Steinbeck and Sinclair

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These two books give stark reality to the readers of the impoverishment of the American working class as well as the corruption of industry, big business, and even capitalism itself. While their writing styles and subject matter are inherently different, the themes of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath are ultimately the same. In this essay I will examine and compare the social, political, and spiritual elements within these novels and how they relate to this class.

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair tells of a family from Lithuania who travels to the United States enticed by the promise of higher wages and an opportunity to flee from their debts. As they start life in the Back of the Yards in Chicago, Illinois they begin to realize they had been swindled but continue to work harder. Unfortunately, the family continues to get taken advantage of and time after time they fall deeper into poverty and sickness. (Sinclair)

Similarly, in The Grapes of Wrath, the Joad family suffers great losses in their home land of Oklahoma that lead them to take all of their belongings and entire twelve-member family across the country to California. They continue despite others telling them that the advertisements of a lush green and prosperous California with job opportunities are untrue. When they get there they find themselves the victims of prejudice and fear with very little work and even less money. (Steinbeck)

In both books, families are conned into leaving their situation for one that promises a better life. Companies hire advertisers to take advantage of those already in poverty and persuade them to come to them and become absolutely dependent on industry. They turn these families from people into repl...

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...s of whether the criticism was negative or positive, it was being read, making it one of the most widely read novels in American history.

At the most basic level, these novels are examples of advocacy for inhumanity and change. The show how working class at the time are being taken advantage of and lied to for the well being of industry and capital growth. These working people are not just replaceable cogs in a machine, they are just as moral and capable of good and evil as the more “civilized” classes. To solve this inhumanity Sinclair would suggest socialism as a cure, where as Steinbeck would argue that the human spirit is the champion. These authors are successful in unearthing the rot in the system and revealing the abuse of humanity. If not resulting in immediate amend then a slow and steady change of heart for the American public and their government.

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