When Myths go Awry.

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"The Joads' saga offers a fictional version of the consequences of this myth of the garden and the accompanying myth of the American Frontier. Both were driven by a perceived superabundance of resources, a national fantasy that prodded the Joads towards Oklahoma and then later to California."

- "Turning Wine into Water..." by David Cassuto

I may have heard of this myths, and notice the implications of them throughout the work, but I was not really concious of them while reading. I did not realize that both the unwillingness to move from Oklahoma and the eagerness to get to California involved the belief of excess or "superabundance" as Cassuto says. Despite economic and ecological laws at work, there was a pervading belief that the land would continue to yield abundant crops despite the failure to rrotate crops, for example. The tenant families made the mistake of believing that as long as they were able to work there would be work to be done. Similarly, in California, the tenants suffered from an unshakable belief in the same kind of system. The tenants thought there woud be plenty of work for everybody, especially Pa who clung to the message of the orange handbill. Pa and the other tenants did not even consider the problems they may, and did encounter: too many workers, not enough work, minimal pay, no respect. It was no longer enough to believe that God or that technology would take care of things. The nation had to begin to accept that the myths were false, and take responsibility for what was done, and what needed to be done to "modernize the American dream", which was turning into a nightmare.  

http://jerz.setonhill.edu/EL267/2009/03/academic_article/

4 Comments

Rosalind Blair said:

I think that the rush to California did more harm than good. It does not seem like enough people prospered to make it worth it. I agree that it was important for people to start toning down their ideas about the garden - because that is not what they would find. I had never thought about how this was turning the American dream into a nightmare, but I can understand now how that was happening.

Jennifer Prex said:

It makes sense. They would not have wanted to see the truth, because the truth was harder to deal with than the hope they clung to. That orange handbill pa kept represented the ideal life he and his family were hoping for. In giving that paper up, he would be giving up any hope for a good future. The fact of the matter was that there wasn't enough work. The family had been warned of the conditions before they ever even made it to California, but they didn't want to believe it.

Alicia Campbell said:

The Joads and other hopefuls are blinded by their hope in more ways than one. They are blinded by the unfortunate situation that has befallen them and to the reality that awaits them in California. They are too focused on the way things were to make do with what is and plan for what will be.

Georgia Speer said:

Alicia, after reading you blog & Jen’s and than your response I tend to agree that the American dream became a nightmare for the Joads. In Cassuto’s paper I found much interesting, I saw many points that I just really didn’t see or choose not to see due to Steinbeck’s ability to have us sympathize with the Joads. His clever ways of pulling at our heart-strings to feel for these people and think how awful it was, but did many of us consider that their ignorance is what put them smack into the middle of this nightmare. Hope can do beautiful things, it can give people a sense of belonging, give faith, pull people together, and be a crutch of dignity when all else seems lost, as the Joads seemed to experience. But hope also hurt the Joads in the sense that they hung onto this too tightly and did not allow themselves to anticipate the troubles they were warned about. The ability not to accept those warnings and believing in the myths was a lot easier to deal with, and maybe all that they could intellectually deal with, rather than to consider all that they knew now was wrong, they just could not afford to do that. It is easy to say that if you cannot dream or have hope, what do you have?

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Georgia Speer on When Myths go Awry.: Alicia, after reading you blog
Alicia Campbell on When Myths go Awry.: The Joads and other hopefuls a
Jennifer Prex on When Myths go Awry.: It makes sense. They would not
Rosalind Blair on When Myths go Awry.: I think that the rush to Calif
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