John Steinbeck wrote in his 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath: “And then the dispossessed were drawn west- from Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico; from Nevada and Arkansas, families, tribes, dusted out, tractored out. Carloads, caravans, homeless and hungry; twenty thousand and fifty thousand and a hundred thousand and two hundred thousand. They streamed over the mountains, hungry and restless – restless as ants, scurrying to find work to do – to lift, to push, to pull, to pick, to cut – anything, any burden to bear, for food. The kids are hungry. We got no place to live. Like ants scurrying for work, for food, and most of all for land.” This, just a small excerpt from Steinbeck’s novel, depicts the hardships and struggles that farmers faced during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. The Grapes of Wrath is an excellent source of information for this time period and includes historical facts, themes, and intricate details of living conditions of the migrant farmers.
John Steinbeck’s portrayal of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl is quite accurate. His descriptions of the Dust Bowl, the causes and what the “bowl” looked like, were precise according to Alan Brinkley’s text, The Unfinished Nation. Steinbeck and Brinkley both wrote that the worst drought in history had struck the Great Plains and lasted for a decade in the early 1930s. And at this time farmers had been tempted by high crop prices, which lead them to plow up the grass for more crop room and kept working the same crop, which eventually exhausted the soil. This and the lack of rainfall turned these regions into “virtual deserts,” and the great winds caused the dust to blow across the plains in clouds. Steinbeck went into great detail describing what this had looked liked. In his novel he described the Dust Bowl: “The wind increased, steady, unbroken gusts. The dusts from the roads fluffed up and spread out and fell on the weeds besides the fields . . . the sky was darkened by the mixing dust, and the wind felt over the earth, loosened the dust, and carried it away.” For the people living in these devastated lands, this was a very accurate account as to what the “weather” was like for weeks and months.
In The Grapes of Wrath the story followed the Joad family from their home in Oklahoma to California. They were forced to leave their home behind in search of work and land.