Grapes of Wrath Essay: Prejudice Against Immigrants Exposed


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The Grapes of Wrath:  The Californians Prejudice Against Immigrants    

 

Prejudice is a strong word. It is the kind of word that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.  One of Steinbeck's themes in the novel, The Grapes of Wrath, is the prejudice against the migrant workers by the financially established Californians. Steinbeck provides four clear examples of prejudice; the man whose children died of starvation, the fishing story, the California police officer and the history of the Californians.

On the way to California, the Joad's encountered other people that had already been to California and were now returning. One of these encounters, with the ragged man with the sunburned face, is described on page 242. The ragged man had children that died because wages were too low and work was too scarce to afford food for his children and wife. His story was one of pain and despair and was evidence of the cruel and inhumane treatment which resulted from the California farmers prejudice towards the migrant workers.

Later, the Joads stop by a river where Tom and his Father find a spot to go swimming. Two men, a man and his son, who asked if they might also join them in swimming, promptly join them. The men start talking and it turns out that the other two men have just come from California. They tell a story describing the conditions as very unsafe and uncomfortable and mention the prejudice against the workers. Subsequently the Joads paid no head to this warning either. Hence, they traveled on, only to meet up with a very dispassionate police officer.

The police officer gave the Joads a first hand experience of the prejudice that Californians had against the migrant workers. The policeman treated the migrants with no respect.  This officer, who undoubtedly had taken an oath to uphold the law and promote the public good, would have been more happy see the Joads drop off the face of the earth than see them in California.

The Corollary chapter Nineteen deals with the history of California. How it was settled by the feverish Americans. Through these descriptions we can start to understand the Californians prejudice against the migrant workers. The chapter describes the initial owners of the land, the Mexicans, as being "weak and fed". This description would suggest that the Mexican's were like well fed livestock.

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  Content to live on the land with little desire to do anything more. Thus they were in no position to stop the onslaught of American's who wanted the land much more than the Mexicans did, and were too weak to stop them from doing so. Gradually, the Americans took over all the land in the California region. This land was kept by the same families for generations and worked with much success. The success was such that only part of the land needed to be utilized for a family to live leisurely, and financially comfortable. Therefore the burning desire for the land diminished. This is where the migrant workers entered the picture. The Californians view of the migrant workers is very much the same as the Mexican's must have thought of the Americans when their land was taken over. The Californians, being afraid that history might repeat itself, and the workers may take over the land, were extremely prejudice against the migrant workers.  The Californians tried to discourage the growth in population of migrant workers by any means possible, legal or not. The killing of Jim Casy is only one example of how the prejudice was manifest as cruelty toward the migrants. The Californians killed Jim Casy because he was a leader that wanted justice and decency for migrant workers. He stood up for the people because their wages were being cut so harshly that you couldn't even eat off the money that you earned - much less feed your family. Jim Casy stood up for the integrity of the workers and for that reason he was killed.

Prejudice is a strong word, it is as black as the night, as black as the souls of the California landowners.  John Steinbeck shed a dim light on the attitudes that make up prejudices – not only in California but also around the world.  The migrant workers weren't trying to cause trouble and turmoil for the landowners of California. They were simply looking for a better future. Yet they suffered the sting of prejudice, just as millions of migrants suffer today as they wander our world endlessly, searching for hope.

 

 

Be more specific in your thesis statement about the four examples that you discuss in your paper, the man whose children died, the fishing story, the police officer and the history of the Californians.

 

Make sure that you cite each quote with the author of the novel and the page number on which the quote can be found. 

 

You do have a solid concluding paragraph. Good job.


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