Bonds With the Land in The Grapes of Wrath


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The Grapes of Wrath: Bonds With the Land

 

To human beings, environment is vital. After spending a number of years in one place, it is very human to become attached. This is especially true with farmers. They spend their lives learning the land around them. The land becomes a friend to them, having almost human value. In the novel The Grapes of Wrath, author John Steinbeck conveys the connection people have with their land, without which they feel they cannot survive mentally or physically.

 

All humans think of a home as a place for comfort. Even though I have lived in different places, my home right now is where I feel I belong. In The Grapes of Wrath, the Oklahoma farmers feel they belong to the land and do not want to leave it. In response to Muley Graves' refusal to leave, Jim Casy says, "' Fella gets use' to a place, its hard to go'"(65). Muley's refusal to leave shows that he is physically and emotionally attached to the land he farmed before his eviction. It is illegal for him to remain on the land; yet, he cannot bring himself to leave his home. The land has become a part of him.

 

Human beings also can become proprietary about their land. They believe that the land belongs to them, and they belong to it. Before the Joad family is finished packing, Grampa decides he does not want to leave. He says, "'This country ain't no good, but its my country. No, you all go ahead. I'll jus' stay right here where I b'long'"(143). Grampa knows that it is better if he goes, but he is tied to the land and cannot break himself free. He cannot go on, neither mentally nor physically, away from the land where he feels he belongs.

 

Grampa physically refuses to leave, and when forced to, his fate is sealed. Even though he talks about the wonderful life he expects to have in California, Grampa cannot mentally abandon the land. Jim Casy makes this observation after Grampa's death. "'He was foolin', all the time. I think he knowed it. An' Grampa didn't die tonight. He died the minute you took 'im off the place... He was that place, an' he knowed it'"(187). Similar to Muley Graves, Grampa's mental bond with the land prevents him from being physically able to leave it.

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Mentally, Grampa is dead by the time the Joad family crosses the Oklahoma border. Physically, he dies soon afterwards. Grampa cannot bear to travel to a new place, even though he pretends to be happy about it. This breaking of his connection to the land forces him to die.

 

The Grapes of Wrath is a novel that communicates the bond humans have for the land they live on. This land provides an almost human companion throughout people's lives. When forced to move away, these people lose a part of themselves, and suffer both mentally and physically.


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