The Grapes of Wrath
The Grapes of Wrath is a novel written by John Steinbeck telling precise story of the Joad family. Throughout the story, a clear picture of the destitution and cruelty experienced by migrant laborers all through the Great Depression is indicated. It is also an overtly opinionated tract championing socialist events by the lesser classes. This was due to the thoughtless policies of the eccentric corporate and banking select few of the day, that were meant to maximize profits. All these happened in spite of the fact that the policies were forcing the farmers into penury and even malnourishment.
Man’s Cruelty to Fellow Man
The novel commences with the depiction of the dire situation in Dust Bowl Oklahoma. The crops were seriously bust thus setting off substantial foreclosures on the farmland. At the initial stages, no particular characters come into view. Instead, the author dwells on the larger societal milieu with those more precise to the Joad family. One very clear interpretation of the novel is man’s cruelty to fellow man. This is depicted by the extreme poverty and destitution of the lower classes during the Great Depression.
This inhumanity is indicated by the fact that during the day, farmers have nothing to do but stare at their dying crops, pondering on the survival of their families. The situation is further aggravated by the fact that the prevailing fear of a catastrophic epidemic may break the men leaving families in dire situations. Apparently, all this great suffering is not caused by poor climatic conditions or simple calamity, but by humanity. The socio-economic and historical circumstances at the time separated the society into landlord and occupant, wealthy and underprivileged.
Furthermore, the people in the overriding positions fought ferociously for the perpetuation of their positions. The state was also represented as the product of land-hungry unlawful tenants who apparently took land from Mexicans eventually making it their own. This was after working it and making it useful. Many generations after this, the landowners of California realize that this could historically be a threat being that the flood of migrant workers may result in a repetition of history.
Consequently, in order to prevent such a looming danger, the landlords decided to create a situation in which the migrants are treated defectively, not as fellow human beings but as animals . As a result, they were hobbled from one grubby wayside campsite to another. Furthermore, they were also deprived of proper remuneration. The grim situation was again exacerbated by the fact that they were even forced to turn against one another just for the sake of continued existence. All through the story, a clear line is drawn between the haves and the have-nots in the society at the time.
The dismal conditions are worsened by the menacing threats of destitution. A strong sense of despondency is the order of the day (Steinbeck and Ehrenhaft 8). As a result of lack of possible solutions to the poverty stricken farmers, many of them are resigned to their fate baffled at what lay ahead for them.
In chapter twenty, again the cruelty of man against fellow men is clearly depicted. The mayor is subjected to continuous anguish by the police. This eventually drives him insane. This persecution is not out of no reason, but is basically an attempt by the police to thwart efforts of the migrant workers from stay in California. This is because their settling down may tilt the political equation in the state as the migrant workers could vote and wield political influence. However, if they have no permanent residence, they would be incapacitated and therefore cannot intimidate the ruling business class.
This cruelty is also aggravated by the fact that anybody opposing the designs of the ruling class is routinely labeled a rabble rouser and is therefore blacklisted and is thus banned from working wherever. Furthermore, the police even go as far as executing a migrant worker. This is simply because they have no name and possessions, and thus no influence.
The Effectiveness of Family and Fellowship
Another clear and precise interpretation of this story is how effective family and fellowship can be in saving situations that would otherwise get out of hand. The story basically records the circumstances of the Joads family in particular and the migrant workers in general. In as much as the Joads are biologically closely knit by blood, it is not their heredity, but their dependability and dedication to one another that reinforces their factual affinity.
The migrant everyday life as described in the book demands that new relations and kinships be established. This is because of lack of comprehensible biological family unit and a home with clearly defined margins becoming history (Steinbeck 44-5). This is typically depicted when the Joads have an encounter with the Wilsons. It is openly witnessed when within a short time of their meeting; the two families come together as one. This is further reinforced by their sharing of one another’s sufferings and the commitment to one another’s survival.
Consequently, this kind of integration happens generally among the migrant community. The families, though many, became one family with the children being children of all. In fact, when one family lost a home, all families bore the loss together. Similarly, even golden Western moments were apparently one dream. In the face of harsh conditions, the source of revenue of the migrants was solely reliant on their unification. In fact, Tom eventually realizes that his family is all the people.
