The Grapes of Wrath: A Criticism of Capitalism

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about The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Prompt: Is Steinbeck advocating communism w/ "Grapes"?

Thesis: John Steibeck severly criticizes capitalsim in his novel The Grapes of Wrath, but is not advocating communism.

John Steinbeck took a chance when he published The Grapes of Wrath in 1939. He wrote a clear criticism of capitalism at a time when the United States was experiencing the remnants of a 1920s "red scare". He begins the novel by showing the reader the sickness of capitalism, then reveals the greed of those men who support it. Steinbeck mainly criticizes the large landowners and banks for being insensitive and disconnected from the people. The poor migrant workers are almost always seen as better people, much more caring and generous.

Steinbeck 's criticism of capitalism reveals itself to be especially evident in the beginning of the novel. He refers to the land-owning banks as "monsters;" "If a bank or a finance company owned the land, the owner man said, The Bank - or the Company - needs - wants - insists - must have - as though the Bank or the Company were a monster, with thought and feeling, which had ensnared them" (Page 42). He uses Interchapter 5 to tell the stories of the families that have fallen victim to this monster (the bank) of capitalism. The family is unable to farm the poor soil, and so the monster sees that it is its duty to make better, more profitable use of the land. The farming family protests, claiming the land as theirs, what they have relied on for generations. But the men sent by the bank counter their claims, telling them the bank must keep growing bigger to keep alive, and in the end, the farming family gets their land taken. Their lives as they know them are destroyed because a bank - a monster - exercised the freedoms that capitalism granted it.

From the dusty Oklahoma farmland, the novel moves to another part of the world that Steinbeck portrays as being corrupted by capitalism. Interchapter 19 tells the story of

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