In the novel “Grapes of Wrath” Steinbeck tries to describe the hard conditions in which farmers like the Joads had to suffer during the Dust Bowl. Throughout the novel he focuses on the Joad family and their journey to California. Steinbeck had mixed intentions that he is trying to express, perhaps his message in this novel is how the dispossessed families were treated through the journey from Oklahoma to California was or it could have been how the American dream was shaped by the catastrophic events that was happening during this time. The novel does represent what the American dream is suppose to be but at the same time a new idea of what the American dream should be is being develop. The American dream changes with respect to time; this is why there is never a concrete idea of what the American dream is. In Steinbeck’s novel he is trying to define a new definition of the American dream, for a farmer during this time it could have been, own land with a house in which their family could lived in and have enough to eat. While this might seem like nothing to us, they felt like that was the best they could get.
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The American dream only developed because there where many people at certain times that were in misery. If there would of never been misery in this country then the American dream would of never existed, if everyone is rich and has everything they need then they don’t really have any aspirations to have or become something in life. Steinbeck gives detailed description of
how horrible was the misery of the people living during the Dust Bowl. “The dawn came, but no day. In the gray sky a red sun appearedâ€¦Men and women huddled in their houses, and they tied handkerchiefs over their noses when they went out, and wore goggles to protect their eyes.”(Steinbeck, 2), this is what the people during the dust bowl endured and thought it would go away in a couple of days but for their bad luck it wouldn’t.
Part of the development of the American dream is the unity that American families had during this time. Everyone depended on each others work, for the most part the father was the head of the family and was in charge of bring the food to their home, the mother was in charge of taking care of the house as well as educating their children. Steinbeck uses characters dialect to express the Joad’s unity. “The family became a unit. Pa squatted down on the ground and Uncle John beside him. Pa was the head of the family now.”(103). Despite the adversity the family stood united and could choose a leader to keep going.
In “Grapes of Wrath” every character in a sense had dreams of their own, like Rose of Sharon which had her dreams and did nothing but wonder about what her dreams would bring. She wanted Connie to study during the night and then work at an ice store, she also had dreams for her baby and she imagined living a nice little house all alone as a family. But she really didn’t do anything and couldn’t do anything to achieve her dreams, she as well as the rest of the family were in a struggle to surviving so she had no other choice than to give up her dreams. While many of Americans have their idea of what the American dream is, few get to see that dream come true.
Most of the described events in the novel tend to destroy the chance at succeeding to live the American dream. Times for the families couldn’t be worst, Americans where in a great depression which meant that the economy was really bad, this adds up to one of the reasons for why Americans in this time lost hope on the American dream. “And money that might have gone for wages went for gas, for guns, for agents and spies, for blacklists, for drilling. On the highways the people moved like ants and searched for work, for food. And the anger began to ferment.” (215). More than just the money, wood, and work the Joad’s are looking for justice, for humanity.
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For the Joads the American dream meant for than self achievement, it meant to protect their and others right because they wanted to live in a country that was secure for them and their family. “Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat. I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beating’ up a guy, I’ll be thereâ€¦I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry n’ they know supper’s ready.”(319). This also shows the unity of an individual with its society.
The American dream helps to keep a society contained and going, because then one believes that if I’m not prospering, if I’m not buying these things, then that means that I might be doing something wrong. The American dream for these people during this time was more of a refuge and inspiration to keep going and keep dreaming of what one believes and wants, the American dream is like a religion for the person, he would have the dream in his head for every decision that he makes, he would try to construct his life around this belief. Steinbeck novel show this, the Joads with their dream of having a better life have to change their way of living, move from the place they always lived in, leave the people they love just to pursue their beliefs.
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