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Grapes of Wrath Essay: Steinbeck’s Communist Manifesto

The Grapes of Wrath as a Communist Manifesto

Steinbeck’s political views are quite evident within The Grapes of Wrath. The subject of much controversy, The Grapes of Wrath serves as a social protest and commentary. Steinbeck’s views as expressed through the novel tie directly into the Marxist ideals on communism.

Perhaps the first thing Steinbeck does in The Grapes of Wrath is establish the status quo. He sets up the farmers and the banks as the two main opposing forces. “Lord and serf… in a word, oppressor and oppressed” (Marx, 1) Immediately Steinbeck sets up the very same situation Marx establishes in The Communist Manifesto complete with proletarian (farmers) and bourgeois (bankers) classes.

The Joads and the other farmers clearly represent Marx’s proletariat. The entire struggle they face is that of finding work or dying on the most basic of levels. Still, they fall victim to the conditions of the Great Depression, resulting in their continued inability to procure such a job. The migrants appear strongly as ” the proletariat, the modern working class… who live only so long as they find work .. who must sell themselves piecemeal … and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition to all the fluctuations of the market” (Marx, 4). Steinbeck and Marx find an obvious agreement over the situation and classification of the Okies, the proletarian workers.

One must also consider the role of the capitalist bankers and upper-class owners in the novel. The banks serve several purposes. First in the novel, they force the rural farmers off of their lands. Being the natural proletariat, they must take to the road in order to find a job. The upper class, as well, distribut…

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…hing for a reform of the current system. Bear in mind however, that there is no way to reform a system and let it be run by a “monster.” Steinbeck’s complaints about capitalism stem from its very basis and allow for no reform short of revolution. The old ways have died, violence is building, and as Marx would agree, revolution is imminent. The bourgeoisie and proletariat exist exactly as Marx states, and all the conditions are shaping up for a proletarian uprising. The revolution draws nigh as Steinbeck’s characters learn the principles and values on which Marx bases communism. The Marxist revolution in The Grapes of Wrath is at hand, especially as working men unite.

Works Cited

Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. New York: Penguin Books, 1998.

Language and Appearance in Frankenstein

Importance of Language and Appearance in Frankenstein

The individual identified as the monster in Frankenstein demonstrates, through his own problems with understanding and being understood by the world, the importance and power of language on the one hand and of outward appearance on the other. As this essay will show, the novel shows these two factors to have very different functions indeed.

First, let us look at the function of appearance as the monster perceives it. From the first time he views himself in a pool of water, he knows that he has the features which make up a monster. Then he states: “Alas! I did not yet entirely know the fatal effects of this miserable deformity” (p. 109). After this he experiences time and again how people, including the one who created him, flee in terror from his deformed shape, and finally, when all hope of a reversal of that situation has disappeared, he starts to use this deliberately for purposes of revenge.

The incident where he loses his last hope of ever being seen as anything but a monstrosity is when William Frankenstein, the younger brother of his creator and also a young and hopefully unprejudiced child, proves to see him the way any adult would, with disgust and horror. After completing the act of killing the child, he resolves to “carry despair to [Victor Frankenstein], and a thousand other miseries shall torment and destroy him” (p. 137). According to the monster, the function of appearance is to make society react to you. Whether the reaction is appropriate or not is beside the point; all that matters is the way you look.

Then we have language and communication. The first time he encounters spoken words, the monster reports that “this was indee…

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…and then in the scene with the blind man), but sooner or later you have to reveal your true shape to people you want respect from, and then a malformed outer shell will drive away the impressions left on them by your mind, however worthy and elevated that mind is. In the end, the only one who cares about who you really are is yourself, and everyone else sees just your surface. The exception from this is love, because love is the ability to see through the masks and understand who is behind them. The monster, understanding this, entreats his creator to give him an equal to love and be loved by, but his pleas are denied. He then sets out to destroy his creator and then himself, preferring death to a meaningless existence. In short: in order to stay sane and loved, nurture your mind, but in order to stay socially accepted and popular, nurture your body.

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