Grapes of Wrath Essay: Steinbeck's Communist Manifesto

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The Grapes of Wrath as a Communist Manifesto

Steinbeck's political views are quite evident within The Grapes of Wrath. The subject of much controversy, The Grapes of Wrath serves as a social protest and commentary. Steinbeck's views as expressed through the novel tie directly into the Marxist ideals on communism.

Perhaps the first thing Steinbeck does in The Grapes of Wrath is establish the status quo. He sets up the farmers and the banks as the two main opposing forces. "Lord and serf... in a word, oppressor and oppressed" (Marx, 1) Immediately Steinbeck sets up the very same situation Marx establishes in The Communist Manifesto complete with proletarian (farmers) and bourgeois (bankers) classes.

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and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life. .. It has agglomerated population, centralized means of production, and has concentrated property in a few hands" (Marx, 3). In the true Marxist style, the banks and upper class act as the bourgeoisie to the migrant proletariat.

Evidenced clearly are the existing conditions Marx discusses. The bourgeoisie exist as the oppressors to the proletariat, the banks oppressing the Okies. Marx's Manifesto is also in large part, a piece of anti-capitalist literature. Steinbeck, as well, devotes portions of the book to the attacking of capitalist and bourgeoisie figures and ideals. Perhaps the most notable is the repetition of the word monster twelve times within five pages in interchapter five. The whole chapter serves to bluntly compare the banks to monsters, an obvious attack on the banking system. Private banks, however, especially in this novel, are typical only of the capitalist system. As well, chapters seven, nine, and twenty-seven all deal with the proletariat's unsuccessful attempt to peacefully negotiate the bourgeoisie, ending in all cases with the further capitalist exploitation of the workers as Marx describes.

Marx's alternative to the capitalist system? Communism, a system in which each person works for the whole system, sacrificing personal gain for the greater society, and working
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