The Grapes Of Wrath 7 Essay, Research Paper
26 May 2000
The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck s book The Grapes of Wrath depicts the sufferings of a southwestern family of poor tenant farmers who migrate to California in hopes of finding prosperity, but sadly only find poverty and despair there. The book portrays the transition the Joads family experiences as they become migrant laborers under the command of the rich. A change in their concept of family and in their personal roles is brought about by their predicament. However, the family stuggles to survive by working together and fighting for each other despite numerous challenges they encounter.
The purpose of the Grapes of Wrath is, essentially, social protest. It was designed to inform the public of the migrant pilgrimage. It is a plea for the landowners of California and the banks in the dust bowl states to be more tolerant. It shows how the migrants were made to starve by California landowners and banks just so they could turn a profit. It shows many methods that they used to cheat the migrants out of money and keep them from organizing. The style Steinbeck used was simple throughout the novel. He used the actual dialect of the Oklies to make the dialogue as realistic as possible. The structure Steinbeck used made the novel effective. He used two different basic stories, one of the individual journey of the Joad family, and one for telling the general pilgrimage of the migrants. He shows the individual family to show that the migrants are real people and tells the general story to show how the pilgrimage is affecting large numbers of people.
The Grapes of Wrath is a novel of social, more than literal, importance. It deals with social realism, by portraying the world as it actually exists, without fantastic or imaginary alteration.
In the Grapes of Wrath Steinbeck expresses some viewpoints that are similar to Ralph Waldo Emerson s philosophies and others that contrast with Emerson s ideas. On one hand, Steinbeck agreed with Emerson s Over-Soul concept, but on the other, he disagreed with Emerson s idea of Self-Reliance.
What both Emerson and Steinbeck agree on is that all men are joined in spirit. Emerson believed that all things were permeated with the Over-Soul. As Emerson put it, It is the one soul that animates all men. Steinbeck expresses basically the same theme through the observations of the preacher, Jim Casy. Casy believes that All that live is holy (pg 127) and that there ain t no sin and there ain t no virtue. There s just stuff people do. It s all part of the same thing. Tom Joad paraphrased one of Casy s speeches by saying one time he went out in the wilderness to find his soul. An he foun he jus got a little piece of a great big soul. (pg 373)
On the other hand, what they disagree on is what the best way for humans to be is. Emerson says that we should all be self-reliant, whereas Steinbeck says that we should all help each other out and we are at our best when we are cooperating. Emerson held the self up as the basis of morality, as superior to society, and as the ultimate standard of value. Steinbeck disagrees and says through Casy that When they re all workin together, but one fella kind of harnesses to the whole shebang that s holy (pg71).