The Grapes Of Wrath 5 Essay, Research Paper
The Grapes of Wrath
The Grapes of Wrath was written by John Steinbeck in 1939. In 1940 it garnered him the Pulitzer Prize. The Grapes of Wrath has been called “The best example of the proletarian literature of the 1930 s.” by Benet s Reader s Encyclopedia.
The first chapter is a description of the land. This description of the great “dust bowl” gives us the background situation for the great migration to California. In the next chapter we are introduced to the main character of the novel, Tom Joad. He is hitchhiking home after being incarcerated for four years on the charge of manslaughter. After being dropped off near his house he meets his old preacher Jim Casy. Casy informs Joad that he no longer feels the need to be a preacher. Casy accompanies Tom back to the deserted farm that used to be his families. Muley Graves, a former neighbor of the Joad s informs Tom that his family, along with most tenant farmers of the area had been pushed off their land. He also tells him that his family is now living at his Uncle John s farm.
Tom and Casy arrive at Uncle John s farm to find the Joads preparing to move again, this time to California. This is where Tom s family is introduced to us. There is Ma, Pa, Grampa and Granma, and Noah, the oldest son. The daughter, Rose of Sharon is pregnant and dreams of finding a nice place in California. Connie, Rose of Sharon s husband who deserts her when they reach California, Al, the sixteen-year old son, and Ruthie and Windfield, the two youngest children. Tom is now informed that the banks had foreclosed on all the farms. Casy decides to go with the Joads to California. While they are getting ready to go Muley stops to say good-bye one last time. The Joads offer to bring him to California to join his family, but he says he just cannot bring himself to leave the land his father settled. Grampa has also reached the same decision as Muley. The Joads decide that forcing Grampa to come with them could possibly cause harm to him. They decide to give him a strong dose of medication in his coffee that will make him fall asleep. Unfortunately, Grampa never fully wakes up and soon dies. The Joads borrow a blanket from the Wilsons, a family that they had helped and were now traveling with, and bury Grampa in it. Granma becomes ill during the trip and dies before they reach California. The Wilsons stop when Mrs. Wilson becomes sick. The Joads give them some food and money, then continue to California.
The Joads arrived in California with four fewer people then their original party. Two had died, and Noah had left the family because he thought he was a hindrance to it. Connie had also left and Casy would soon follow, although from different circumstances. At Hooverville, the first migrant camp the Joads stop at there is a fight. When the police come, Casy admits to taking part in the fight to save Tom. The Joads did not stay long here, as they were unable to find work. They would face the same situation at the next camp they stopped at. They finally find work at a peach orchard where the workers are on strike. To enter the orchard, the Joads need police protection from the angry strikers. Later that night, Tom sneaks out to find out why the workers were striking. He finds that Casy had been released from prison, and is now the leader of the strike. Casey explains that the workers are just trying to get fair wages. While talking to Casy, the deputies that had been searching for Casy find and kill him. Tom receives a cut on his head, but not before he kills a deputy. The Joads felt sorry for the striking workers, but the only alternative to their starving is to cross the picket lines. For all the danger involved in this they receive five cents for filling a box, barely enough to survive.
Soon the Joads would yet again be forced to leave, Tom was a wanted man and their wages had been cut in half. They find work picking cotton, but it is too dangerous for Tom to be out, so he goes into hiding. The Joads, being some of the first workers to arrive receive a boxcar which they must share with another family, the Wainwrights. Soon Al, becomes engaged to the Wainwright s daughter, Agnes. The Joads seem to finally be doing well. However, Tom s safety would soon be jeopardized when Ruthie tells another girl of Tom s situation. Tom is urged by his mother to leave, which he does. He begins working as Casy did, fighting to gain fair treatment for the migrant workers.
