John Steinbeck’s novel entitled The Grapes of Wrath is a story which depicts the spirit and dignity of a person during the most desperate of situations. The novel is a fictional account of the life of the Joad family on their way to the Promised Land of California from the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma during the 1930s (Steinbeck 2). The family, similar to several other sharecroppers and farmers living in Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and other states at the time of the dust bowl and the Great Depression were forced to leave their lands (Steinbeck 3). When it was first published in April 14, 1939, it quickly became a bestselling novel (Steiner 2).
Although there were those who criticized the novel for apparently being basically sentimental and still others dismissed it as another example of social journalism or documentation more than it is a novel, most critics recognize the literary value of Steinbeck’s work. In fact, the author even received a Pulitzer Prize for his work the following year (Steiner 2). The novel is an attack on capitalism as it is about the plight of the migrant workers. It condemned cruel industrialism and monopoly capitalism (Choi 90). The theme of finding a home entwined with the political issues of the time is of the essence.
This is because even though the story primarily has a political undertone, the author nevertheless explores the reason behind the migration of people, how they struggle to find their new homes while seeking to find out how it can really be done. The novel was written at a time the United States was struggling to survive a severe economic depression (Steinbeck 3). People all over the country have practically lost everything they own. The farming areas located at the Midwest experienced the worst consequence of such crisis. Soil depletion was brought about by poor farming practices.
As a result, farmers who depend on it for survival were forced to seek for other ways to support their families. Moreover, the prices as well as markets for the crops have dropped. These events produced a significant change in agriculture of the region. Small farm lands merged with bigger and more commercial ones. Manual labor has been replaced by mechanical means. The country experienced dry soil erosion brought about by mighty wind blows and endured serious food crisis during middle part of the 1930s. The condition produced what came to be known as the “dust bowl” in Colorado, Kansa, Texas, and Oklahoma.
The farmers together with their families were driven out of the land they depend on for years of survival. They traveled all the way to California, whose fertile land presents the promise of a better life. Unfortunately, life in the so-called Promised Land has not been good to them either. They suffered oppression, resentment, low wages, and unemployment. They were accused as communist in a land they counted on to rescue them from the ill-fated life they left back home (Steinbeck 3). Steinbeck traveled with the migrants to gain a first-hand experience of the unfortunate life they had to live.
In writing the novel, the author sought more than just to illustrate the class struggle at the time of the Great Depression. He even presented a critical analysis of the policies that had been the root cause of their misfortune. In this regard, the characters portrayed in the story usually come out as classic heroes or romanticized models. He did this on purpose instead of utilizing his characters to investigate the individual human psyche. Rather, he presents his characters as personification of the universal struggles and principles of the human race.
Hence, The Grapes of Wrath serves as an account of the Great Depression as it was an assessment of the social and fiscal system that contributed to the emergence of this particular period in American history. Works Cited Choi, Jungsun. “John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath: Home-Seeking and the Ambiguity of the Ending. ” Journal of British American Studies 14 (2006): 89-110. Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. New York: Penguin, 2002. Steiner, Bernd. A Survey of John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath. ” Munich: GRIN Verlag, 2007.
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