Racism and Sex

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"Well, Okie use' ta mean you was from Oklahoma. Now it means you're a dirty son-of-a-bitch. Okie means you're scum. Don't mean nothing itself, it's just the way they say it."

and then... "You're in California, an we don't want you goddam Okies settlin' down."

and again... "Them goddam Okies got no sense and no feeling. They ain't human."

So by the end of this section. I was so mad that I couldn't understand why. I'm not from Oklahoma or moving West and as far as I know my relatives didn't do this so why am I so upset. As a mutt, I've been around racism before and I thought I had gotten over its affects, but this angered me. Perhaps that is what Steinbeck is trying to do, to rouse something in people that will even be so far removed from an event like this.

I didn't think white people really had a racist slur for other whites. Is this a real word? Or is it something Steinbeck made up? Is the author just doing this to really put us on the sides of the Joads and make every other working man/Californian seem like scum? Has there been an example of a good working man from the West?

And, oh my god, there is a lot of sex in this book. Whores, tom-catting, Rose of Sharon and Connie, and the preacher. What's all this for? I don't see it as relevant to the text in any way. It just seems like a fun theme that Steinbeck put in to lighten the mood maybe.

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6 Comments

Carlos Peredo said:

Sex is one of the most powerful things on this earth. During the passage about how the communities are formed and laws are established Steinbeck takes great care to explain that adultery is terrible and could break the communities and that the men are forbidden from taking multiple girls.

In this novel sex is shown to destroy communities, change and create lives (Connie and Rose of Sharon, and even rob a man of his faith. I don't think how Steinbeck could have written a book that comment on life without including sex. Just because it's taboo or private doesn't mean it can be ignored. It is relevant to the story because every single character is somehow affected by it.

Sue said:

Hey Aja,
I love reading your blogs because they always make me think. Anyways, I def. don't think white racism towards other whites is a made up thing by Steinbeck. Many white people who are rich are predjudice/racist against those who are poor, the "trailer trash".
Also, In the roaring 20s people got a little lose, so it kind of makes sense that Steinbeck would talk a little more about sex, yeah it's the great depression the the 20s changed everyone.

Julianne Banda said:

Aja,
This blog really made me think. Why are white's racists against other whites? The word is not made up and it did become popular in the 1930s when people form Oklahoma were migrating towards, and settling on the west coast. Why do we discriminate against our own race? are we not all trying to achieve the same thing...success in life? Why is one working man superior to another just because of where he comes from? This bothers me more and more as I type this that the human race can be so shallow.
Also, I agree with Carlos on the stance of sex in the book, and that it is a powerful thing. Like he said, to make a community and not include sex would be surprising. Sex affects everyone, whether it is private or pronounced.

Aja Hannah said:

Thank you Sue and Juli. I'm glad I can contribute in some effective way.

So I guess the that is why Tom can't got tom-catting around because he can't destroy the rules of the communities and he doesn't want to take a wife yet.

Andrew Adams said:

While I wouldn't exactly call it "racism" as much as prejudice, I can understand why this would upset you. All throughout American history there has been at least one group that has been put down, whether it be the Okies, any types of immigrants from back in the day, such as Irish, or even the illegal immigrants of today. It really is a terrible thing, but this type of thinking is as consistent as the sun rise and as American as apple pie. I know how terrible that sounds but I really think it's true to some degree.

Your one question is correct though from what I remember. In school we watched a video and John Steinbeck, from my recollection, wrote this book in order to show the mistreatment of the Okies, so it seems like he did a good job, because even after all these years people still take offense to how this group of people was treated.

Aja Hannah said:

The Irish? What was wrong with them? Did they drink too much?

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