Economics and the Grapes of Wrath


The following is an excerpt from an interview with John Steinbeck (as culled by The Book Bench at The New Yorker), concerning his mindset while writing the epic The Grapes of Wrath. One could argue that it is fairly germane.


When I wrote “The Grapes of Wrath,” I was filled, naturally, with certain angers—certain angers at people who were doing injustices to other people, or so I thought. I realize now that everyone was caught in the same trap. If you remember, we had a depression at that time. The Depression

caught us without the ability to take care of it. It took a long time for us to develop the agencies to take care of such economic difficulties. When the dust came up, people were starving; they had no place to go. Naturally, they went in a direction where they would not suffer from cold: they went toward California. They came in the thousands to California.

And what did they meet—they met people who were terrified, number one, of the Depression, and were horrified at the idea that great numbers of indigent people were being poured on them to be taken care of. They could only be taken care of by taxation. Taxes were already high, and there wasn’t much money about. They reacted perfectly normally—they became angry. And when you become angry, you fight what you’re angry at. They were angry at these newcomers.

Gradually, through government agency, through the work of private citizens, agencies were set up to take care of these situations, and only then did the anger begin to decrease. And when anger decreased, these two sides, these two groups, were able to get to know each other, and they found they didn’t dislike each other at all.

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