Grapes Of Wrath: The Migrant Experience

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorHigh School, 11th grade February 2008

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Grapes of Wrath : The Migrant Experience When Steinbeck began writing The Grapes of Wrath, his intention was to write a piece of literature that would be one of the finest books and a truly American one at that. Indeed, he successfully fulfilled his goal in writing the distinguished American novel that took readers by storm and as his readers began reading, new levels of knowledge revealing the socio-economic struggle were exposed. Steinbeck himself conceived his novel on ?simultaneous levels of existence, ranging from socio-economic determinism to transcendent spirituality? and Louis Owens gives an example of how biblical parallels are woven into the layers: ?On one level it is the story of a family?s struggle for survival in the Promised Land?On another level it is the story of a people?s struggle, the migrants?.? (Steinbeck xiii) This division of the novel into various levels allows one to see the many themes revolving around Steinbeck?s masterpiece.

One of the major issues would be the plight of the migrant workers. Although Steinbeck refrained from involving other nonwhite migrant workers, his book still referred to the universal experience of human disfranchisement. This tragedy forced upon the migrants is described throughout the novel as the characters journey across the concrete highway 66.

On their arrival in California, the Joad family was stunned to see the condition in which their fellow migrants were forced to live. Their first introduction to life in California was an encounter with the harsh setting of Hooverville. As Steinbeck wrote, Hooverville laid on the edge of every town, ?The rag town lay close to water; and the houses were tents, and weed-thatched enclosures, paper houses, a great junk pile,? (Steinbeck 319). It is here that Tom finally accepts the truth about what life is like in golden California. Previously,