John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath was first published in 1939. The narrative, and therefore the whole plot of the book, is built around the Joads, a family whose social experiences and everyday encounters paint a vivid picture of the oppressions, struggles, and bigotry faced by immigrants in America in the 1930s. The Great Depression described the time, a phenomenal event that transformed the American economy during a tumultuous period in which more than eleven million jobs were lost, tens of hundreds of banks closed down, and dire political and social circumstances defined livelihoods. Indeed, the novel is more of a political experience whose central message is taken home by the majority lower class citizens that champion through their collectiveness than a historical text. Starvation and destitution became evidenced elements that compromised the social stability of farmers. On the other hand, the challenges and hardships migrants face are not due to mere misfortunes and bad luck as is portrayed by the author, rather, the problems are triggered by other people in the society. Therefore, the author is trying to challenge his audience that the problems people face in life are often caused by fellow human beings, perhaps due to differences in ideologies, political alignments, or social differences like race and traditions. Nevertheless, in the novel, people are differentiated based on wealth, so that there are the poor and the rich, the tenants and the landlords, as well as the migrants and the natives. Those who have more material wealth have the upper hand and direct influence over the rest, who are deemed vulnerable. Indeed, the Endemic poor and transitional Poor in The Grapes of Wrath, as well as gender, ethnicity, race, marriage, and sexuality, are the common themes in the novel.
The subject of the difference between the Endemic poor and the transitional Poor in The Grapes of Wrath by one John Steinbeck published in 1939 is very evident to the plot as is manifested in how people betray and turn against each other. The author of clarifies in the whole text time and again that the misfortunes and challenges the immigrant’s encounter are caused by neither mere unfortunate luck nor the elements of bad weather, but that it orchestrated by fellow human beings (Kinman 1011). The economic, cultural, historical, social and circumstantial variability create distinct social classes among people so that those who have an abundance of such resources struggle perpetually to maintain the status quo and influence the less gifted materially. The people who fall in classes of the rich and the poor, tenants and the land owners are therefore evidenced in the novel, creating an environment of vicious controversies and unprecedented social upheavals. A good example Steinbeck brings on board is the experience in chapter nineteen, wherein the author expressly outlines how the squatters who were land hungry grabbed farms and turned them into self-owned assets of production through underhand means, a land which was initially owned by Mexicans (Gal and Liu 446). Nevertheless, this time around it appears that the resistance is mounted against immigrants in full measure, considering that history could repeat itself and the foreigners gain a manipulative upper hand to unfairly grasp the land for locals. As a countermeasure, the natives devise terrible strategies to ensure that their land is not taken away, including the shifting of immigrants from one filthy shelter to the other on the roadside, migrants are compelled to repel against each other, are denied wages and treated like animals as well, as situation which they go through for survive (Gal and Liu 449). Indeed, the author, Steinbeck, draws a literary line through his work, to enable his audience to realize that the poor and the reach do not homogeneous agree in ideology and social status, just because of material possession, and it is these differences in fortunes that lead to the disagreements not only in the characters in the novel but also a reflection of what happens in the contemporary American societies.
The themes of family, ethnicity, fellowship, power, and racism as well are manifested in the text. Indeed, the family is used as a critical tool of survival in the novel. Without the social bonding founded on family, the Joads would not have gotten to realize any progress for instance after their land was taken away. Furthermore, the family is the sole essential instrument through which the Joads get to their destination, California, and it is the central weapon the Joads embrace when it comes to confronting the bitter and cold world (Zirakzadeh 20). Together with other migrants, the Joads learn that family makes them overcome the racist related attacks, as well as their ability to forming communities that overcome foreign ethnicity and encourage fellowship. The novel revolves around two families, one being the communal collection of migrants and two being the Joads. Whereas the latter are joined by blood, the former group are related by circumstantial elements which bind them together for the much-needed survival. Indeed, the essential items that define a family are not taken into critical consideration for the migrants. This is because the situation they face is dire, and hence the need for coming out boldly as a single entity so as to be there for each other and support everyone so as to overcome the impending danger of attack and resistance. Indeed, because of the racial discrimination witnessed amidst the social confrontations, the author creates a scene whereby the Wilsons meet the Joads, and together they share the common problems threatening their survival (Zirakzadeh 34). Eventually, the two families merge into one, which is seemingly more robust and better placed to resist against external attacks. The coming together and uniting different groups into a single family are phenomenal across the text, as children of all people become the children of one individual and almost more than twenty groups merge into a single family. The fortunes realized in the West become a win situation for all people, whereas the loss of homes becomes a loss for all people. Indeed, Tom realizes that all people are his people, after a critical view that migrants needed each other like never before the impending danger and inevitable foreign confrontations.
