John Steinbecks novel, The Grapes of Wrath

John Steinbecks novel, The Grapes of Wrath

Grampa took up the land, and he had to kill the Indians and drive them away. And Pa was born here Then a bad year came and he had to borrow a little money. An we was born here. And Pa had to borrow money. The bank owned the land then, but we stayed and we got a little bit of what we raised(45). In John Steinbecks novel, The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck illustrates and advocates drastic change in the economy during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl of the early 1930s. He depicts this transformation using the Joad family, illuminating their struggle in these hard times.

In this novel there is an agricultural evolution with three distinct stages. In the beginning Grama and Grampa owned their land and they produced their product for themselves. The second stage is that of sharecropping, where Pa had lost ownership of the land but continued to farm and he makes a small profit of trade. The final stage is that where money and profit rule all, and corporations take total control and the family businesses are destroyed. The economy of this time changes dramatically and many suffered because of it. In the beginning farmers had to be the land in order to survive.

The farmers had to know every detail, and they had to devote their every moment to make sure the crop would be successful. We measured it and broke it up. We were born on it, and we got killed on it, died on itThats what makes it ours-being born on it, working it, dying on it. That makes ownership(45). At this time the land was owned by the families and they were the ones that worked on it so they could survive. They were a part of the land. If a man owns a little property, that property is him, its part of him, and its like himEven if he isnt successful hes big with his property(50).

The first real step toward the economic evolution starts with the initiation of sharecropping. The families would work hard and do well and then a bad year would come and so the crop failed. The families had to borrow a little money form the banks so they could get back on their feet. Then, another poor crop, and the families have to eat so they borrow a little more money from the banks. Soon without knowing what has happened the families no longer own their land, they are tenants. The farm to pay back their debts to the bank.

Some families may be able to pay back their debt, but most are lost in the never-ending circle of getting ahead only to fall behind again. In the final stage of this economic evolution, corporations take over and profits are the only concern in any situation. This is the most complex stage of the two previous time periods. This period is a mixture of corporations taking over and old farmers either doing what is necessary for them to feed their children or they flee to California where work is guaranteed. Because those creature dont breathe air, dont eat side-meat.

They breathe profits; they eat the interest on money(43). An example of a ex-farmer providing for his family is that of the tractor driver. He does what the corporation asks of him and in return he gets three dollars every day. The tenant system wont work any more. One man on a tractor can take the place of twelve of fourteen families. Pay him a wage and take all the crop (44). These monsters are willing to do anything in order to gain more money. They send out hanbills all over hell. They need three thousan and they get six thousan. They get them men for what they wanta pay.

If ya don wanta take what they pay, goddamn it, thys a thousan men waitin for your job(335). In this final stage of the agricultural evolution money is the only real thing and people do what they must in order to get their money. It is obvious to see that John Steinbeck advocates economic change in his novel. There are three very distinct phases that are illustrated in this novel. In the beginning it was the about the family and in the end it was all about the money. There is a drastic change that occurred in this time period that affected millions and Steinbeck depicts this in his novel.


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John Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath

John Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath

John Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath, is a story that takes place during America’s dreadful period of depression. Due to misunderstanding the nature of the entire situation, Steinbeck writes this novel to shine some light on the people about the great migration westward. This novel portrays the life of the Joad family who go through the harsh struggles of poverty and migration. They are forced to leave their drought stricken land in Oklahoma, hoping to find work in California, which to them is the land of opportunity, but soon they find out the horrors behind the picturesque mask.

In their quest to reach the promise land, the women play a very special role in which they are distinct and contribute something to the Joad family and to the world. The most authoritative figure is Ma Joad. She is a very strong southern woman whom the whole family looks upon for support. Ma is a lady who is both strong mentally and physically.

Her understanding is acknowledged by the rest of the family to be supreme. Of her emotional strength Tom says. Her hazel eyes seemed to know, to accept, to welcome her position, the citadel of the family, the strong place that could not be taken. ‘; (95) The family felt what Ma felt and let her emotions be in control. ‘And since, when a joyful thing happened, they looked to see whether joy was on her. ‘; (95) Because of this she kept strong. She always wants happiness for everyone in the family, that’s why she stays strong. Ma knew that if she were to weak the whole family would fall apart.

She realizes that they have no home and that the only value and meaning in life is that which they derive from being a family. She keeps the two cars together so they will not be separated and she forces decisions to be made for the benefit of the family. She understands the inner need of each individual member. Ma is to the family as pillars are to a building; if the pillar is weak, the building will soon collapse when anything afflicts it. Even until the end the whole family eventually does fall apart, she still stays strong.

It is not because of her weakness that the family falls apart, it is because she allows them to live their own lives according to the way they want to and does not restrict them. Grandma is very religious. Her religion is a strange one where one comes to think that it is only to annoy Grandpa. Grandma and Grandpa Joad are depicted as a delightful couple. They seem to thrive on quarreling and fighting and competing. There is a strong attraction between them, but neither would admit it.

At the time of Grandpa’s death, her religion is characterized by the phrase when Casy won’t pray and says to him, ‘Pray goddamm you, pray. ‘; She seemed to take her strength from arguing and competing with Grandpa, so she does not live long after Grandpa’s death. In the beginning of the novel, Rose of Sharon, is searching for romance and beauty in life, although she is sick most of the time. During her pregnancy, she got very irritable. Because of the unfortunate birth of a ‘little blue mummy’; due to undernourishment, she realizes the fullness of life.

In the end, she is seen giving life to a starving man. This was her first action in which she is not concerned about herself. The contributions of the Joad women towards the family and the world is appreciated greatly. Each of them contributed differently and they were all looked upon for answers. They were all struggling to live in an ever changing world. These contributions make them the extraordinary people that they are. ‘Fear the time when Manself will not suffer and die for a concept, for this one quality is the foundation of Manself, and this one quality is man, distinctive in the universe.

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John Steinbeck's novel, The Grapes of Wrath. (2019, Mar 11). Retrieved February 21, 2020, from