The Grapes of Wrath


The Grapes of Wrath

John Steinbeck's novel, The Grapes of Wrath has left much
specifically untold about the authors true intentions on this book.

His epic chronicle has been described as being "Written with
passionate conviction" (Dorothy Parker). This passionate conviction
has led John Steinbeck into mastering bold dramatization. His skills
at the art of dramatization in literature was not solely used in The

Grapes of Wrath, but also used in another of his twisted and possibly
controversial works called Of Mice and Men.

One of John Steinbeck's main and possibly most obvious themes, is
the hostility and frequent hatred between the migrant workers and the
already socially and financially established Californians. There are
many examples in the book that show not only that Steinbeck thought
that it was an issue to be concerned with, but also it showed his
thoughts and feelings towards the subject. Three examples of this
theme are shown during encounters with other people that have already
been there, in the corollary chap Along the way to California the

Joad's encountered other people that had already been to California
and were now returning. These people, like the ragged man with the
sunburned face from the road-side camp described on page 242. He had
had children that died because wages were too low and work was too
scarce to afford food for his children and wife. His story was one of
pain and despair, also his story showed the cruelty and inhumane
treatment which the California land owners displayed towards the
migrant workers. This grim story of the broken man didn't discourage
the Joad's from parting from the set course. Later on inside the

Californian border the Joads stop by a river. Tom and his Father find
a spot to go swimming where they are promptly joined on page 263 by
two men, a man and his son, who asked if they may also partake in
swimming with Tom and his Father. The men start talking and it turns
out that the other two men have just come from California. They tell a
story not extremely unlike the other story which the man at the
road-side camp described. Their story describes the conditions as very
uncomfortable. Subsequently the Joads paid no head to this warning
either. Hence, they traveled on, only to meet up with (on page 274) a
very dispassionate police officer. This gave the Joads a first hand
sip of the general mood that Californians had for these migrant
workers. The policeman treated the migrants with little or no respect,
seemed to just as soon see them drop off the face of the earth than
see them come into California.

The Corollary chapter Nineteen deals with the history of

California. How it was settled by the feverish Americans. Through
these descriptions we can start to understand the Californians view on
why they dislike the migrant workers with such conviction. The chapter
describes the initial owners of the land, the Mexicans, as being "weak
and fed". This description would suggest that the Mexican's were well
fed and content to live freely on the land with little desire to need
more. Thus they were in little position to try and stop the onslaught
of American's who wanted the land much more than the Mexicans did, and
were too weak to stop them from doing so. This lead to the turning
over of the land to the American's in the California region. This same
land was kept by the same families and worked with much success. So
much success that they needed to work only part of it to stay
leisurably comfortable, financially. Therefore the burning desire for
the land diminished. This is where the migrant workers come in. The

Californians view of the workers are very much the same as the

Mexican's must have thought of the Californians when there land was
taken over. Consequently the Californians, being afraid that history
might repeat itself and the workers may take over the land, the

Californians tried to discourage the growth in population of migrant
workers as much as possible. Any way that they could, legal or not.

The killing of Jim Casy is an example of the cruel behavior of the

Californians. They killed Jim Casy because he was a leader. Not just
any leader, but a leader that wanted justice and decency for migrant
workers. He stood up for the people because their wages were being cut
in half. They were being cut so harshly that you couldn't even eat off
the money that you got in a day, much less feed any part

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