Furthermore, the motifs in the novel help unfold the hidden truth behind the elements of sexuality and gender as expressed by Steinbeck. The author paints a distinction between the perceived roles and responsibilities of men and women in the society, in Dust Bowl America. While men are at the center of confrontation and challenges in the community, and they come directly in contact with the difficulties, women are not expected to respond in any other way other than keenly examining their spouses on how they approach and handle the challenges (Topolski, Boyd-Bowman, and Ferguson 112). While women are responsible for the domestic chores and running errands within their homestead, the husbands as judged with responsibility in critical decision making, including the issues that touch their lives as a society (Bengoetxea 1196). On the other hand, whereas women have the duty to prepare, cook, and present the meals on the table for eating, males are anticipated to go hunting and gathering the food which would then be made by their female counterparts fir the family. On the contrary, it is very ironically that Tom Joad behaves and acts like a feminine character, whereas Ma Joad takes up the responsibility of men in many circumstances. Therefore, the author creates a background wherein the novel contradicts its position about the respective roles of men and women in the American era of the 1930s (Topolski, Boyd-Bowman, and Ferguson 116). On the contrary, improvised leadership structures are structural motifs the author uses to pass across the literal meaning in his work. When the storyline begins, men lead the social domain and women follow, by working under instructions set by the former. While Grampa has outlived the essential honor of the reference of an elder, the deeply ingrained women in gender roles refer to him as the family head. Nevertheless, and the Joads proceed to the west and settle in California, Pa faces more challenges and chooses to give up on his masculine based roles, as he mediates. Nevertheless, Ma takes the role of Pa despite her being female, and this compels Pa out of a surprise to threaten to beat up Ma for her audacity (Bengoetxea 1196). Eventually, as the novel draws toward the end, the traditional revolution of the family has been reserved, whereby males no longer have the power and the willingness to perform their roles, and their retreat ushers in a new domain, the female characters who deliver the responsibilities of their male counterparts. Indeed, this change in traditional alignment o roles in the society peaks at the Weedpatch, whereby everybody is treated equally based on their abilities, and the power hungry phenomenon of the human person is disregarded to create room for a love zone characterized by justice, free, expeditious, and fair authority. Thus the critical role the female gender plays in shaping the society.
Bengoetxea, Joxerramon. “John Steinbeck â€TM S The Grapes of Wrath : Narrating the Wrong.” Oñati Socio-legal Series 4.6, 2014, PP. 1194–1207.
Gal, David, and Wendy Liu. “Grapes of Wrath: The Angry Effects of Self-Control.” Journal of Consumer Research 38.3, 2011, PP. 445–458.
Kinman, Gail. “Grapes of Wrath.” Psychologist 2008, PP. 1016-12.
Topolski, Richard, Kimberly a. Boyd-Bowman, and Heather Ferguson. “Grapes of Wrath: Discrimination in the Produce Aisle.” Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy 3.1, 2003, PP. 111–119.
Zirakzadeh, Cyrus Ernesto. “Revolutionary Conservative, Conservative Revolutionary? John Steinbeck and the Grapes of Wrath.” A Political Companion to John Steinbeck. 2.3, 2013, PP. 19–48.