The Grapes of Wrath - A Work of History as well as Fiction


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The Grapes of Wrath - A Work of History as well as Fiction

 

 

 

The Great Depression took a toll on the people, unlike any other era in history that spread poverty and hunger throughout the people living in a particular period of time. Through such a period of imbalance, the U.S downfall occurred and the resulting stock market crashes acted as a trigger to the already unstable U.S. economy. Due to the misdistribution of wealth, the economy of the 1920's was one very much dependent upon confidence. Steinbeck's depictions of this time period help readers comprehend the human toll of the Depression.

 

Steinbeck wrote a realistic novel that mimics life and offers social comments, on real life in Midwest America in the 1930s. But it also offers a powerful social note, directly in the intercalary chapters and indirectly in the places and people it portrays. Typical of very many, the Joads are driven off the land by far away banks and set out on a journey to California to find a better life. However, the journey breaks up the family, their dreams are not realized and their fortunes disappear. What promised to be the land of milk and honey turns to sour grapes. In the same way, the hopes and dreams of a generation turned to wrath. Steinbeck did see this mess come together, and the public did put it to the side. Steinbeck places The Grapes of Wrath out there to the public to really prove what was happening in this world. By catch the people's attention, he can tell the people what he thought of the situation. Steinbeck had many quotes in the book. This particular quote confronts the depression:" Banks breath profits; they eat interest money. If they don't get it, they die the way you die without air, without side-meat." Steinbeck, 39. This quote mainly handles with the banks money profits. The banks didn't even care about the customers. Banks gave the people high interest rate during that time, only caring about their money.

 

Many Americans had to make tough decisions during the time of the Depression. Just to live a reasonable life, The Great Depression was the worst economic slump ever in U.

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S. history, and one that spread to virtually the entire industrialized world. The depression began in late 1929 and lasted for about a decade. Many factors played a role in bringing about the depression; however, the main cause for the Great Depression was the combination of the greatly unequal distribution of wealth throughout the 1920's, and the extensive stock market speculation that took place during the latter part that same decade. The misdistribution of wealth in the 1920's existed on many levels. Money was distributed disparately between the rich and the middle-class, between industry and agriculture within the United States, and between the U.S. and Europe. This imbalance of wealth created an unstable economy. The excessive speculation in the late 1920's kept the stock market artificially high, but eventually lead to large market crashes. These market crashes, combined with the misdistribution of wealth, caused the American economy to capsize.

 

Here, Steinbeck haves other quotes to share concerning about the people in general: "What are you doing this kind of work for - against your own people?" (45). Doing work under other people's own will, probably doing work without anyone knowing, or working when not told. "You're not buying only junk, you're buying junked lives. And more - you'll see - you're buying bitterness. Buying a plow to plow your own children under, buying the arms and spirits that might have saved you." (Steinbeck 110) "If he needs a million acres to make him feel rich, seems to me he needs it 'cause he feels awful poor inside himself, and if he's poor in himself, there ain't no million acres gonna make him feel rich, an' maybe he's disappointed that nothin' he can do 'll make him feel rich." (Steinbeck 264) "The migrant people, scuttling for work, scrabbling to live, looked always for pleasure, dug for pleasure, manufactured pleasure, and they were hungry for amusement." (Steinbeck 415)

 

The Grapes of Wrath follows the Joad family for about half a year of their lives. We meet them just after they've been thrown off their land. We go with them on a long cross-country, which lasts, perhaps, slightly more than a month. The last time we see them, they are in a hillside barn seeking refuge from wintry rains and floods. The Joads' story is told chronologically. Steinbeck occasionally fills in details of the characters' past lives in two ways. Sometimes he just tells us. That's how we learn about Noah Joad's violent birth, for example. Or Steinbeck has characters talk about themselves, as Casy does, or about each other. When Tom tells Casy the story of Uncle John's ill-fated marriage.

 

Drought and poor farming, led to the wind erosion of topsoil. So severe was this problem that the affected areas of the Great Plains were labeled the Dust Bowl. At nearly the same time, the development of the all-purpose tractor enabled large landowners to dispense with the labor of farmers who were tenants on their land. By the late '30s, a majority of the approximately 1.8 million tenant farmers in the South had been evicted from their homes. Many of the displaced farmers sought work in the "promised land" of California. Eventually, there were as many as 300,000 migrants in California, several workers for every available job in the fertile farming valleys of that state. Furthermore, Tom Joad's story dramatizes a conflict between the impulse to respond to hardship and disaster by focusing on one's own needs and the wish to risk one's safety by working for a common good. In the eyes of the people they're in failure, and in the eyes of the hungry there is growing wrath. "In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage." (Steinbeck 445).

 

John Steinbeck wrote a rare accomplishment for a writer of fiction. He created a literary portrait that defined an era. The Grapes of Wrath became the principal story through which America defined the experience of the Great Depression. Even today, one of the enduring images for anyone with even a passing familiarity with the 1930s is that of Steinbeck's fictional characters the Joads, an American farming family uprooted from its home by the twin disasters of dust storms and financial crisis to become refugees in a hostile world. Those who survived the hazardous passage to the Promised Land, however, found the large corporations that controlled Californian agriculture used the rapidly growing number of migrants to continually beat down harvest wages. The Okies ended up landless, homeless, and impoverished, forced to watch their children starve in a land of plenty. Although it is about the experiences of the fictional Joad family, The Grapes of Wrath was always meant to be taken literally. Steinbeck's book was presented at the time as a work of history as well as fiction, and it has been accepted as such ever since.

 

 


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