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The Grapes of Wrath - Essay Example

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In his famous book The Grapes of Wrath (1939) for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature, John Steinbeck stated, "If you're in trouble, or hurt or need - go to the poor people. They're the only ones that'll help - the only ones." This statement accurately captures his perception of the poor and marginalized members of our society…
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The Grapes of Wrath
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Download file to see previous pages This paper will examine whether or not the themes of John Steinbeck in his novels -- particularly in relation to poverty - are still relevant in today's times and whether the message that he wished to impart is universal and timeless.
John Steinbeck was born on February 27, 1902. He pursued studies at the Stanford University but dropped out of university in a bid to jumpstart his writing career. He gained acclaim by writing about the common people toiling amidst the Great Depression, describing desperation and poverty with vivid and colorful images that touched the hearts of many.
In The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck chronicled the travels of the Joad family from the Oklahoma Dust Bowl to California, which the family believed to be a land holding much promise and fortune for them. Together with a thousand others making the mass exodus, they brave the dusty highways carrying only their dreams and fuelled only by their faith. During their trip, they simulate society and social norms. Leaders emerge, "rules" are formed, bonds are forged, and human behavior is exposed. But even at the start of the novel, Steinbeck already established the theme of desperation of the American farmer, and how they are left out in the cold by society. Says Seelye (2003):
Steinbeck uses Tom Jo...
But even at the start of the novel, Steinbeck already established the theme of desperation of the American farmer, and how they are left out in the cold by society. Says Seelye (2003):
Steinbeck uses Tom Joad's return from prison as a device emphasizing the alienation through dispossession of a great number of American farmers. The deserted, ramshackle Joad house is a mute witness to the impersonal, callous nature of American capitalism, which places profits over the well-being of hard-working tillers of the soil. At first identified with his family, Tom's progress thenceforth is deeper and deeper into the communal American soul, the larger family with which he becomes identified as his own disintegrates.
It is of course, not unusual for writers to use literature as a forum for economic analysis. Of course, much drama is injected and there are plot twists and turns that would differentiate it from a purely economic piece. However, it cannot be denied that throughout history, literature has always been used to make a commentary on a prevailing economic situation. A good example of this may well be Gabriel Garcia Marquez' "One Hundred Years of Solitude", where the climax of the story was the savage killing of plantation workers who participated in a strike to protest oppressive working conditions. According to Watts and Smith (1989):
It has long been noted that although literature and drama, like language, function as institutions in some ways separate from economic forces and conditions, they do play an important role in shaping public opinion and standards on many economic issues. In turn, economic thought and circumstances help shape and direct literature, drama and language. It is surprising then that few ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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