Social Evils In Robert Steinbeck's The Grapes Of Wrath

1172 WordsOct 1, 20175 Pages
In the introduction to the Penguin edition of The Grapes of Wrath, Robert DeMott writes that the novel is one of a few select American novels that “humanize America’s downtrodden by exposing social ills” (x). This is true in The Grapes of Wrath because, when faced with the various social ills and unequal treatment that were amplified during the Great Depression, migrants react in a very human way: with intense anger. Inequality towards migrants is shown through government abuse, unfair treatment by employers, and police brutality, which ultimately provoke civil unrest. The first social ill that exposes the state of inequality is government neglect. To start, migrants in California can not receive aid until they have been residents for…show more content…
Civil unrest only draws attention to these plights. The second social ill that exposes the state of inequality in the novel is the unfair treatment of migrants by employers. Thousands of migrant families journey to California attracted by handbills promising work with decent pay, for instance “‘Pea Pickers Wanted in California. Good Wages All Season. 800 Pickers Wanted’” (Steinbeck 99). However, these handbills merely advertise empty promises. In reality, greedy farm owners constantly manipulate the enormous migrant workforce for their own economic gain “‘You can print a hell of a lot of han’bills with what ya save payin’ fifteen cents an hour for fiel’ work’” (Steinbeck 270). This manipulation is based around a vicious cycle, where one family is always poorer, hungrier, and more willing to accept substandard wages than the next. Unfair treatment by employers is an example of inequality because migrants are treated less than human, evidenced by the poor living conditions in employee housing “The floor was splashed with grease. In the one room stood a rusty tin stove and nothing more,” and long hours “‘Work till dark, long as you can see’” (Steinbeck 408, 411). Ultimately, the rampant mistreatment of migrant workers will result in civil unrest, which will further damage the cohesiveness of society as a result of the deep social and economic divisions between the

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