Migrant Farming and The Grapes of Wrath
Grapes of Wrath is historical work of fiction. Covering the migration of tens of thousands of tenant farmers from the mid-west to the West of America. The book is half-fiction and half historical narrative.
Amazing and absorbing are two words that initially come to mind when recalling the story. We follow the Joads, a family of tenant farmers, from Oklahoma to California. The mid west has become a dust bowl and the crops are performing badly. The land owners are heavily indebted to the banks who call in their loans. The land owners have to bow as industrialization thunders down on them and tractors and massive earth moving machines plow and turn the land. The tenant farmers are evicted and slowly but surely, reality sets in. They have nothing but each other. All the work is out west they hear. Our story starts as they point the old jalopy west and set off for better days.
Steinbeck writes the story from 3rd person perspective and writes using the vernacular one would hear if one were a fly on the wall. Only becomes On'y, something becomes sumptin, every becomes ever', family becomes fambly. After reading for a while, the voice in your head takes on a Southern drawl as you read over the exchanges of the family. Conversation is scant yet, succinct. Articulation is nonexistent but the emotion leaps from the page. It truly is amazing the amount of feeling Steinbeck manages to get across to the reader. You truly are in the wagon, tents, camps, fields with the Joads as their personal Odyssey develops.
There are 30 chapters and every other one is a historical perspective that Steinbeck uses to color in the hurdles and forces working against the migrants who were headed West. These folks were treated with contempt, condescension, abuse, left to starve and physically abused by law-enforcement yet, they continued on their way with hope. The hope was eroding from within yet, onwards they went. Tight family units looking out for each other and helping others along the way.
The characters all add their "something" to the story. One of the more interesting ones, for me, was the character Casey. Casey, an ex-preacher, is somewhat like the phone in the old movies. Someone would grab the phone and use it to fill in some parts of the movie. Casey has that role in some places. He's a thinker and we find him thinking and explaining things to the Joads as they come to terms with their predicament.