“The book is about what goes on in the lives of real people when the industrial economy goes south. It’s about reacting to bad circumstances in the worst way possible. It’s about a culture that increasingly encourages social decay instead of counteracting it.”
I get where Vance is coming from. He realizes there is a certain amount of victimization in the attitude of the community he grew up in. Vance has the unique perspective of someone who is both a primary witness and a detached observer.
These communities sprang up around industrial centers, thrived, settled, and stubbornly resisted their atrophy. And certainly Vance is right about the unworthy way his people have dealt with the loss of prosperity. Many of them who fell down decided not to get up. Vance is harsh when he says that is not the kind of people their fathers and grandfathers were.
I think Vance realizes something that isn’t apparent to outsiders, that his people will only get up for a fight. And so he doesn’t pull his punches. He lays the blame squarely on their shoulders, because he wants them mad. He wants them mad enough to get up and raise their fists. They fought their way into the earth for coal and steel, and he wants them to fight their way out.
Their is a profound pride to tight-knit communities. Some might say these people should simply pack up and move wherever they can find economic security. But it means severing ties that go back several generations. There is a very real fear that if they leave behind their community, they will also leave behind their identity. Deep down that is what they love most, rich or poor, rain or shine: their history.