The Pursuit of a Better Life Through the Stability of Work as Depicted in Miller's Death of a Salesman and Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath

The Pursuit of a Better Life Through the Stability of Work as Depicted in Miller's Death of a Salesman and Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath

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The idea of a prosperous, richer, and jubilant life has been a driving force for centuries of Americans. America has been viewed as a land of opportunity, in which one’s prospects in life are defined by talent and energy rather than family wealth or background. Only through hard work and determination would this state of happiness and peace of mind be obtained. Work has largely defined human rights, human interaction and the American value of family. Miller’s Death of a Salesman and Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath follow two families, the Loam and Joad, as they pursue this American Dream. Their plights show the endeavor of the working man, but also the political and social issues surrounding employment and its effect on the human person.

Throughout history, social and economic affairs have separated people into the rich and poor, with those in authoritative roles struggling to defend their position. Those in power have often taken advantage of those under them. In Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, severe droughts led to massive agricultural collapse in Oklahoma. The Joads were forced to leave their home in search of employment opportunities in California. Migrants often faced prejudice and aggression from the Californians. Landowners, taking advantage of the migrants desperate need for work, often treated them poorly, paying them wages too low to live on and containing them within dirty camps. Workers suffering was not only evoked the failing land, but by human heartlessness towards one another. Large banks and businesses ignored the fact that “… a majority of the people are hungry and cold…” (Steinbeck 238) Large corporations were only concerned with their own financial prospects and not the well being of the people. In Miller’s Deat...

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...ating “Why am I trying to become what I don’t want to be… when all I want is out there, waiting for me the minute I say I know who I am” (Miller 1842.) Biff is accepting of who he is and that he does not have to follow in family traditions. Work provides as a building block for family values and expectations, and shapes the community around it.

Miller’s Death of a Salesmen and Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath show the correlation between work and the development of human rights, human interaction, and the value of the American family. The Loam and Joad families exemplify how work can shape the a family‘s value and community interaction. The constant pursuit of a better life through the stability of work demonstrates a common goal that both families strived for. Work not only affects the lifestyle of a community, but also its ethical and moral attitude.

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