Alienation in the Grapes of Wrath

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An effective way writers demonstrate the moral values of a society is by not telling the story from one in the society, but from the point of view of a person alienated from it. This method reveals small things that one in the society would not notice and provides different insights only one from outside the society can notice. Such is the case in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Tom Joad's alienation from the rich Californian landowners shows that money is the top priority of those who own land, while the poor, assumed-worthless families are on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Thousand of families flooded to California just so they could feed their families, but by showing the treatment the landowners show to these families, or lack thereof, Steinbeck points to the fact that they don't even plan on letting them eat, and that money is the only thing they're really worrying about. When explaining to his family that Jim Casy had gone on strike because of the poor wages, Tom says, "Yeah. What we was a-doin' was breakin' strike. They give them fellas two an' a half cents." Pa responds, "You can't eat on that." When their outlook gets so desperate, the first priority is to feed their families and hope for better times. By showing these small, seemingly insignificant, noble acts, Steinbeck shows the determination of these families to press on. The poor wages set by the landowners show that they, the landowners, care nothing for the families even in their destitution. With such low wages set, the landowners are alienating these poor families and giving reason for hostilities. This form of alienation demonstrates that these landowners plan on keeping every penny they possible can. With lower wages paid to more workers, things get done quicker while the rich can keep their pockets lined.

Another way the landowners invoke hostilities is the very way they refer to these poor families. When Tom asks, "Okie? What's that?" this character responds,...
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