Struggle for Survival in the Grapes of Wrath

2273 Words Aug 22nd, 2012 10 Pages
Struggle for Survival in The Grapes of Wrath
The 1930s were a time of hardship for many across the United States. Not only was the Great Depression making it difficult for families to eat every day, but the Dust Bowl swept through the plains states making it nearly impossible to farm the land in which they relied. John Steinbeck saw how the Dust Bowl affected farmers, primarily the tenant farmers, and journeyed to California after droves of families. These families were dispossessed from the farms they had worked for years, if not generations (Mills 388). Steinbeck was guided by Tom Collins, the real-life model for the Weedpatch camp’s manager Jim Rawley, through one of the federal migrant worker camps. He was able to see for himself,
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They had nothing. And the laboring people hated Okies because a hungry man must work, and if he must work, if he has to work, the wage payer automatically gives him less for his work; and then no one can get more. (233)
The hatred felt by the Californians toward the Okies is exemplified by the law enforcement’s eagerness to “take in” anyone they feel shows the tiniest signs of trouble. For instance, a deputy makes up a reason to take in Floyd Knowles, from the Joad’s first Hooverville, because he questions a man offering work on how many men he needs and how much the pay is (Steinbeck 263). Shortly after the Joads leave the first Hooverville, they encounter a group of armed men along the road who insist that they “ain’t gonna have no goddamn Okies in this town [sic]” and make them turn their truck around (Steinbeck 279). Before the Joads are introduced, the plight of another being is highlighted. In Chapter 3, Steinbeck introduces the turtle on the side of the road struggling through obstacles. The turtle itself is a symbol of the Joad family and other migrant workers, while its journey is an allegory of the struggles and obstacles they will face along the way. The turtle comes upon an embankment along the highway and stops to size up the wall in front of it (Steinbeck 14). At several points in the novel, the men face decisions and hunker down together on their hams to discuss their