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It’s All About Survival

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck tells the story of a family struggling to cope after losing everything in the Great Depression.

Category: Cultura | 13 June, 2012
Editor: Daniel Vidal Hussey

It’s amazing how much American society in the 30s resembles society today. It seems that years go by with nothing ever changing. The bad things, that is. The good ones seem to have all but begun and they’re gone.

“Go away, the bank owns this land now”. This is the moment when The Grapes of Wrath starts. It is the time the Joad family is living in, the wretched days of the Great American Depression towards second half of the 30s.

A poor peasant family with no other possessions than the land they have worked on all their lives, the land they inherited from their parents and grandparents is taken away by the power of the banks. And nothing could be done about it.

The Great Depression is no stranger to us nowadays. There is talk of crisis, unemployment, debt… In The Grapes of Wrath, 25 % of the workforce was unemployed. And while the vast majority of people lived many hardships, the banks were making more and more money. Tycoons like Rockefeller and Kennedy profited from the economical context.

The Joad family, unable to change the course of fate, must leave their home because it is no longer theirs. It now belongs to the bank. What must it be like to lose you home in the blink of an eye? What must it be like to buy a vehicle that is falling to pieces, load it up what little you have left and go forward to an uncertain fate? What must it be like to not know what tomorrow’s future holds, or even tonight’s?

The Grapes of Wrath is the story of a family on a journey across Highway 66 going west from Oklahoma to California in search of better living and working conditions. ”There are jobs there, we can start again”, they say. The promise of paradise in California leads millions of people to undertake a rural exodus. There was nothing left in their land.

The road seems to lead to liberation becomes a wretched journey weighed upon by the hardships of emigration —all of a sudden they become “filthy immigrants” in their own country— and the threat of their family falling apart.

What a paradox remembering how their own fellow countrymen in the West welcomed them: just like a bunch of ragged intruders there to snatch the little work there was. In other words, people up to no good.

“Okie use’ ta mean you was from Oklahoma. Now it means you’re a dirty son-of-a-bitch. Okie means you’re scum. Don’t mean nothing itself, it’s the way they say it.”

In short, The Grapes of Wrath is a story of the exploiters and the exploited. Of a family struggling to survive, a mother of a spectacular endurance doing her best day in and day out to keep her family together… A story that, unfortunately, is as frequent today as it was then.

And how does it end? Perhaps you should read it. If not, you’ll be missing out a major piece of literature.

Category: Cultura | 13 June, 2012
Editor: Daniel Vidal Hussey
Tags:  Great American Depression, Joad Family, John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath,




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