Grapes Of Wrath

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Grapes Of Wrath

John Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath is one of the most influential books in American History, and is considered to be his best work by many. It tells the story of one family’s hardship during the Depression and the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s. The Joads were a hard-working family with a strong sense of togetherness and morals; they farmed their land and went about their business without bothering anyone. When the big drought came it forced them to sell the land they had lived on since before anyone can remember. Their oldest son, Tom, has been in jail the past four years and returns to find his childhood home abandoned. He learns his family has moved in with his uncle John and decides to travel a short distance to see them. He arrives only to learn they are packing up their belongings and moving to California, someplace where there is a promise of work and food. This sets the Joad family off on a long and arduous journey with one goal: to survive.
In this novel Steinbeck set forth with the intention of raising awareness to the general public of the difficulties and injustices these migrants faced during this period in time. It exposed the methods of the California farmer to use the migrants in order to lower their costs and make their profit margin higher. How they starved and cheated the poor, working man, in order to keep him desperate for food and too weak to protest. Above all, it showed everyone that these “damn Okies” were all simply men, women and children, no different from anyone else, just poorer. They were human beings with feelings and not the uncivilized beasts they were portrayed as at the time. Steinbeck portrays the “Okies” in a way no one before him had, and also managed to keep their story true to life. He did this by mainly using dialect, and wrote the “Okie” dialect just as it was spoken, breaking the lines of proper grammar and spelling. If he was concerned with such things it would have ruined the personality of the characters. His unique writing style to capture the atmosphere of these people and the era is evident in this excerpt from his book:
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“Duck,” said Muley. The bar of cold white light swung over their heads and crisscrossed the field. The hiding men could not see any movement, but they heard a car door slam and they heard voices. “Scairt to get in the light,” Muley whispered. “Once-twice I’ve took a shot at the headlights. That keeps Willy careful. He got somebody with ‘im tonight.” They heard footsteps on wood, and then from inside the house they saw the glow of a flashlight. “Shall I shoot through the house?” Muley whispered. “They couldn’t see where it come from. Give ‘em sompin to think about.” (80)
The Grapes of Wrath is two intertwined stories. One of the Joad family and their personal struggles, and the other of the greater effect of the Dust Bowl and depression on the massive amounts of people like the Joads. He trades off each chapter, one chapter telling the story of the Joads and the next talking about the migrants. He uses the Joads to bring the story home to the reader, defeating the myth about the Okies. That myth being, as put by a service station attendant, “They ain’t human.” (301) Throughout the novel Steinbeck goes to prove that the Joads are perhaps the most humane people out there. As the story progresses the Joads progress as well, from only being concerned with their own personal welfare and living to being aware of injustice towards everyone like them. This is accompanied by the disintegration of the smaller family unit, which is replaced by the larger world family of the migrant people. The character that shows this change most dramatically is Tom Joad. When he first is released from prison his only concern is going home, returning to his old lifestyle, catching up on lost time and having some fun. As he learns about the journey west his first priority becomes his family, and
he puts them and their welfare before everything else. Finally

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