The Turner House it does not offer the input of the people who will be most affected by these periods of economic depression – specifically those who are already suffering from inheritance in the form of familial distress.

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Scope and Humble Comprehension: Why English Matters

            The Turner House and The Big Short are such drastically different works that it is difficult to compare them outright. In discussing if The Turner House is integral to understanding The Big Short, I certainly think that it helps to place a well-developed narrative at the crux of the crisis to understand how the crisis impacts individuals. We are all indeed individuals—not vast numbers ascribed to the “lower-middle class” or other denotations of status used in The Big Short. Cramming a narrative the size of The Turner house into every one of the numbers mentioned in The Big Short is nearly impossible, or would at least take a lifetime to document and understand with any degree of accuracy. The story telling aspect of The Big Short is remarkable given its task to explain the 2008 crisis in a succinct manner, evidenced in part by our struggle as a class to refrain from discussing the individuals present in the non-fiction work as “characters”. However, the scope of The Big Short is many degrees larger than The Turner House, which aims to flesh out how one family struggles as individuals and as a unit through evictions and unreasonable mortgages. Each text can stand alone outside of this course, but both are necessary to understand each other more fully, a point that ties in the danger of a single story, suggesting strongly that its counterexample of the importance of a multitude of stories is also true to better understand the depth behind large decisions, many of which we have attempted to dive into already in this course, including The Old Man and the Storm, King Lear, Inside Job, and David Cay Johnston, to name a few.

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Large-scale vs. Small-scale Perspectives – 2008 Housing Crisis

The crash of the United States stock market in 2008 led to a severe housing crisis across America. Trying to understand why the stock market crashed is a difficult task. As I read The Big Short by Michael Lewis to familiarize myself with the crashing of the stock market in 2008, I realized that the process of subprime mortgage loans, credit default swaps, and artificial securities was confusing to me. However, I realized that the professional businessmen who created them didn’t know what they consisted of; in fact, nobody knew exactly what the loans consisted of. The complexity of the financial crisis wasn’t just big scale, but also small scale. After reading The Big Short and trying to gain a financial perspective of what happened on the business side of the financial crisis, I then read The Turner House by Angela Flournoy, which gave a smaller scale perspective of how the Turner Family in Detroit was affected by the mishandling of mortgage loans on Wall Street. 

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The Incomplete Story of the 2008 Housing Crisis

When we first began Michael Lewis’ The Big Short, I was quite apprehensive while reading it as I had no clue about what was happening with all of this business/finance talk. I found myself referring to Google searches or Investopedia trying to identify certain terms to help me understand things a little bit better such as a credit default swap, but it was still difficult to follow along as the material was heavy on the business side of things. I feel as though this was Lewis’ intention, emphasizing the idea that people had no idea what was happening unless you were a banker yourself. While I enjoyed the language (mostly metaphors) that Lewis uses in discussing the events leading up to the housing crisis, I couldn’t help but feel as though the story was incomplete or missing something from it allowing me to feel connected with the work and feel fully satisfied with the story. While we saw what led up to innocent people being hurt by the housing bubble burst, we didn’t really get to see how they were affected and if they recovered from it. Yes, there is some mention toward the end of the book in how the people on Wall Street knew this would broadly affect the average American, but we didn’t get to see beyond that. We did not get to see a more human aspect to it, which as a result added to my sense of disconnect from The Big Short

Directly after reading The Big Short, we jumped into Angela Flournoy’s The Turner House, a novel that turns its attention toward an American family that would be affected by the actions of the investors. To some level after reading both The Big Short and The Turner House, I would say that they work well together to tell somewhat of a complete story and nearly complete Freytag’s Pyramid that we have discussed in class in explaining the housing market crash. Each work tells one half of a version of the story (The Big Short telling the first half and The Turner House telling the second) that nearly completes Freytag’s Pyramid where there is a rising action, a climax, and a falling action, except in this case there does not seem to be any real resolution to complete the pyramid, therefore showing the 2008 housing and financial crisis does not really follow the complete storyline structure we are accustomed to.

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2008 Housing Crisis rejects the Freytag Pyramid structure

The 2008 housing crisis in the United States had major effects on everyone involved. After reading The Turner House by Angela Flournoy, and The Big Short by Michael Lewis I was able to see and understand two different perspectives on the housing crisis, one being the Turner family and how the housing crisis impacted them, and the other being the bankers and investors involved in causing the crisis. I don’t believe that The Turner House sheds light on what is missing from The Big Short, instead each novel offers a different perspective on the housing crisis. For the purpose of this essay, I will discuss how the housing crisis of 2008 as told through The Turner House and The Big Short is complex and does not follow the classic Freytag Pyramid structure as seen in most novels (refer to next paragraph). Instead, these two novels allow for several ‘mini Freytag Pyramids’ or individual character plot lines throughout the text. Both novels do not display an overarching resolution, similarly to the housing crisis in that there was no true resolution. 

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