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Reader (and Viewer) Beware!
By Rachel Brooks

Keith Windschuttle’s “Steinbeck’s Myth of the Okie” demolishes the historical accuracy of John Steinbeck’s novel. According to Windschuttle, Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath “became the principal story through which America defined the experience of the Great Depression.” This famous novel -- still sold in millions of copies around the world and still “a widely studied text in both high schools and universities” -- tells the story of the Joad family and their struggles to escape the horrors of the dust bowl. “Although it is about the experiences of the fictional Joad family,” says Windschuttle, The Grapes of Wrath was always meant to be taken literally.” But his assessment of that...
Grapes of Wrath: Novel vs. Film
By Lyndsey Collins

Both John Steinbeck’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath and John Ford’s Oscar-nominated film adaptation are world-renowned masterworks. There have been countless discussions and debates over how the novel and film compare. Though written in 1973, George Bluestone’s analysis of the two works is still the most recognized and esteemed essay on the topic. Bluestone argues that though the film does shy away from some of the more controversial topics depicted in the book, it still deserves recognition for being a great work.
You Decide the Victim
By Ian Garsman

In 1937, George Thomas Miron spent “several months . . . making a first-hand study of the agriculture-work problem” (19). His personal experiences as a worker “In the Field” (the title of his fourth chapter) vehemently contradict John Steinbeck’s “inaccurate” personal experiences published the preceding year in a Sacramento newspaper and later collected in Their Blood is Strong. On the basis of what he saw, Miron exposes Steinbeck’s false images of both the California agricultural labor system and the Dust Bowl refugees themselves, leading us to question who the real victim is. Miron’s tone is angry and resentful, evidenced by the fact that besides offering specific examples from his personal experience...
Taylor's Wrath for Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath
By Erin Meinert

John Steinbeck’s legendary work The Grapes of Wrath left a lasting impression of the Dust Bowl and the Okies with its audience. In the process, it also enraged numerous critics who felt Steinbeck’s portrayal was largely exaggerated. Among these disgruntled critics was Frank J. Taylor who defamed the novel in his 1939 essay “California’s Grapes of Wrath.” He attacks the novel ultimately for its historical inaccuracy, pinpointing three major social groups -- the Okies, California farmers, and the government and big businesses -- that he felt Steinbeck wrongly portrayed. Combining powerful personal experiences from his visits to the agricultural valley, specific historical examples, and potent statistics, Taylor...
Finding Fact in Fiction
By Michael Ronan

What is popular is not always right, and this may very well be the case with John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. In the preface to his The Truth About John Steinbeck and the Migrants (1939), George Thomas Miron boldly writes of Steinbeck, “He is a fellow of unquestionable talent, but nevertheless it seems to me that he is showing a cheap streak. In a little while the pink brethren will drop him, and he will be heard from no more” (1). His criticism of the novel is spot-on even though Miron has been proven wrong in his first statement and The Grapes of Wrath still resonates with readers today. Miron proves that although The Grapes of Wrath is an enormously popular novel, it may...
Miron's Criticism of McWilliams and Company
By Eric Weiss

John Steinbeck’s virulent attack on the California agricultural system in Grapes of Wrath shocked people out of their “everything is fine” mindset and allowed for the masses to understand some of hardships of the economic depression and the consequences of the drought in midwestern United States. However, his assessment of the problem leads audiences to the wrong conclusions about the majority of the lifestyles of migrant workers. Similarly, Cary McWilliams, former director of California State Division of Immigration and Housing, inaccurately portrayed California’s agricultural system in his 1939 Factories in the Field so as to stir change in California’s legislature. While his intentions may have been...
The Matriarch
By Adrianna Abreu

Whether it be the role of a mother, caretaker, friend, or damsel in distress, women have been gracing film screens since the early days of cinema. In The Grapes of Wrath (1940) and Salt of the Earth (1954) audiences find two lead female protagonists who act as the mother, caretaker, and as the matriarch of the family. Their plot lines illustrate the tension and hardships of the working class and the outcome of newfound strength in the role of the women. Perceivably, the women -- Ma Joad from The Grapes of Wrath and Esperanza Quintero from Salt of the Earth -- that step up to care emotionally for their family sacrifice their most prized possessions and keep their family together even in...
The American Dream -- Or Lack Thereof
By Jena Viviano

From a very early age, Americans are programmed to have an unfaltering belief in “The American Dream.” We are destined to strive for the successes that come along with freedom, for “the Dream” promises us an endless supply of possibilities if we work hard enough. James Truslow Adams eloquently eludes, "The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” We devastatingly learn, through the trials of the Joad family in The Grapes of Wrath, however, that this ideal may not actually be attainable, and that its pursuit may actually bring a multitude of disappointments.