Harvest Gypsies

Topics: Migrant worker, Human migration, Federal government of the United States Pages: 5 (1983 words) Published: September 29, 2013

The Dustbowl migrants were different than most of the other groups of migrants who came to work in the fields of California. These were other Americans who had not long ago had lived a life that was similar to the farmers whom they were now working for. The other migrants came from other countries and most of them were probably used to living in poverty, so when they came to work as the peon class in America they were already used to hard working conditions for very little compensation. In their transition from being regular working class American’s to migrants they had to forget how comfortably they had once lived and learned to live in a life of death, despair and poverty. On top of it all they lost their ability to be a part of a Democratic community where they were able to vote and participate in local government. (pg. 23) To become one of an “unprivileged class” would leave any man feeling powerless and shameful as the patriarch of a family. Unfortunately in a patriarchal society when the father loses his drive it trickles down through the entire family. The migrants became known as Okies to the locals, despite the fact that many of them came from many other parts of the United States than Oklahoma. Okies were treated as outcasts and locals were unhappy about their migration to their towns. The camps in which the migrants lived were filthy. The locals saw them as an eye sore to their community. During the recent recession tent cities like this popped up all over. There was a large tent city in my city of Sacramento, CA. It is sad to think that many of those people were once successful, hard-working people, who had fallen on hard times, but regardless of how heart breaking their story may have been they were still forced to leave the camps that they called home. They were found in violation of city camping codes. The community was happy when these camps were evacuated because the camps were destroying the land in which they lay. Squatters were disrupting neighboring communities, and locals feared the repercussions that could take place if the campers were allowed to remain. These tent cities were filthy, but they did not compare to those of the migrant Okies who set up camp in California. Stienbeck describes camp life by breaking the squatters down in to classes. Those who had not lived the camp life for long tried to incorporate some of the amenities of a home, such as digging a hole in the ground which is covered with burlap and used as a make shift toilet. However after a short time in the camp the family's spirit becomes broken. They become weak from exhaustion and lack of proper nutrition. At this point they give up on keeping their camp tidy and home-like. The father no longer digs a hole in the ground to dispose of the human waste. Instead they defecate next to a tree leaving the waste exposed. It becomes covered with flies and those same flies circulate throughout the tent and the camp. The lowest of the camp’s classes had lost all hope of cleanliness or sanitation. The children could be seen squatting down right where they were standing to relieve themselves, then covering it with a little dirt. (Pg. 27-30) It was not only the idea of the filth that was found in the camp that would be alarming to locals, but also the spread of disease due to the filth. When speaking of the young child who defecates in common areas Steinbeck remarks, "The father is vaguely aware that there is a culture of hookworm in the mud along the river bank. He knows the children will get it on their bare feet. But he hasn't the will nor the energy to resist." (Pg. 30) This father had lost his dignity and he was too weak to even care for his own child’s health, so he was clearly not thinking about how this affected the other camp members and the town’s residents. To be a permanent resident in a town where this is taking place would be appalling. It is important as a home or business owner to be able to take pride in the community in...
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