Theme of Humanity’s Journey in The Grapes of Wrath In Steinbecks novel, The Grapes of Wrath, he describes the unremitting struggle of the people who depend on the soil for their livelihood. The principal characters define quiet dignity and courage in their never-ending struggle to survive and in the caring for their loved ones. Through this novel, Steinbeck displays his respect for the poor and oppressed of this world. The journey of the Joads delivers of Steinbeck’s message of respect for the poor and oppressed on three levels. The first is literal: he used the journey and its ever-changing environment to put the Joads through many situations. The second level is general: the journey of the Joads can be seen as the same that forced farmers to become migrants from the dust bowl westward or indeed of any mass migration since the beginning of time. The third level is the symbolic level, which I call the Fractal Idea of Sameness, that many things are identical at different levels. The first level, the literal, is simply to describe the events the Joads witness and experience. Steinbeck uses the journey to place his characters in a range of dilemmas. He is then able to draw reactions from them. As each character involved in the situation reacts, we are able to see Steinbeck’s respect for the poor shining through. The ‘never say die’ efforts of Uncle John to stop the rising flood water is one example of Steinbeck’s unremitting struggle theme. The constant effort of the entire Joad family to find work, even though they are poor, oppressed and hungry, show us that Steinbeck wants to show their tremendous courage and dignity. In this way, Steinbeck is able to use the journey structure to describe these fine qualities he sees and respects in the poor. If we read a little deeper in The Grapes of Wrath, we find the journey of the Joads mirrors that of other Okies and other forced migrations in history. The journey of the Joads has its ups and downs. Migrants are not always received with open arms; they are persecuted and looked upon as not even human. For them the promised land becomes the land of despair. In many ways, the journey of the black Africans to America as slaves is similar to the dust bowl migrations. Both are forced from the land that they love by almost non-human forces. They were taken to the land of riches where they were poor. The slaves were however taken by force but the Okies were seduced by the lure of work and prosperity. To help understand the third and deepest level of reading, we can apply a mathematical idea, that is the Fractal Idea of Sameness, that things are identical at different levels. For example, if we look at a mountain we see it has the same shape as a smaller peak, which has the same shape as a small mound, all the way down to a heap of dirt. If we apply this principle to this novel, we see that the journey of Tom is identical to that of the Joads which is the same as that of all humanity which is the same as that of the turtle of Chapter 3. Each of these journeys has its ups and downs, setbacks and positives. Each starts doing something and ends up doing something else. But all are moving forward. Steinbeck implies that all of humanity is on a journey, and for better or for worse we continue to move forward. This is why the journey structure is so suitable as it is itself a theme. The journey of the Joads is the same as the haphazard progress of the human race towards a goal, perhaps it is justice at last. Like the turtle also constantly moving, it never knowing the outcome till it gets there. Still it plods on. All in all, Steinbeck’s choice of the journey structure to dramatize his several themes has enabled him to relate life’s realities. He is able to show us the virtue of the poor by trapping his characters in an unfair world of persecution and downfalls, yet they remain sympathetic and heroic if defeated. Through the journey, he is able to show readers that life has its ups and downs. This structure makes for ease of access to his message. By reaching the general theme of humanity’s journey, his novel attains the status of a classic, for humanity will always be on a journey. This makes The Grapes of Wrath not only a classic but a timeless one as well.
A Destructive Society Exposed in Steven Crane’s Maggie A Girl Of The Streets
A Destructive Society Exposed in Maggie
In Maggie, Stephen Crane deals with poverty and vice, not out of curiosity or to promote debauchery but as a defiant statement voicing the life in slums. Drawing on personal experience, he described the rough and treacherous environment that persisted in the inner-city. By focusing on the Johnsons, Crane personalizes a large tragedy that affected and reflected American society as a whole. His creation of Maggie was to symbolize a person unscathed by their physical environment. Through Jimmie he attempted to portray a child raised without guidance who turned into his abusive, drunk father. Crane plays Jimmie and Maggie off of each other as opposites. The Mother and Father are depicted as failed drunken hypocrites and poor role models. Crane skillfully characterizes and stereotypes the personalities in Maggie to illustrate the influence of environment and the wretched conditions in slums.
Maggie “blossomed in a mud puddle” and represented purity in a corrupt world. When she gets together with Pete she attempted to get out of the world she despised, but instead remained in the slum, unable to escape. Although she is repeatedly abused, Maggie continually picks up the remnants of her life despite being “in a worn and sorry state.”
Jimmie is seen both in a good light, like his sister, as well as an evil and cruel person. In the beginning of the story, he is portrayed as the “little champion” of Rum Alley. However, that description merely cloaked the brutal fight that he was engaged in and the beating he later gave his sister. Later in the story, Jimmie buys some beer for an old leathery woman, but it is taken by his father. Jimmie protests in the name of justice but is not successful. The crude and abusive relationship with his father severely cripples his chances to become a benevolent adult. Instilled with poor values he did not see the world as good and bad but rather bad and worse. When he “studied human nature in the gutter, and found it no worse than he thought he had reason to believe it” he expressed his pessimistic and cynical attitude towards the world.
The Johnson’s mother is typical of a drinking, abusive, and careless mother. She stood for a hypocritical, industrializing society that was neglecting its children. When Jimmie tries to take his mother home when she has been kicked out of a bar “she raise[s] her arm and whirl[s] her great fist at her son’s face.