The Dignity of Anger
The dignity of anger is yet another interpretation of the story. In refusing to be broken down by the conditions that work against them, the Joads stand as commendable figures. At every turn of events in the story, the author comes out to clearly show the dignity and honor of the Joads. In a great way, a lot of emphasis is laid on the fact that it is always vital to uphold a sense of worth for the sake of surviving internally. This is very evident even at the end of the novel in chapter 30. After the unsurpassed suffering of losses by the Joads, Connie, Noah and Tom leave the family.
Consequently, the family manages to rise above the hardship especially after Rose of Sharon gives birth to a still born baby. In spite of the lack of food or income, the family manages to rise above the prevailing poor conditions to feed a starving man. This indicated that the Joads were not broken by the abject poverty to the point of losing their sense of value of human life. “Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there”.
In the story, the author also gives a clear indication of the connection between rage and dignity. He further asserts that a group of people cannot lose their sense of dignity if they uphold a sense of rage against those who seek out to emasculate them. This interpretation is clearly reinforced in chapter 25 by the images of decomposed grapes. The same is witnessed in chapter 29 in which the women, who are workers, know that their husbands, sons and brothers will stay tough if only their apprehension can be turned into rage. Their conviction is grounded on their understanding that the men’s rage bespeaks their strong sagacity of sense of worth.
The Effects of Egotism and Self-sacrifice
Another interpretation of the story comes from the fact that the tribulations that beleaguered the Joad family in particular and the migrants in general is basically as a result of self-centeredness. This is because the self-interest of the businessmen and the landowners drove them into supporting an economic structure in which scores of families are sank into abject paucity. This kind of attitude is actually in contrast to and in conflict with the strategy of self-sacrifice upheld by the migrants even as they relate with one another.
The migrants were well aware that their continued existence and living depended on their shared good. Thus they resorted to sharing their dreams as well as burdens for the sake of their very survival. The author gives clear emphasis on the stark differences between selflessness and selfishness as equivalent and conflicting powers. This is uniformly in step with their variance with each other. The concept of self-sacrifice is again witnessed when police officers start a fracas with Tom and other migrant workers.
During this event, Tom trips the police authorities with Casy beating him insensible. Because of the fact that Tom would be taken for the blame, and would end up being taken back to prison for parole, Casy admits liability for the crime. As a result, he is taken away to jail. This is a pure indication of altruism.
However, egotism is witnessed in chapter 25 whereby in spite of the fruitfulness of trees, men of understanding carry out experiments with them for their own selfish good. They do this by testing with the seeds and crops to shield them against infections and pests. Eventually, the fruits become supple and putrid. The absurdity is that in spite of the rottenness, the grapes are still used for the production of wine. This happens in spite of them being polluted with yeast and formic acid. The justification behind all these are that it is still “good” for the underprivileged to get intoxicated.
The folly behind all these is that the men behind this new creation of fruits cannot come up with a system in which that fruits can be fit for human consumption. Eventually, out of egotism, an offense that goes past condemnation is committed. Grief that cannot be represented with lamentation occurs. This results in a situation in which innocent children have to give up the ghost from pellagra just because proceeds cannot be obtained from a fruit.
In chapters 13 and 15, in repeated dynamics, the author presents both openhandedness and voracity as self-perpetuating. This is evident especially in the thirteenth chapter when the commercial gas corporation preys upon the gas attendant met by the Joads. The attendant apparently abuses the Joads and shilly-shally to offer them any form of assistance. The Joads thereafter witness an occurrence of kindheartedness as in the same way self-propagating. This happens when Mae, a waitress, sells bread and sweets to a family at a cheap cost. Some truckers, on witnessing this transaction, leave Mae a copious tip.
The Concept of the Oversoul
The concept of the oversoul is yet another interpretation of the story that comes out very clearly. In as much as the author does not use these exact words, it is clearly dominant in the story. This is the case especially in chapter 4 when Jim Casy of his recognition of all men having one big soul that all are part of . Consequently, the fact that the whole society is related in this essential manner makes the distinction between families be fundamentally reduced. This occurs in as much as it previously appeared very vital.
