People need each other every step of the way. Muley knows he has to share his rabbit with Tom and Casy. The Wilsons can't go on without assistance from the Joads. The Wallaces invite Tom to work with them. Mrs. Wainwright aids Rose of Sharon in childbirth. Rose of Sharon offers her milk to a dying man. You'll have no problem finding many more instances of people helping people in the novel.
Only in the government camp at Weedpatch do the migrant people find safety and comfort. It's the federal, not the state government that provides refuge. Within the camp itself, people make the rules and select leaders. God helps those who help themselves, the saying goes, but a little help from a benevolent government doesn't hurt.
The song "Solidarity Forever" is the anthem of the American labor movement. When workers stick together in a righteous cause, they can accomplish anything. But you have to be prepared to make sacrifices. You can't give in to threats, and above all, you must remain united. If you break with your brother, you'll be hurting both him and yourself.
Anger in many guises dominates the book. Why else call it The Grapes of Wrath? The tenant farmers are angry at the landowners. Roadside characters such as the one-eyed man are angry with themselves. Californians' fear of the migrants turns to anger. And most of all, the migrants are angry. In a land of plenty, they are starving. They should be angry about that, and so should we!
The pursuit of money is a perfectly legitimate activity in our society. But what happens when, in the quest for the dollar, human values are forgotten? Banks force people from their homes; big farmers eat up little farmers; landowners exploit workers; food is burned and buried; people starve. At what point does the pursuit of money turn into a crime?
The Grapes of Wrath is a story of endurance. You have to marvel at how many of the characters, especially Ma Joad, can put up with such a relentless barrage of trouble, and still go on. Men must be made of sturdy stuff to keep trying in the face of adversity brought on by both nature and other men.
© Copyright 1984 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
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