Grapes of Wrath
American Lit. II
We as Americans have seen our share of violence whether it is first hand, through the media, or in history books. We have seen the pain and struggle that these people must go through in order to survive. This novel, The Grapes of Wrath, relates to some of the many times of violence and cruelty that this America has seen.
During the Dust Bowl, hundreds of thousands of southerners faced many hardships, which is the basis of the novel called The Grapes of Wrath. It was written to portray the harsh conditions during the Dust Bowl. When one considers the merit of this novel, one thinks, how can Americans treat other Americans so horribly. After reviewing American History, the mistreatment of the “Okies” in The Grapes of Wrath can be concluded as being valid. After slavery, blacks were terribly mistreated. During the Civil War, Americans were divided. During the Red Scare, Americans mistrusted other Americans. These three different periods of U.S. history display how Americans can treat fellow Americans so cruelly.
In The Grapes of Wrath, the Californians wanted to rid the “dirty” Okies from California because they were afraid of them. They were afraid that the Okies would take their land. In The Grapes of Wrath, Okies were unjustly beaten. The California police beat them for no just reason because they wanted the Okies to leave the state. The police killed Casey for no just reason. They killed him just because they thought he was an Okie fighting for more rights. The Californians did not like the Okies even though they were Americans, just like how the Blacks were not liked by the whites, even though they were Americans.
In chapter 21, the workers are in California and the mild people of California find in the Okies what they have yet to experience- fear and desperation. Sensing the extent to which the migrants are willing to work, the locals begin to fear for their own jobs, and most importantly, for their own property. In fearful defense, they attack the Okies as marauders who mean to destroy both populations through their desperation. This fear transforms into hostility, which reveals itself in the story through the deputies and managers who abuse and assault the Joads, as well as other migrant families in the workers’ camps.
Throughout the novel there are several symbols used to develop the theme; man verses a hostile environment. Each symbol used in the novel show examples of both extremes. Some represent man that struggles against the environment; others paint a clear picture of the feelings of the migrants. As each symbol is presented chronologically through the novel, like the “turtle” at the beginning and then the “dust.” They all come together at the end to paint a clear picture of the conditions, treatment and feelings the people (migrants) as they make their journey through the novel to the West.
Violence is everywhere, more today than yesterday. We still see or hear of random acts of violence that are happening all around. Whether it be racial or not, this violence will not stop but only escalate. It is what’s being passed down for generations to come and for all to learn.