The concept of the oversoul becomes evident again when Ma-Joad starts a perception that the entire society must come to a point of assisting one another and come to this understanding. This happens in spite of the fact that the crucible of her perceptions entices her to discard it. It is also witnessed when Ma is initially hesitant at sharing her food with starving kids who are not hers. However, she eventually agrees to share the food. The concept of the oversoul is again emphasized by Tom when he says, ‘…a fella ain’t got a soul of his own, but on’y a piece of a big soul- the one big soul that belongs to ever’body”.
A similar scene is witnessed when the Rose of Sharon, who was previously concerned with her own legitimate needs offers somebody assistance. She gives the milk of her body, which was meant for her stillborn baby, to a man dying of hunger. The enigmatic smile on her face is a clear indication that she has come to a similar understanding as Casy, in which they belong to one another.
The Battle between Flesh and Spirit
The battles between the flesh and the spirit is witnessed in the forth chapter. This is very evident even as Casy acknowledges his efforts over sex. Casy, realizes that the Christian doctrines are basically too incarcerating and lacks the practicability they should have. This happens to be the case even as he battles with his convictions and the allure of sin with the women he tries to convert (Steinbeck 6). In spite of the fact that he is initially guilty over his actions, he finally comes to the conclusion that this could be the way humanity is. This is the case in point even as he gets worried about his responsibilities towards the women he is trying to convert to Christianity.
Eventually, it becomes evident that Casy’s moral code is questionable even as the battles between the flesh and the spirit rages on in his life. Casy even denies the very existence of virtues and vices. He finally concludes that it is all about what people do, being part of the same thing. He also winds up with the concept that each and every one of the men and women are the Holy Spirit, and are some how linked to one universal spirit.
Consequently, Casy rejects the personality of Jesus Christ as being intangible. It is very evident that he does not and cannot know Jesus. Instead, he recognizes the ordinary people supposing that they are the very depiction of god. The battle between the spirit and the flesh again comes to the fore even as Tom makes obvious his aversion for the tangible spiritual teachings. This is evident even as he derides the devout spiritual Christmas cards sent to him while behind bars by his grandmother.
Again, it becomes clear when the Jehovites fruitlessly try to prove to Ma that the death of Granma is good instead of bad. The battle between flesh and spirit is also witnessed in the Weedpatch camp. This comes as a result of Mrs. Sandry’s vilification of the Saturday night revelries as transgression. Because of the fact that she does not get involved in the boogies, she therefore considers herself among the outstanding right believers.
The author also depicts Uncle John as a tortured character. This is because Uncle John does not admit his times of yore, with its good and evil events. No wonder he fails to be at peace with himself, choosing rather to judge it .
Unprepared Management Arrangements
Initially, the story begins with a traditional family structure in which the men have the responsibility of making decisions with women submissively doing as they are told. A clear interpretation of the story is played out as the story progresses even as roles start changing. The role of men is so dominant to an extent that in spite of his age, Grampa continues to act as the head of the family even after outliving the ability to soundly lead the family.
However, the journey undertaken by the Joads family with the aim of making a living in California brings about drastic family dynamic changes. Out of dissuasion and defeat as a result of his escalating failures, Pa eventually relinquishes his role as the head the family. This provides Ma with the opportunity of assuming the role of being the decision maker in the family. This initially shocks Pa, who even goes as far as lamely intimidating her to beat her into her so-called appropriate position.
However, it just remains a lame threat with the entire family in the know. Eventually, as the story comes to an end, the family composition has radically undergone a revolution. This results in the woman figure, which was traditionally submissive, taking the reins of power. The male figure conventionally in the management role takes a back seat Similarly, this kind of upheaval is witnessed in the greater socio-economic hierarchies in the world they live in.
Consequently, this is evident at the Weedpatch camp whereby the workers begin to administer themselves in accordance with their own rules and regulations. They go to the extent of sharing responsibilities in agreement with the concept of justice and impartiality. This is in conflict with the egotistical ambition or love of influence as depicted by the corporate ruling class.
In this novel, John Steinbeck puts into the picture the specific story of the Joad family demonstrating the destitution and cruelty experienced by the migrant workers at some point in the Great Depression. It clearly depicts the collectivist deeds of the people in the lower cadres of the society at the time. This was in relation to the kind of treatment they received from the ruling corporate class whose shortsighted policies were much to the detriment of the poor majority. The inhumanity and cruelty of man to fellow men became the order of the day. However, in spite of all these cruelty, the migrant workers found solace in fellowship with one another