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Essay on The Grapes of Wrath as Communist Propaganda

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The Grapes of Wrath as Communist Propaganda

 

The Grapes of Wrath may be read as a direct indictment of the U.S. capitalist system of the early and mid twentieth century. Although the book on the surface level can fairly easily be read as anti-capitalist book, it goes further than that. The book both implicitly and explicitly advocates structural changes in the economic institutions of our country. Thus, it may be argued that the Grapes of Wrath is communist propaganda.

Propaganda, according to The American Heritage Dictionary, is "the dissemination of a doctrine or cause or of information reflecting the views and interests of those people advocating such a doctrine or cause." The book fits this definition by attempting to change the reader's views on economics and society as a whole to the anti-capitalist views of the author. The plot itself is centered on the supposed evils and greed that resulted from unbridled capitalism. Communist views are echoed through Casey and Tom. The structure of the novel itself lends itself to an emotional appeal to a broader concept through its 80% specific 20% general breakdown. Finally, the general chapters suggest an impending social revolt.

The book's entire plot centers around a forced exodus. Regardless of one’s views on Naturalism, it is nearly indisputable that the Joads’ impetus for exodus was economic forces beyond the Joads' control. The family is repeatedly oppressed by the powers that be: the faceless bank, the clerks at the roadside, the owners and operators of the farms, and the police. A sense of impersonality and inhumanity dominate the description of the banks, and as such the entire economic system that perpetuates it. When the dispossessed and downtrodden farmer as...


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...ore and more of an emotional ploy to convince the reader of the problems of capitalism, and further the author’s case for large scale societal changes.

Steinbeck, in The Grapes of Wrath, was trying to do much more than just show the plight of one family. He wanted to show the plight of the working class; he felt people must know of the suffering and injustices that were endured. Thus, the novel had a distinctly anti-capitalist, procommunist sentiment. This was inherent in the plot and events of the novel, as well as stated implicitly through the characters themselves. The novel went further to almost explicitly tell of an impending revolution. Finally, the structure of the book itself makes an emotional appeal to the reader about the lives of one family, and tries to make the reader draw conclusions and generalities about the country and society as a whole.

 


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