John Steinbeck’s acclaimed novel, The Grapes of Wrath, embodies his generation’s horrific tragedy. John Steinbeck’s writing gives insight on the devastating effects of the Dust Bowl on thousands of families and those who helped them. While Steinbeck’s novel focuses on the Joad’s family journey, he also includes writing of the general struggle of many families at the time. In John Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath, the usage of the term “Okies” degrades the workers, while the personification of the cars help depict the struggle of the journey, to exemplify the adaptation the migrant workers had to make to survive the new life.
Throughout the novel, Steinbeck separates the demographic of people with steady jobs and income from the migrant workers by having other characters call the latter “Okies.” For example, when the Joads were in California, a fellow migrant worker explained to the Joad men that the connotation of the term Okie has changed from being Oklahoma-born to being a low life. The migrant worker exclaimed the harsh reality that, “[Okie] means you’re a dirty son-of-a-bitch. Okie means you’re scum” (Steinbeck 205-06). The term Okie classifies the group of migrant workers that come from different walks of life under one stereotype. With all the workers under one term, masses were stripped of their individuality, their identity. The demeaning term forces all the workers into the lowest level of society. Furthermore, as the story progresses, the connotation of Okie worsens as the workers become filthy and over-populating like rats scrambling from area to area. As a California farm owner- who is offering work- confronts his helper, the appalled owner exclaims, “Them goddamn Okies got no sense and no feeling. They ain’t hu…
…ting setbacks the families faced by portraying their last piece of property struggling and being the back spine of the Okies.
John Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath, uses dehumanized “Okies” and personified cars to aid in the explanation of hardships of making it in a new society and how in order to survive, change must take place. Steinbeck’s novel portrays a family as they struggle in the heartless world. Both the usage of dehumanized workers and personified cars helps portray the deep fear and uncertainty the migrant workers began facing. By using figurative language, Steinbeck captures the general endeavor all the Okies who were unwillingly labeled as one class: scum. Ultimately, each willing family tossed aside their past, surrendering to their new foreign life.
Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. New York: Penguin Classics, 2006. Print.