The Joads yet again are faced with tragedy, as with the end of the cotton picking season come heavy rains. With the heavy rains come the floods. The Joads know that they can not stay in their boxcar much longer, for it will also soon be flooded. Before they can leave, Rose of Sharon goes into labor. The men try to keep the water out of the boxcar while the baby is being born. Unfortunately, the baby is born dead. The rising water soon makes it impossible for them to stay in the boxcar. The Joads, set off on foot looking for a drier place. The rain had left their car useless. Al, decides not to go with his family. Instead he stays with Agnes. The Joads find a barn, which is occupied by a boy and his starving father. The boy informs the Joads that his father has not eaten in six days. The story ends with Rose of Sharon nourishing the famished man with the milk from her breasts. This illustrates the main theme of the story. The poor can not rely on the rich to help them. If they want to survive they must rely on each other.
On a basic level, The Grapes of Wrath, can be seen as request for the California land owners and the banks of the mid-west to be more patient with the migrant and farm workers. However, the larger message is to all of society. Steinbeck, is telling people that you can not be concerned with just yourself. You must help all of humanity. For society to function properly, we must all work together, and when a man turns his back on another, it is just as bad as turning his back on his brother. We have seen this throughout the entire history of America. The Joads being forced off their land by the banks, and forced to go to California on a trip that results in the loss of family members can be compared to the trail of tears. In the 1820 s and 30 s many Indian tribes were forced off their land by the United States government, and sent to Oklahoma. On their trip, most of them died. The description of when the banks were plowing over the houses of the tenant farmers can be compared to the Seminal Indians and of the trail of tears. The United States told the Seminals that they had to leave their land, just as the driver of the truck told the man that he had to leave his house. The man said that he would kill the truck driver. The truck driver told the man that if he did he would be hanged, and someone else would destroy his house. The Seminals fought the U.S. to protect their land, were nearly wiped out, and were stripped of their land anyway. The tenant farmer’s migration to California in hopes of finding work can be compared to the Irish that immigrated to America. When the potato crop failed in Ireland, many Irish people immigrated to America in search of a better life for their families. Both groups would soon find life in their new homes to be just as harsh.
In all of these cases the people involve must learn that the only way to survive is to work together. The Joads learn this lesson. At the beginning of the story, Tom seems to only be concerned for himself. However, by the end of the story, he is willing to risk his life to help the migrant workers. We can also see this change in Rose of Sharon, and especially in Ma Joad. At the beginning of the story she was only concerned with keeping the family together. However, as the story progresses, she realizes that to be family, you do not need to have the same blood, all you need to be is alive. Rose of Sharon s selfishness also disappears as the story goes on. This is evident when at the end of the book she nourishes the man back to health with the milk that would have been for her baby.
The only character that did not go through a metamorphosis during the story is Casy. Steinbeck makes him out to be an almost Christ like person. While Casy may not have had the same principles as Christ, his actions were similar. Casy never accepted money for preaching. All he asked for was food and a place to sleep. Later, in California, Casy organizes and leads the migrant workers in their struggles. This can be compared to Christ s leadership of the Christian religion. Also, Casy sacrificed his life for what he believed in, which can be compared to the crucifixion of Christ. Also, Tom could be considered a disciple of Casy s, he continued what Casy had been working for after Casy s death. Just as the disciples of Christ preached his word after his death. Finally, Jim Casy and Jesus Christ have the same initials.
I enjoyed reading this book. I did not enjoy because it was a fun book to read. And while the message of the book might be uplifting, the actual story was rather bleak and depressing. I did think at times there was just too much description involving even trivial matters. However, I can also see where taking any of the description out of the book may have ruined the meaning. The reason that I enjoyed reading this book is the message it conveyed. I found it odd but true that the people that were most willing to help humanity were the ones that humanity tried repeatedly to destroy.
So far, I think that for my final project of comparing the books I will focus on the failure of dreams. It seems that in both Steinbeck books that I have read, The Grapes of Wrath, and The Red Pony have the same message. It is not the most prominent, but is in both of them. Both involve poor people struggling to succeed, and just when things start looking good, something happens that causes them to fail.