Okie tendencies

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(I have a different copy of the book than most, so the pages will probably be off)
I enjoy how Steinbeck really gives the feeling that the characters in the book could be real people. They just have some tendencies that seem just too fitting to have been made up. An example of this is on page 25, when Tom is asked if his Pa wrote to him, he says "Well, Pa wasn't no hand to write for pretty, or to write for writin'. He'd sign up his name as nice as anybody, an' lick his pencil. But Pa never did write no letters. He always says what he couldn' tell a fella with his mouth wasn't worth leanin' on no pencil about." This type of behavior to me is stupid, if you're going to be leaving and your son was in jail and could potentially never find you, I don't know why you wouldn't write a letter. However, through the dialogue so far and by the atmosphere that the characters have, it isn't a stretch to imagine this happeneing. I wonder if it actually borders on the edge of being too stereotypical?



Aja Hannah said:

I think it is stereotypical, but I am living in a different time period. I have no idea if that's how they talked in the midwest 1930's. I actually have never been out west so I don't know if they still talk like that.

I don't like how Steinbeck uses the language because sometimes it is confusing and I'm so sad to see it smashed up like that, but it does personalize the characters and set the stage very well. A reader can make judgements about their social environment, religious, and educational background just by the way they speak.

The thick dialect and especially the folksy way Granma and Grampa are portrayed definitely make the characters feel a little stereotypical to me. But from what I've read Steinbeck did extensive research for this novel. I agree with Aja that it's hard to tell whether something is portrayed accurately when it's from a time period and a place so far removed from us. Nowadays we hear this dialogue as being pretty close to stereotypical depictions of Midwesterners (I keep hearing the voices of Aunt Em and Uncle Henry when I read it), but those stereotypes had to have arisen out of something. And from what I've read this book was very well-received by many different people when it first came out. So it may be just our 2009 Pennsylvania perspective on things.

Julianne Banda said:

I also find it to be stereotypical. When I think of the Midwest I think of people talking like that and not caring to write. However, like Aja I am not familiar with how people spoke in the 1930s but I would imagine that Steinbeck would try to make it as accurate as possible.

I also agree with Aja that the dialect can be confusing at times, but it does make you feel like you know the character better just by the way he/she is talking.

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Julianne Banda on Okie tendencies: I also find it to be stereotyp
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