The Grapes of Wrath and Depiction of Tragedy of Great Depression

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In Oklahoma during the Great Depression, drought and dust storms (The Dust Bowl) had ruined farmers crops and destroyed people’s lives and homes due to the failing economy. Tom Joad is a young man from a farming family who has just been paroled from prison, after serving four years on a homicide charge. As Tom returns home, he meets Jim Casy, an ex-preacher whom Tom knew as a child. Casy no longer preaches of virtue and sin, and instead holds the unity and equality of human spirit as his highest ideal. Together, Tom and Casy travel back to the Joad homestead, but discover that it has been abandoned. Muley Graves, a neighbor who has stayed behind, explains to the two men that the farming families have all been evicted by the landowners and the banks, who have repossessed their land and now use tractors to cultivate it. Muley tells the men that they can find Tom’s family at the home of Uncle John, the brother of Tom’s father, Pa Joad.When Tom and Casy arrive at Uncle John’s, they see the Joads loading up a car in preparation to leave for California. Pa Joad reveals that the family saw new jobs advertised, and they are heading west to take advantage of these opportunities. The Joads end up seeing their friend an immigrant couple, and they travel with the Joads until the California border, where Sairy one of the immigrants becomes too ill to continue. Noah, Tom’s older brother, abandons the family at this border, choosing to go his own way instead of following with the family.On their way to California, the Joads receive terrible reports about a lack of jobs and hostility towards “Okies” in California. Once the family arrives in the state, these rumors were proved to be true, and their trip continues. Grandma Joad passes away during the family’s passage through the Mojave desert, which forces the family to inhabit at Hooverville, a squalid tent city (named after President Herbert Hoover) where migrants live their worst lives and are controlled by awful contractors. At this camp, Connie Rivers, the husband of Tom’s pregnant sister, Rose of Sharon leaves the Joads.

When Tom and a friend from Hooverville try to talk better wages for the family from a contractor, they get into a fight and argument with a deputy. Tom flees the scene and Casy has to take the blame for the fight. The preacher is arrested and taken into custody.The Joads leave Hooverville and find a refuge at a more comfortable and safer government run camp. Instead of police officers at the camp watching, the camp is actually governed by a committee elected by the migrants themselves. At this camp, the Joads discover comfort and friendship immediately, but only Tom can find work in the area. One day, Tom discovers that the greedy “Farmers Association”, is working with the corrupt deputies, and plans to start a riot soon. This will give the deputies a reason to destroy the camp, which will weaken the laborers powers to do what they please. However, Tom and some other men had secretly pre empted this attack, and the camp is saved at the end.The Joads sadly are unable to survive on the income they receive at the camp while working, and are forced to leave to find work elsewhere. They later on come across a peach picking compound, where they are brought in to work, while other migrants are on strike outside the gates. Tom finally discovers also that Casy was the one in charge of organizing the strike at the peach compound. Just after Tom reunites with Casy, police finds them, and one of the corrupt officers kills Casy with a pickaxe in front of Tom. Afterwards, Tom kills the officer and starts to run away and hide.The Joads then leave to pick cotton and live out of a boxcar, while Tom still hides in the wilderness nearby. The family has enough money to eat fairly well, and Tom’s younger brother Al, has gotten engaged to one of the Wainwrights, the daughter of their housemates at the camp. Suddenly, very heavy rains come, and the Joads are forced to stay in the boxcar instead of going to the hospital due to Rose of Sharon giving birth. Rose of Sharon’s baby is born, and the family leaves to go to a nearby barn to escape the floods. There, they find a boy and his starving father.

The boy tells them that they haven’t eaten in 6 days and are struggling. Ma Joad realizes that Rose of Sharon is lactating, and she gets the rest of the family to leave while Rose of Sharon breastfeeds the starving man at the barn due to her realizing that her baby no longer is in need of the milk. The rest of the group leaves the barn and searches for their own future afterward. The book is very hard to imagine in real life nowadays due to the fact that the Great Depression was many years ago today. The book defines and shows all the types of struggles a lot of the families had back then when it came to finding jobs and a safe place to live. The Depression went on for years and years and had made more and more families struggle every year. One reasoning on why Steinbeck had published a book like this to show people how many people had responded to misfortune during those times. Steinbeck also shows how the survival for the Joads, also reflects the survival for many families that have dealt with capitalism. Steinbeck had gotten most of his ideas for writing the book from visiting many camps around the country and seeing on how many different types of families had dealt with the issues that came their way. He was very upset and sad to see the amount of corruption and unfairness that was happening at the time for these families. In a way Steinbeck had helped these families. Not by giving them homes, money, or jobs, but by giving them a shine of light. He was able to show the rest of the world out there who didn’t know what exactly was happening and to the ones who just didn’t care. Many people hear about the Great Depression and the struggles that were happening, but many never really knew how awful it really was. Until he had wrote this book. The book shows many people the actual “cream of the crop” on what was going on at the time. Many will say that is was just an awful period of time without knowing any facts about it. Steinbeck actually shows what struggle is in this book and on how awful it really was for many of them.

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