A Defense Of The Literary Merit Inside 'The Grapes of Wrath'

'The Grapes of Wrath' Is A Work As Complex As The Humanity It Celebrates

Though it has its faults, it is ultimately is one of the most American and humanistic texts in its nature cementing its legacy as an impactful novel for readers.


As waves of people surged across the country in search of a better life, America in the 1930s seemed like it was moving as well. The struggles, discrimination and poor working conditions migrant workers faced put them at odds with those in power, bringing America to the brink of what seemed like a revolutionary labor movement to author John Steinbeck. He was inspired to capture the unique environment of his time as well as the way families remained hopeful and survived in the face of adversity.

From his inspiration came The Grapes of Wrath: a fiery and polarizing novel that extolled human virtue while warning those in power that America was on the precipice of social change. Upon its publication, it shocked audiences and critics who either lauded it as a great work of fiction or denounced it as communist propaganda. Even today, it continues to impact its readers and is widely debated for its literary merit. In his time, Steinbeck's use of bold themes and passionate language in The Grapes of Wrath evoked vehement responses in America where his novel was banned and criticized for containing elements of communism and melodrama. However, his celebration of the human spirit in the face of hardships continues to endure past the controversy it faced eighty years ago, proving that his novel possesses significant literary merit.

While most of the controversy surrounding The Grapes of Wrath has not survived into today, there is still some criticism about communism that continues to undermine this work's literary merit. Passages from his book such as, "And the great owners, who must lose their land in an upheaval, [must] know the great fact: when property accumulates in too few hands it is taken away" show that much of his book aligns itself closely with communist theory. His work has thus been labeled by some as Marxist written with the intention of bolstering a party platform rather than expressing ideas of his own.

John Steinbeck's work has also been criticized as historically inaccurate by many, and his account of the Joad's journey along with the scale of the worker migration have been proven to be exaggerated. Keith Windschuttle argues that, "Instead of Steinbeck's 300,000, there were actually about 90,000 agricultural workers" that fit Steinbeck's description of migrant workers. Out of these, "a Californian government health survey estimated there were 3,800 of these families living in squatter villages of the kind portrayed in The Grapes of Wrath." While that number is not insignificant, it misrepresents the reality of the time and gives people a false or exaggerated image of the Great Depression. Since his chapters document the political, social, and economic conditions of the time, it's arguable that The Grapes of Wrath was meant to be taken literally as a piece of history. In this sense, it has failed its purpose by giving readers and students a false perception of history.

Despite this, any of these claims can be refuted simply by looking at his novel from a humanistic and fictional perspective. Though Steinbeck uses collectivist values to argue for common action among people, he does so mainly with the intention of promoting human faith and spirit. Leonard Ashley says, "Steinbeck's faith seems to have been in something more like a Life Force than the strident socialism of his day; he had a sort of mystical belief in people, not a political belief in the proletariat. And so he wrote a work of art that went beyond the propaganda novel…an angry and unorthodox New Testament of a religion of mankind." His novel focused more on the spiritual communion of people rather than political unity under the law. Denouncing the novel as communist propaganda doesn't acknowledge that Steinbeck's views of human interconnectedness were complex. Though there are certain passages in the novel that seem communist, the novel's main focus on human unity and compassion remains more prominent.

Additionally, Steinbeck's novel was emotionally charged not necessarily to sensationalize the plight of migrant workers but to accurately capture the sentiments of downtrodden migrants. Steinbeck said one of his purposes in writing this novel was to depict, "what a large section of our people are doing and wanting, and symbolically what all people of all time are doing and wanting." His focus on dreams and hopes required exaggeration for the audience to feel and identify with his characters- Steinbeck's focus on the human struggle and the nobility of human perseverance couldn't have been accomplished with stoic reporting. Historical inaccuracy also has no effect on the humanistic central message of the novel established earlier which gives The Grapes of Wrath its literary merit. Instead, this novel can be read as a fictional, representative account of the plight of migrant workers and the oppressed in America.

Thus, despite its ideological biases and sensationalism, Steinbeck conveys themes in his novel which capture the essence of humanity. The ability of The Grapes of Wrath to survive through its struggles further parallels its description of the ability of humans to survive theirs. And just like people, it is complex in its imperfections and contradictions. Thus, The Grapes of Wrath is unique in the way it presents the human condition. Though it has its faults, it is ultimately is one of the most American and humanistic texts in its nature cementing its legacy as an impactful novel for readers.

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Please Spare Me From The Three Months Of Summer Break When People Revert Back To High Schoolers

They look forward to swapping stories with their friends at the local diner, walking around their old high school with a weird sense of superiority, and reminiscing their pre-college lives.


I know a surprising amount of people who actually couldn't wait to go home for the summer. They look forward to swapping stories with their friends at the local diner, walking around their old high school with a weird sense of superiority, and reminiscing their pre-college lives.

Me? Not so much. I don't mean to sound bitter. It's probably really comforting to return to a town where everyone knows your name, where your younger friends want you around to do their prom makeup, and where you can walk through Target without hiding in the deodorant aisle. But because I did this really annoying thing where my personality didn't really develop and my social anxiety didn't really loosen its grip on me until college, I have a very limited number of people to return to.

