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The Grapes of Wrath - Beauty in the Midst of Hopelessness Essay

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The Grapes of Wrath: Beauty in the Midst of Hopelessness

 
The Grapes of Wrath portrays life at its darkest.  It is the story of migrant workers and the hardships and heartbreaks that they experience as they are driven from their land - the land that  they have lived on for generations - so the banks can make a profit.

     Sure, cried the tenant men, but it's our land.  We measured it and broke it up.  We were born on it, and we got killed on it, died on it.  That's what makes it ours - being born on it, working it, dying on it.  That makes ownership, not a paper with numbers on it (p.45).

     Steinbeck follows the Joad family as they leave their farm to forge a new life in the land of opportunity - California - where life is golden and jobs are abundant . . . or so they think.  They are met with distrust and dislike by the residents of the cities they pass through, and they have little success in finding jobs with salaries that they can survive on. Once the Joads reach California, they discover that the situation there is much the same; the jobs are sparse and wages low.  People are starving to death while fruit rots on the trees.  Once again, this is so others can make a profit.

     And children dying of pellagra must die because a profit cannot be taken from an orange.  And coroners must fill in the certificates - died of malnutrition - because the food must rot, must be forced to rot (p.477).

     Steinbeck masterfully weaves a powerful and gripping story of hope, heartbreak, and survival, alternating the account of the Joads' journey with chapters that take a step back and show the struggle of the United States as a whole.  This gives the book a depth that is rarely achieved in literature - at le...


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...rror behind - strange things happen to them, some bitterly cruel and some so beautiful that the faith is refired forever" (p.166).

Sources Cited and Consulted

Cunningham, Charles D. "Solidarity, Sympathy, Contempt: The Mythology of Rural Poverty in Depression America." Diss. Carnegie Mellon U, 2001.

French, Warren. "John Steinbeck" Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 1, Gale Research Co.: Book Tower: Detroit 1973.

Lechteihn, Yuri. "The Awakening of Tom Joad." 2 pp. Online. Internet. 30 April, 2004. Available http://www.ac.wwu.edu/~stephan/Steinbeck/grapes.html.

Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. New York: Penguin Books USA Inc, 1993.

Timmerman, John. John Steinbeck’s Fiction. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1986.

Wilson, Edmund. "The Noonday Press." Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 13, Gale Research Co. Book Tower: Detroit 1973.


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