Challenges Of The Migrant Workers In The Grapes Of Wrath By John Steinbeck
The Dust Bowl era of the 1930’s caused a large group of migrant families to move westward to California because of the harsh conditions they faced at their previous residences. This move not only caused problems with the families but also with the individuals who were forced to face their own problems on their migration route. The book, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, depicts the personal struggles of the migrant worker through the characters of Tom, Casy, and Ma.
The character of Tom Joad has one of the more interesting backgrounds of the other characters which leads a greater change in his personality by the end of the book. As we begin the novel we are introduced to Tom and his self-centered personality. Tom claims that his four years in prison have taught him that you must seize the day because the future is not certain. However, by the end of the book, he trades this mentality in for a more future-focused idea. During his westward journey, Tom faces hostility and hardships that make prison look easy. Tom has to watch as both Grampa and Granma lose their lives, he has to watch his family starve and beg for work once they reach California, and many more things test his resolve. These challenges convert Tom to Jim Casy’s teachings of how one person cannot change the world, you need a family. This change saves Tom from turning into the many selfish migrants they have met who would gladly take a piece of bread even if it meant taking it from another family. In conclusion, Tom’s biggest struggle was learning that if his family were to survive the would have to focus more on the future, unfortunately, it took him the death of two family members to figure this out.
The next character of Jim Casy is a quite intriguing character for the reason that he seems to assume the role of Jesus Christ, of whom he shares his initials with. Jim Casy suggests, “…Maybe it’s all men an’ all women we love; maybe that’s the Holy Sperit – the human sperit – the whole shebang. Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.” This is quite an interesting comment coming from a former preacher considering he is suggesting there is no real god. Casy’s main struggle was not really his problem, however, he made it his problem, which was all the suffering migrant workers. On the trip west, Jim Casy took note of not only the struggles his family faced, but of all the migrant families. He wants more than anything to end this suffering but doesn’t know how to use his talents as a speaker and spiritual healer to help at the beginning of the trip. By the end of the trip however, Casy is so dedicated to saving the suffering laborers that he is willing to risk his life for what he believes in and begins using his skills to organize the migrant workers. All in all, Jim Casy is extremely important in The Grapes of Wrath because he is able to help out not only himself in overcoming struggles but also Tom and other migrant workers.
Another important character is Ma Joad who emerges as the family’s glue that holds them together throughout the book as Pa Joad begins to become less of a leader. Ma holds not only her own personal struggles but the whole familys, Regardless of this Ma faces every challenge unflinchingly and continues to hold herself together regardless of the pain she might be going through inside. Perhaps one of the best examples of just how strong Ma is emotionally is after her mother, Granma, has just died and she rides silently grieving, but never showing her troubles to her family because she knows they must finish their journey. Both her mother and her father die on the family’s journey to California which is perhaps why Ma is so determined to keep the rest of the family together. Ultimately, Ma was like Casy in the sense that they carried more than just their own problems, however, they were different because Ma also faced the challenge of keeping together her family and she did so to the surprise of the reader.
In conclusion, there were many different challenges that the migrant workers had to face and author, John Steinbeck did an incredible job in displaying some of these struggles through the characters of Tom, Casy, and Ma. At the time of its writing, The Grapes of Wrath would have been a great depictor of struggles faced by the former migrant workers that would be reading it.
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The Dust Bowl era of the 1930’s caused a large group of migrant families to move westward to California because of the harsh conditions they faced at their previous residences. […]