Literature/Grapes of Wrath critical esssay term paper 3141

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In his novel The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck wishes to change the negative social attitude toward the migrants to bring about better treatment of this group of people. He does so by using a few different techniques. One of his techniques is the use of characterization to show the migrants as humans, to do away with the stereotypes that haunted many people during this time. Another technique he uses is an attack on private enterprise. He does so because it creates greedy people. The third technique is his attack on government, because the current government was unwilling to help out the migrants and only helped the owners. With these techniques Steinbeck attempted to change the negative attitudes that needed changing in order to create a better society.

Characterization was used by Steinbeck to develop many different characters that show the reader the feelings and hardships of their journey, and to distinguish them as individual people and families, not just a bunch of "Okies." He uses the Joad family to show what was happening to all the other migrants in their journey across the U.S. to get work. When the Joad family's car broke down, that symbolized the hardships of all the migrants. In their search for work, the Joad family represented the migrants who were forced to live in Hoovervilles and answer to the local law enforcement officials. Lastly, the work the Joads did get was typical of all the migrants because of the rarity, harsh conditions, and low wages that were a characteristic of migrant work in California. Steinbeck characterizes each member of the family as examples of all the migrant families.

In his attack on private enterprise, Steinbeck writes many things that either subtly or blatantly attack the system. He shows that the very nature of capitalism forces the owners of private enterprise into greedy "I's" instead of caring "we's." Steinbeck uses the idea of a bank as a "monster evil," a thing which all the farmers hated because as they think it's the banks fault that they're losing their land, and the only thing the bank cared about was making money. Steinbeck again attacks private enterprise with the example of a company that will do anything for money and power: a used car lot that specifically sells cars to the farmers who were kicked out of their home and hope to travel to California to get work and start their lives over. The owner of the car lot would buy cheap cars and sell them for outrageous prices that would ultimately strand many of the migrant farmers. The company had no regret for cheating these people because money was all it cared about, the system for which they worked had made them become greedy and uncaring outside of a tight circle, and they represented an "I." Yet another attack on private enterprise comes from Steinbeck's description of a service station. He explains that the people who worked at or owned the service station would try to cheat people for as much as they could. In the book, there is a joke about getting serviced, something you didn't want happening to you. Steinbeck hope to change the way the people viewed the migrant farmers by showing how they were mistreated by people who were more fortunate.

Steinbeck also attacks organized government because it, too, was an evil that would not help those people who need it most. At Weedpatch, where the government couldn't interfere, the migrants were happy and things worked out. The government wasn't allowed to control the migrants there, so it didn't have a chance to screw up things. When Grandpa dies, Steinbeck talks about how the government cared more about dead people than the people that were alive. When Grandpa died there was a debate about going and paying the coroner to take the body, do the proper paper work and then bury him in the extremely poor section of the graveyard. The Joads thought it would be better if they just buried him themselves. The idea of welfare, set up by the government, was only for people who lived there for a year of more or who had a permanent address, not someone who was forced to live in a Hooverville. The government would only help the owners not, the people who needed it the most, the migrant workers.

Through these techniques, Steinbeck hoped the landowners and wealthy people of not only California but of the United States would realize there needed to be changes in social attitudes regarding the migrant workers. He used the techniques of characterization and personification, attack on government, and attack on private enterprise to reach out to the ones who could make a difference, and he showed them how.

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