John Steinbeck, The Harvest Gypsies (1936)
and selections from The Grapes of Wrath (1939)
- In the collection of articles which is called The Harvest Gypsies, John Steinbeck (1892-1968) presents the struggles of the Depression-era Dust Bowl emigrants who fled the drought-ravaged Great Plains for the hope of a better chance in California. The San Francisco News hired Steinbeck to write a series of articles on the impact and experiences of the new migrant labor in Southern California, and the seven articles ran from October 5-12, 1936. These articles became the core of Steinbeck's novel/documentary study, The Grapes of Wrath (1939). Steinbeck told of these experiences through the stories of those on the road and personalized the novel by attaching the story to one fictional family, The Joads.
- Questions to Think About:
- 1) What shaped the experiences of Dust Bowl emigrants, both before they left the Great Plains and after, according to Steinbeck? Who is to blame for the difficult situation they find themselves in?
- 2) Describe a migrant camp. What, according to Steinbeck, are the problems in the camps? What makes for differences between the various camps? What would Steinbeck like to see changed in them?
- 3) Who were the migrant workers? Were they a new population in the area or in the economic role they took on? Why does Steinbeck believe that the government will be forced to address the concerns of migrant workers in the Depression, when the suffering of migrant workers has never been a great concern before?
Further resources and readings:
- San Jose State University's Center for Steinbeck Studies
- The John Steinbeck Page, maintained by Scott Simkins at The University of Southern Mississippi.
- Scott Simkins's Steinbeck's Critical Reputation, tracing critical reception of Steinbeck's work over time.
- David Minter, "Steinbeck's Writing of the 1930s," from A Cultural History of the American Novel (1994), pp. 188-190.
- Barbara Foley, "Gender and Class in The Grapes of Wrath," from Radical Representations: Politics and Form in U.S. Proletarian Fiction, 1929-1941 (Durham: Duke University Press, 1993), pp. 416-418.
Prepared by Professor Catherine Lavender for Honors 502 (American Frontiers and Borderlands), Department of History, The College of Staten Island of The City University of New York. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Last modified: Saturday, 19 August 2000.