Topics: The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck, Great Depression Pages: 9 (3378 words) Published: May 12, 2013
A comparative study on the significance and presentation of empowerment in Grapes of Wrath, Poems and One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. Ideas of personal empowerment and empowerment of minority groups are explored in Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, Poems by Maya Angelou and Ken Kesey's One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. Steinbeck, Angelou and Kesey are all writers deeply concerned with equality and humanism. This is prevalent because all three pieces of their writing centre on empowering groups who have been subject to discrimination and inequality. Steinbeck felt strongly opposed to the “thousands of families…starving in California”[8] during 1920’s American depression and gave these migrants a voice through the Joad family. As a black American Angelou’s strong disapproval of the adverse treatment of blacks can be seen through every poem in the collection Poems. Kesey expresses his disapproval with removing those from society who don’t fit into the ‘norm’ through empowering the mentally ill patients of Oregon psychiatric hospital. It is interesting to note that concern with the capitalist attitude of the American Dream can be seen through Steinbeck, Kesey and Angelou’s work even though they were writing at different times. Steinbeck’s anti-capitalist attitude can be as a consequence of his interest in the philosophy of “human kind as a kind of collective biological organism”, a communist philosophy contrasting the ideologies of capitalism. Steinbeck presents these his political views through Weed patch and the philosophical interests of humanism these views stem from through Casey. Kesey wrote One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in the 1950’s when the United States was engaged in a cold war with the Soviet Union, a time in which relations were tense and hostile. Kesey aims his criticism at the American institutions which attempted to curtail the individual’s freedom of speech and squash any forms of rebellion or non-conformity. Kesey expresses his criticism by empowering the patients of the Orgeon psychiatric hospital who have been rejected form society because they do not conform to the ‘norm’. This is largely presented through Bromden; a Native American man who escapes the hospital. Angelou presents her concern with the American Dream through self-empowerment in her poem Still I Rise a concern which stems from the capitalist exploitation of blacks through the slave trade. Self-empowerment and authority are explored in all three texts also. In The Grapes of Wrath this is through the development of Ma Joad. The successes of the family on the journey can be seen as a direct consequence of the move to a more matriarchal system via Ma Joad. In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Kesey presents self-empowerment through McMurphy and authority he gains throughout the ward as consequence of his anti-establishment attitude. Angelou explores authority in her poem The Calling of Names where she expresses her disapproval with the white man’s misuse of authority towards a black man. The self-empowerment of Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath and McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest can be seen to catalyse change in the novels. Angelou’s poem Elegy is centred on two people who were the driving force of equality during the slave trade. Angelou writes about these two people in order to respect their contribution towards the empowerment of blacks. Steinbeck presents his anti-capitalist views through the empowerment of the migrants at Weed patch, a camp run by the migrants for the migrants, a communist ideal. The migrants have succeeded to live in a successful, harmonised camp run without government interference, even through poverty and oppression. The "folks"(299) who live in Weed patch "elect their own cops"(299) and the camp manager, Jim Rawley. The "camp committee"(299) get the Joad family "fixed up"(299) on arrival. The camp is organised and well equipped "you got wash tubs?-running water?" (299) thus far, the family have come in...
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