The devil, Gila monster, and California, what's your poison?

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"Here's me that used to give all my fight against the devil 'cause I figured the devil was the enemy.  But they's somepin worse'n the devil got hold a the country, an' it ain't gonna let go till it's chopped loose.  Ever see one a them Gila monsters take hold, mister?  Grabs hold, an' you chop him in two an' his head hangs on.  Chop him at the neck an' his head hangs on.  Got to take a screw-driver an' pry his head apart to git him loose.  An' while he's laying' there, poison is drippin' an' drippin' into the hole he's made with his teeth."  (175)

 

Steinbeck is painting a vivid picture of what the challenges of this time era is presenting to the people in the country.  By this piece depicting that the people in the country are battling what seems to be the obvious enemies, but how something else can come along and also poison us before you even realize it has happened.  Each of which will take its own and unique form, but ultimately all show that struggle with capitalism and how that form can transgress into another.  The way Steinbeck uses this quote given by the character Casy above proves he started out as a preacher struggling with his ultimate and obvious enemy, the devil.  Casy's struggle with his sins as Steinbeck explains in earlier chapters, "I'd take one of them girls out in the grass, an' I'd lay with her." (29), seemed obvious as Steinbeck banks on the readers knowledge that these things would be wrong for someone in Casy's position to be doing.  But as Steinbeck has Casy move into the Gila monster comparison it is showing that the enemy can come in any form, and unexpectedly even change it's form and attack the characters in a whole different way.  Steinbeck portrays that each of these character's have their own enemy that if not paying attention, like this Gila monster, will come up and bite.  And no matter what measures they seem to take to chop it away it is too late for that poison has already dripped into their blood through the hole created and the damage is done.  It will stay attached to them unless they take extreme measures to pry it away. 

So far Steinbeck proves in earlier chapters that the land tenants enemy is the tractors, the gas attendant in chapter thirteen's enemy is "them pretty yella stations in town" (174).  The dog's enemy was "a big swift car" (177).  What further enemies will be surfacing as we read on to complete the novel?  California here it comes...

2 Comments

Christopher Dufalla said:

I hadn't thought of the hidden enemies so much when I read. The idea of all of these nuances is quite plausible. Perhaps Steinbeck was referring to how life for the characters is full of blessings in disguise, but also full of problems and dilemmas. Evil and peril can have multiple faces...but cannot blessings do so, as well?

Nikita McClellan said:

I never thought of the Gila Monster as much of anything in this story until I read your blog. It is quite true that many of the characters have a type of "monster" to keep away from so to speak.
You pointing out that for the one gas station owner that the bigger corporation gas stations are his enemy makes me relate it to our world today.
Take Walmart for example. Many small businesses go belly up when Walmart comes to town.
For them, Wal Mart was the enemy.

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