March 2009 Archives

The author does a good job of explaining how the myths of the frontier and the "Garden of Eden" were bestowed upon the nation well into the dust bowl era. The idealology that lead to this point in history from the American standpoint and how Steinbeck mocks these ideas in relating to water in "The Grapes of Wrath" are well explained throughout the article.

The author explains how these myths caused the inevitable and unavoidable failure that the "Okies" would have to endure due to the lack of rainfall in a region that was asked to supply grain to an entire country. Whenever the Joads are driven from their lands by the capitalist banks, the Joads engaged in picking cotton. The Joads were contributing to the capitalist-based system that lead to the death of their lands, but the banks had the means to better thrive.

"Mining the land of nutrients and leaving it for dead demonstrates a new, production-oriented allegiance to the frontier myth. Treating the nation's breadbasket as an expendable resource necessarily assumes an infinte resource reservoir from which to replace it" (Cassuto, 78). Assuming that the west has an infinite supply of natural resources allows the plains to be expendable. The fact that the western region of the country was arid and could not support agriculture in the way the plains could (if the nutrients in the soil were rotated properly) was not accounted for by the government during these times.

".. the underlying motivation for both the Okies' behavior and that of the agribusiness concerns can ultimately be analyzed in hydrological terms" (Cassuto, 80) I found it interesting that the author tied the Dust Bowl to being caused by the Great Depression and poor agriculture management. These ideas show why what was a common drought caused the Joads and other farmers of the region to be succumbed by the new mechanized version of farming. The Joads then continue west chasing the frontier myth, and vast uninhabited lands eventually push them into California chasing work. The flooding Steinbeck uses at the climax of the story illustrates a very ironic focus on water at the end of the novel. The Joads, now disconnected with the land and their need for water, see the flood as a disaster.  

Close Reading: Portfolio 1

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Revolution in California?

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Chapter 21 describes how the "Okies" arrival was driving the prices down, and eventually there would be indentured servants on the land. The large owners continued sending out handbills to attract more migrants, even though there was not any real work. The large owners drove out the smaller businesses, and more and more people were starved. Steinbeck makes it clear that, "The great companies did not know that the line between hunger and anger is a thin line" (Steinbeck 388). Steinbeck clearly begins to suggest a revolution theme. The Farmers' Association drops the wages in Weedpatch, and government camps like these are frowned upon by the elite groups. The banks controlled the Farmers' Association, and the Farmers' Association controlled the police that constantly harass and intimidate the migrants. Although this foreshadows revolution, none ever occurs, and hardships continue for the Joad's and other migrants. Steinbeck illustrates that there is hope even through many hardships, as Rose of Sharon, even at just losing her baby through stillbirth, helps a starving man in a barn. "He's dyin', I tell you! He's starvin' to death, I tell you" (Steinbeck 618). Once one of the more self centered characters, Rose of Sharon displays an act of selflessness, reinforcing hope even during dire times.

Collective Interests

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When Wilson was describing his car troubles to the Joad family, Al explains,"I think you got a plugged gas line. I'll blow her out for ya" (Steinbeck 200). Shortly after, Tom suggests that since the Wilson's car had extra room, they could split their loads and more effectively travel together to California. Al can use his mechanical expertise to keep the car running, while the Wilson's car can transport some of the Joad family remove some of the stress on the Joad truck. This is the first example in the novel of the working class forming to address collective interests. Chapter 17 is dedicated to descring the formation of camps by the migrant farmers. They all become one family, and respect one another. Every one is equal, and the closest thing to a ruling class is the elderly members, because they have knowledge and experience. It is interesting how Steinbeck illistrates an almost Marixist society. During their nightly gatherings, the families are free from the restraints of the banks and corporations.

March 2009

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