The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath has left much specifically untold about the authors true intentions on this book. His epic chronicle has been described as being “Written with passionate conviction” (Dorothy Parker). This passionate conviction has led John Steinbeck into mastering bold dramatization. His skills at the art of dramatization in literature was not solely used in The Grapes of Wrath, but also used in another of his twisted and possibly controversial works called Of Mice and Men. One of John Steinbeck’s main and possibly most obvious themes, is the hostility and frequent hatred between the migrant workers and the already socially and financially established Californians. There are many examples in the book that show not only that Steinbeck thought that it was an issue to be concerned with, but also it showed his thoughts and feelings towards the subject. Three examples of this theme are shown during encounters with other people that have already been there, in the corollary chap Along the way to California the Joad’s encountered other people that had already been to California and were now returning.
These people, like the ragged man with the sunburned face from the road-side camp described on page 242. He had 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, also his story showed the cruelty and inhumane treatment which the California land owners displayed towards the migrant workers. This grim story of the broken man didn’t discourage the Joad’s from parting from the set course. Later on inside the Californian border the Joads stop by a river.
Tom and his Father find a spot to go swimming where they are promptly joined on page 263 by two men, a man and his son, who asked if they may also partake in swimming with Tom and his Father. The men start talking and it turns out that the other two men have just come from California. They tell a story not extremely unlike the other story which the man at the road-side camp described. Their story describes the conditions as very uncomfortable. Subsequently the Joads paid no head to this warning either. Hence, they traveled on, only to meet up with (on page 274) a very dispassionate police officer. This gave the Joads a first hand sip of the general mood that Californians had for these migrant workers.
The policeman treated the migrants with little or no respect, seemed to just as soon see them drop off the face of the earth than see them come into 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 view on why they dislike the migrant workers with such conviction. 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 well fed and content to live freely on the land with little desire to need more.
Thus they were in little position to try and 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. This lead to the turning over of the land to the American’s in the California region. This same land was kept by the same families and worked with much success. So much success that they needed to work only part of it to stay leisurably comfortable, financially. Therefore the burning desire for the land diminished. This is where the migrant workers come in.
The Californians view of the workers are very much the same as the Mexican’s must have thought of the Californians when there land was taken over. Consequently the Californians, being afraid that history might repeat itself and the workers may take over the land, the Californians tried to discourage the growth in population of migrant workers as much as possible. Any way that they could, legal or not. The killing of Jim Casy is an example of the cruel behavior of the Californians. They killed Jim Casy because he was a leader. Not just any leader, but a leader that wanted justice and decency for migrant workers. He stood up for the people because their wages were being cut in half.
They were being cut so harshly that you couldn’t even eat off the money that you got in a day, much less feed any part of your family. Jim Casy stood up for the integrity of the workers and for that reason, was killed. John Steinbeck shed a dim light on the attitudes that make up prejudices and hatreds of the world. This light is showing us that if we could get along with one another without attitudes that make us hate or want to harm other people only because of certain unchangeable circumstances, than we can finally truely began to have an understanding of what it’s like to live in a world with peace and understanding towards our fellow human. The Joads weren’t trying to cause trouble and turmoil within the landowners of California.
They were simply trying to look for a better future. It is, the American dream.