Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts

James T.  Farrell

Erin  Treseler 
Franklin D. Roosevelt and Adolf Hitler's Uses of Radio

James T. Farrell: Naturalism in the Studs Lonigan Trilogy

The 1930s and 40s was a period of great upheaval and strife due to the effects of the Great Depression. As citizens were left in despair, two world leaders emerged who would shape the course of the twentieth century. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Adolf Hitler, the leaders of the United States and Germany, led their nations through difficult economic times with a revolutionary new medium that allowed direct contact between them and their people: the radio. This new broadcasting technology communicated information, propaganda, and entertainment to the average citizen. President Roosevelt and Hitler the Fuhrer turned their broadcasting systems into revolutionary tools that captured citizens’ attention on a much more personal level than ever before. This level of communication proved powerful as the airwaves could reach all corners of the world, delving into listeners’ very homes. The radio served the governing goals of a wide range of political systems, enabling both the democratic leader FDR and the fascist dictator Hitler to extend their power from their individual nations to foreign regions to achieve mass communication and influence.

As the average citizen of the early twentieth century encountered numerous obstacles, it became a growing struggle to overcome the problems presented to most people. American novelist James T. Farrell set his tragic Studs Lonigan trilogy in the south side of Chicago, chronicling the life of William “Studs” Lonigan from the beginning of World War I to the Depression. Consumed by the culture and unhealthy lifestyle of this dark era, Farrell communicated a theme of naturalism by dooming Studs to a fruitless life, despite the potential he showed as a young child to be a gentle and thoughtful man. In the first novel, Studs is a boy who struggles to take on a tough persona despite his softer inclinations, but by the last installment he finally succumbs to the unhealthy habits he allowed his environment to force upon him. By characterizing Studs as a helpless victim who lost his potential to the corrupted society around him, Studs serves as the emblem of lost opportunity and societal corruption.

Major Works Cited:

Bergmeier, Horst J.P. and Rainer E. Lotz. Hitler’s Airwaves. New Haven: Biddles, 1997.
Farrell, James T. Studs Lonigan: The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan. New York: Vanguard, 2004.
---. Studs Lonigan: Judgment Day. New York: Vanguard, 2004.
Graham, Jr., Otis L., and Meghan Robinson Wander. Franklin D. Roosevelt: His Life and Times. Boston: G.K Hall, 1985.
Photo Credit: Farrell, James T. Studs Lonigan. New York: Vanguard, 2004.