Friday, September 4, 2009

Grapes of Wrath

The book follows the Joad family as they are forced out of their Oklahoma farm to trek across the country to where there is “work” in California. The book isn’t exactly a pick me-upper, but I loved the beautiful way Steinbeck has of describing injustices. Let me highlight three major themes that were portrayed oh so elegantly:

causes of injustice
In California, the family is consistently met with unfair work systems, corrupt authority figures, and ill treatment by locals. Citing “panic” as the cause of much of the injustice, the people don’t know what to do when there is not enough after the machine of the bank puts them out. Specifically, “what made ‘em bad was they needed stuff.” (The current day comparisons are many.)

natural law
The family’s response to many of these laws is an understandable one. In a day when the lines of right and wrong were anything but clear, the conclusion is that “Law changes … but ‘got to’s’ go on. You got the right to do what you got to do.” On the road and in the camps, a new order came into being, “laws were made, then codes came into being.”

each other
New communities and orders are made that, admittedly, have a more liberal (O.K., maybe even communist sounding) feeling to them but what’s stronger than that is the need we have for one another. What the large businesses fail to offer is respect for human lives, and whenever that happens, something has to change. Referring to the ‘lost-on-religion’ preacher, he is remembered as saying “a wilderness ain’t no good, ‘cause his little piece of a soul wasn’t no good ‘less it was with the rest, an’ was whole.” (I haven’t come to a conclusion if Steinbeck crosses the humanistic, lack of need for a savior line…)

Along with most of Steinbeck’s other books, this one has my recommendation… but you don’t have to take me word for it.

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