If you asked someone from my high school about Julia Bond, they would probably describe her as shy, studious, and uptight. I distinctly remember being afraid of people who JUULed (did you get high from it? was it illegal? could I secondhand smoke it and get lung cancer?) and crying over Algebra 1 in study hall (because nothing says fun and friendly like mascara steaks and furious scribbling in the back corner while everyone else throws paper airplanes and plays PubG Mobile).

I like to tell my college friends that if I met High School Julia, I would beat her up. I would like to think I could, even though I go to the gym now a third of the time I did then. It's not that it was High School Julia's fault that she closed herself off to everyone. She had a crippling fear of getting a B and an even worse fear of other people. But because she was so introverted and scared, College Julia has nothing to do but re-watch "The Office" for the 23rd time when she comes back.

Part of me is jealous of the people who came into their own before college. I see pictures of the same big friend groups I envied from a distance in high school, all their smiling faces at each other's college football games and pool parties and beach trips, and it makes me sad that I missed out on so many friendships because I was too scared to put myself out there. That part of me really, really wishes I had done things differently.

But a bigger, more confident part of me is really glad I had that experience. Foremost, everything I've gone through has shaped me. I mean, I hid in the freaking bathroom during lunch for the first two weeks of my freshman year of high school. I never got up to sharpen my pencil because I was scared people would talk about me. I couldn't even eat in front of people because I was so overwhelmingly self-conscious. I remember getting so sick at cross country practice because I ran four or five miles on an empty stomach.

Now, I look back and cringe at the ridiculousness because I've grown so much since then. Sure, I still have my quirks and I'm sure a year from now I'll write an article about what a weirdo Freshman Julia was. But I can tell who had the same experience as me. I can tell who was lonely in high school because they talk to the kids on my floor that study by themselves. I can tell who was afraid of speaking up because they listen so well. I can tell who was without a friend group because they stand by me when others don't. I can tell who hated high school, because it's obvious that they've never been as happy as they are now.

My dislike for high school, while inconvenient for this summer, might be one of the best things to happen to me. I learned how to overcome my fears, how to be independent, and how to make myself happy. I never belonged in high school, and that's why I will never take for granted where I belong here at Rutgers.

So maybe I don't have any prom pictures with a bunch of colorful dresses in a row, and maybe I didn't go to as many football games as I should have. Maybe I would've liked pep rallies, and maybe I missed out on senior week at the beach. But if I had experienced high school differently, I wouldn't be who I am today.

I wouldn't pinch myself daily because I still can't believe how lucky I am to have the friends that I do.

I wouldn't smile so hard every time I come back from class and hear my floormates calling me from the lounge.

I wouldn't well up when my roommate leaves Famous Amos cookies on my desk before a midterm, or know how to help the girl having a panic attack next to me before a final, or hear my mom tell my dad she's never seen me this happy before.

If I had loved high school, I wouldn't realize how amazing I have it in college. So amazing, in fact, that I never want to go home.

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Remaining NBA Playoffs Matchup Predictions

NBA playoff predictions


With the NBA Season coming to a close after 82 games and multiple playoff games, I wanted to predict the remaining NBA series's and who would win. Let's start!

Eastern Conference Semi-Finals: Sixers in 6 vs Raptors


This one's pretty simple, The Sixers have more firepower, they have better chemistry, and they have a better coach. The Raptors are still adjusting to the Kawhi era and might take them a couple years for their chemistry to improve. The Sixers should win this series in six, but only because Kawhi is good enough to win two games by himself.

Eastern Conference Semi-Finals: Bucks in 5 vs Celtic


The Greak Freek is so good he can single-handedly beat this Celtics roster with Kyrie and Tatum. The Celtics have been suffering since late in the season and Giannis is here to expose that. Mike Budenholzer has made the Bucks into a complete team and they should easily dismantle last year's Eastern Conference Finals Losers.

Western Conference Semi-Finals: Blazers in 7 vs Nuggets


It's always Dame Time in Portland. Dame is leading his team fast and furious in the playoffs. He is averaging over 30 points a game and is carrying the Blazers. Him and CJ are a formidable duo. While Denver has great players, I believe in a 7 game series the Blazers will outplay them.

Western Conference Semi-Finals: Warriors in 6


The Warriors are the greatest team in the NBA this season. I'm not tired of how good they are because of Steph Curry. Often it seems like they don't try when they're playing, but I am sure that when it counts they will be able to oust the Rockets.

Eastern Conference Finals: Bucks vs Sixers: Sixers in 7


The Bucks vs the Sixers; two young teams battling it out to be the East's best. Who will win? Not going to lie if this happens it will be the best series in the playoffs. This series will definitely go to 7 games and the matter of fact is the winner of this may be lucky to keep on moving. Based on talent I took the Sixers, but with Giannis anything can happen so watch out!

Western Conference Finals: Warriors vs Trail Blazers: Warriors in 5


To make it simple, the Warriors talent makes the Blazers look like a high school JV team. Dame might be like the outlier and help the Blazers win one game, but otherwise the Warriors will make it look easy and go past this series easily.

NBA Finals: Warriors vs Sixers: Warriors in 4


The Warriors will finally find their momentum by the time the Finals rolls around and should easily sweep the Sixers. The Sixers lack experience in the Finals and even the playoffs that much to be honest and it will show. The Warriors will be too much for them and will dismantle the Sixers in 4 games.

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