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Theme of Inequality in “The Grapes of Wrath”

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    John Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath, takes place in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl Tragedy. At this time, many farmers were being overthrown by the higher and richer companies and owners such as the banks. The Grapes of Wrath has true meaning behind it, it is not just a story explaining the Dust Bowl Tragedy through Tom Joad’s eyes.

    John Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath, is loved by many because of the meaning behind it. It shows the true story of the United States of America’s Great Depression and the Dust Bowl Tragedies. In significance, it shows it through a farmer’s perspective and how these events affected Oklahoma’s society. Steinbeck’s piece of literature also depicts the American society and how they struggled finding new jobs.

    In the beginning of Steinbeck’s piece, the Joad family moves in with their Uncle John because they are kicked out of their farm. After discussing what the family will do, they plan on traveling to California in search of work. This is the first example of what the American society was like during these times. The Joads struggle throughout the novel in search of a financially stable job, which happened during the Great Depression.

    “Try for God’s sake ta save a little money! Winter’s comin’ fast. They ain’t no work at all in California in the winter. Fill up the bag ‘fore it’s dark,” (Steinbeck, 408). The Joads find work at a cotton field where they earn about $3 a day. This money was not suffice for the Joad family, as they had to pay for food daily, while managing to save money for the future. Many Americans had these type of obstacles as well.

    Families were not able to survive with such low wages that could not support their families. Another thing that happened during these terrible times was that the business men would take advantage of their workers. In Steinbeck’s novel, the Joads realized that they were not paying enough for the work they were providing the cotton plantations. “We can’t depend on it. The bank – the monster – has to have profits all the time. It can’t wait. It’ll die. No, taxes go on. When the monster stops growing, it dies. It can’t stay one size” (Steinbeck, 31). The businesses would scam the people of their money and not pay the families what they deserve. The banks were the origin of the problems. In the novel, they describe the banks as being monsters and that they were the cause of the bankruptcy.

    The idea of oppression is being expressed in Steinbeck’s novel is through Floyd Knowles. Tom Joad meets a man in the very beginning of the novel named Floyd Knowles. He is described as a very intelligent man who helps other out by finding them good and decent paying jobs. Since Tom becomes his friend, Knowles helps him out and finds a job for his family. Steinbeck provided symbolism through Floyd’s character, as he could represent a bank and how they work.

    Floyd represented the high class of America’s society and the Joads represented the low class of society. Floyd was a bank compared to the Joad family, as he was good financially and could easily find a job. Knowles then goes on to tell Tom, “You jus’ come. Maybe you can figger her out. Some fellas says one thing, an’ some says another thing. But you jus’ camp in one place a little while, an’ you see how quick a deputy sheriff shoves you along,” (Steinbeck, 244). He explains to Tom that this is the way society works and that the way the banks and businessmen are torturing the people of America is awful.

    The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl were dreadful times to live through and many Americans were not able to survive through it. Jobs were hard to find and food was hard to pay for. John Steinbeck clearly depicts the issue of the banks destroying the American society through their financial expenses. The novel, The Grapes of Wrath, shows the readers how life was unfair during the year of 1939.

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