The Grapes of Wrath

All in the Family in The Grapes of Wrath

The indefatigable spirit of unity emerges as the one unfailing source of strength in John Steinbecks migrant worker classic The Grapes of Wrath. As the Joad familys world steadily crumbles, hope in each other preserves the members sense of pride, of courage, and of determination. A solitary man holds a grim future; with others to love and be loved by, no matter how destitute one is materially, life is rich. This selflessness is not immediate, however; over the course of the book several characters advance from affected altruism to unconscious magnanimity.

A recently paroled Tom Joad makes his first encounter with altruism as he attempts to hitchhike with a trucker whose employer has outlawed the practice. When the trucker points out the "No Riders" (11) sign his truck carries, Tom replies, "But sometimes a guyll be a good guy even if some rich bastard makes him carry a sticker." (11) Steinbeck has cleverly cornered the man by utilizing a tool often implemented in Depression-era literature: the classification of the guilty rich as anonymous, thus convincing the trucker that he is "not one whom any rich bastard could kick around." (11) Still, this generous gesture is caused by shame and guilt, not by...

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