U.S. Economy in Twentieth Century
“Fish” covers much of the twentieth century in the United States. One memory is from the father’s childhood in the early 1930s when the United States was in the midst of the Great Depression. The Great Depression lasted for over a decade (1929–1941), ending with U.S. involvement in World War II, which created jobs and opportunities. The postwar era was a time of economic growth as the United States soared ahead of European, war-torn countries in its productivity and exportation of goods. In the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, the U.S. economy became stagnant and then recessed, but the 1990s saw considerable growth. The present-day setting of the story is the early 1990s, when the United States was on the cusp of significant economic expansion. This expansion was matched and stimulated by exponential growth of Internet and other information technology businesses. Silicon Valley (a nickname for the Santa Clara Valley and nearby areas in northern California where many silicon chip manufacturers are located) became famous nationwide as a place in which to live and work as these businesses thrived. During the 1990s, inflation was low (money was worth more), interest rates were low (it was cheaper to borrow money for large purchases), and consumer confidence was high (Americans were more readily spending their money). Unemployment rates fell below 5 percent, the lowest they had been for thirty years. During this time, the United States was the dominant world power, and the globalization of the U.S. economy began to increase. Democratic president Bill Clinton was elected to his first term in 1992, and by the time his second term ended in 2001, the U.S. government was running on a budget surplus for the first time in thirty years. President Clinton claimed that his 1993 tax increase was the reason for the budget surplus and the stimulated economy, but many Republicans disagreed.
Terrorism in the United States
While the narrator was young, her biggest worry was her father’s depression. During the father’s and daughter’s lives, the United States went through several wars, but their family was not directly affected. Starting in the early 1990s, during the present-day setting of this story, terrorism unfortunately became a significant topic in the United States.
The World Trade Center—also known as the Twin Towers—in New York City was first bombed in 1993 by Islamic radicals who were opposed to the international role of the United States. There were several incidents of domestic terrorist attacks (those perpetrated by U.S. citizens) in the intervening years: the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski (1978–1995); the Oklahoma City bombing (April 19, 1995); and the Centennial Olympic Park bombing (July 27, 1996).
The largest terrorist attack carried out on U.S. soil happened on September 11, 2001. That morning, four large airplanes fueled for cross-country flights were hijacked by a total of nineteen Arabic terrorists affiliated with Al Qaeda, an Islamic fundamentalist group led by Osama bin Laden. Between 8:46 and 10:03 a.m., two of the airplanes were forced to crash into the World Trade Center towers, one crashed into the west wall of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the last crash occurred in a field in Pennsylvania after the terrorists on that plane apparently failed to achieve their target (reputed to be the White House) and were perhaps overcome by the other passengers.
Ira Mark Milne – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 24, Jill McCorkle, Published by Gale Group, 2006