Study Guide

A Long Way from Chicago Poverty

By Richard Peck

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Staying with Grandma Dowdel in A Long Way from Chicago proves to be an adventure, but Joey and Mary Alice are also exposed to some not-so-great things, like the poverty and desperation that people are facing during the Great Depression.

Because this is a historical novel, it doesn't put a pretty sheen on the Depression; it represents it as it was—with drifters who haven't eaten in days, people losing their homes left and right, and even a man (Shotgun Cheatham) who lived out his last days in a chicken coop. These were hard times, and Joey and Mary Alice have a front-row seat to the poverty and hunger that surrounds them.

Questions About Poverty

  1. Who are some of the poorest characters in A Long Way from Chicago?
  2. Is Grandma Dowdel poor? How do you know?
  3. How do the Weidenbachs treat the poor people in town?
  4. Why does Effie Wilcox have to leave her house?

Chew on This

Because A Long Way from Chicago takes place in the midst of the Great Depression, Joey and Mary Alice are able to really see their grandmother's character and how she helps out her neighbors—without ever asking for anything in return.

Despite the fact that Grandma Dowdel spends the entire book helping out other people and selflessly giving, she isn't actually that much better off. When the banker comes to talk to her, he reveals that she only has $17 in her bank account.

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