The Dust bowl was an ecological and human disaster in the Southwestern Great Plains regions of the United States in the 1930's. The areas affected were Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado. The poor handling of the land and years of drought caused this great disaster (Jones "History"). During this time the "Okies"--a name given to the migrants that traveled from Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, or anywhere in the Southwest or the northern plains to California--encountered many hardships. These hardships are brilliantly shown in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Scholars agree, "The most important fact about the dust storms was not scientific but human: their tragic effect upon people seeking livelihood on the stricken Midwestern farms" (French 4). Steinbeck believed society was inhumane to the Okies and through his novel we can account for how the Okies were treated. By looking at Steinbeck's own personal background and information from historical commentaries we are better able to grasp his reasoning for writing the novel because he understood what it was like to grow up as a farmer, and an outsider. More importantly, however, we are able to share in his compassion for the Okies.
To fully understand Steinbeck's reasoning for writing the novel it is important to look at his family and where he grew up. John Ernst Steinbeck was born on February 27, 1902, in Salinas California. His parents were middle-class people who played many roles in the community and cultural life. His father worked as a manager of a flourmill, and his mother taught in a one-room rural school (Swisher 13).
As a child John Steinbeck was shy, and kids often teased him ...
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...tions. Reading this book can help us comprehend how close their present is to our past.
French, Warren, ed. A Companion to The Grapes of Wrath. New Jersy: Augustus M. Kelley, 1972.
Hinton, Rebecca. "Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath." Explicator 56 (1990). 11 Sept. 2000<http://ehostvgw1.ep...20%22%Grapes%20of%220Wrath%22%20&fuzzyTerm=>
Jones, Andrew. "Charity of the Poor." Analysis of The Grapes of Wrath. N.D. Accessed: 7 Sept. 2000 <http://www.ultranet.com/~gregjonz/grapes/irony.htm>
Jones, Andrew. "History of the Dust Bowl." Background History for The Grapes of Wrath. N.D. Accessed: 7 Sept. 2000<http:///www.ultranet.com/~gregjonz/Dust/dustbowl.html>
Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. New York: Viking, 1967.
Swisher, Clarice,ed. Readings on John Steinbeck. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1996.
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