Grapes Wrath the Depression Era Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

For two years prior to the publication of the Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck spent his time with a group of migrant workers making their way towards California. Travelling and working with the laborers, Steinbeck found the heartfelt material in which to base his book." (Cordyack, 1) This shows in his gritty but sympathetic portrayal of the American working class.

This is an idea which illuminates perhaps the most important of parallels between the national experience during the Great Depression and the experience that the film portrays through the Joads upon their arrival to California. Namely, the capitalist system which has brought much pride and affluence to America's industrialists, and which somewhat questionably proclaims the opportunity for all to rise through an effective manipulation of the system, is the clear and declared enemy of the Grapes of Wrath. The inhumanity which is demonstrated by the banks and the bulldozers which reinforced them, or the absence of compassion exhibited in attending police officers and corporate farm-masters are symptomatic of a larger system which, through its encouragement of competitive profitability, inherently demands that such be achieved to the consequence of some other party's loss of opportunity. Thus, capitalism would be conveyed in this film as a force inherently demanded and stimulating inequality as well as essentially and intentionally hindering the ability of the desperate and hopeful to achieve even the pride of human equality. The tribulations awaiting the Joads in California are illustrative of the failure of America's economic system to protect its meek from the destructive greed of its strong.

And it is perhaps for that very reason that the work was received with some degree of controversy. Naturally, its socialist implications did not necessary sit well with conservative American leaders at that time, earning Steinbeck a label by some as nothing less than un-American. Naturally, this only helps us now to be assured of the economic hypocrisy conspiring to the destruction of America's economy. Indeed, we can see today that "Steinbeck did not distort the conditions that refugees from family farms faced when they reached California in the depression years. Despite the outcry of those who found the book too harsh on the good citizens of California and Oklahoma, the fictional Joad family encountered obstacles that were real enough and experienced by many in both places." (Thompson, 165)

This bears a clear relationship with the feeling amongst the farming poor of America during this time, who find in Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal a literal and practical reference to the broken promise of the American Dream and the resolve of his presidency to restore the arrangement. (Wikipedia, 1) in suspension of all banking activity, his institution of major work and relief programs, and his overall determination to recognize the determinant role which the greed and short-sightedness of corporate America played in instigating the Depression and ensuring that its continuity was felt most despairingly by the nation's poor. Roosevelt's immediate creation of numerous programs intended to halt the suffering, symptoms and stimulants of the Depression in simultaneity would prove remarkably aligned with Marxist principles, aiming the core of its hostility toward the capitalist institutions that had done such harm to the popular accessibility of the American Dream.

Works Cited

Cordyack, B. (2005). John Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath. 20th Century American

Bestsellers; UIUC Graduate School of Library and Information Services.

Text can be retrieved here:

http://www3.isrl.uiuc.edu/~unsworth/courses/bestsellers/search.cgi?title=the+Grapes+of+Wrath

Frenz, H. (1969). The Nobel Prize in Literature 1962. Nobel Lectures; Elsevier Publishing.

Text can be retrieved here:

http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1962/press.html

Steinbeck, J. (1939). The Grapes of Wrath. The Viking.

Thompson, P.B. (2007). Agriculture and Working-Class Political Culture: A Lesson From the Grapes of Wrath. Agriculture and Human Values, 24(2), 165-177.

Text can be retrieved here (account required for full access):

http://www.springerlink.com/content/n5443l872603285j/

Wikipedia. (1997). The New Deal. Wikimedia, Ltd., Inc.

Text can be found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Deal.

Sources Used in Document:

Works Cited

Cordyack, B. (2005). John Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath. 20th Century American

Bestsellers; UIUC Graduate School of Library and Information Services.

Text can be retrieved here:

http://www3.isrl.uiuc.edu/~unsworth/courses/bestsellers/search.cgi?title=the+Grapes+of+Wrath

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