Grapes Of Wrath By Steinbeck Essay

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck is considered a classic novel by many in
the literary field. The trials and tribulations of the Joad family and other
migrants is told throughout this novel. In order to gain a perspective into the
lives of “Oakies”, Steinbeck uses themes and language of the troubling
times of the Great Depression. Some of these aspects are critiqued because of
their vulgarity and adult nature. In some places, The Grapes of Wrath has been
edited or banned. These challenges undermine Steinbeck’s attempts to add reality
to the novel and are unjustified. In 1939, The Grapes of Wrath was published and
came under fire for its content. Vulgarity and the misrepresentation of a
preacher were the main complaints that led to the ban and burning of the novel
from St. Louis, Missouri libraries in September 1939. Vulgarity may be prevalent
in the book, but it has its purpose. Steinbeck used some vulgar terms to
accurately represent the lingo and slang that was used by the people of the
1930’s. Most of the terms that were considered vulgar may be a bit distasteful,
but is nothing that is not heard on the streets today. Extreme profanity is not
extraneous in the novel, in fact, it is tame compared to slang terms used today.

Casy, the former preacher that was traveling with the Joads, is not be given the
connotation as the most holy man. Casy did not consider himself a minister at
the time The Grapes of Wrath takes place. “But I ain’t a preacher no
more” is spoken many times by Casy in denial that he is a man of the cloth.

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Indeed, Casy is brutally killed in the novel, but it does not go into graphic,
violent detail. Once again, Casy’s feelings against the employers and government
were common to the time and were used to state that idea. Another point of
controversy lies on The Grapes of Wrath’s closing sequence. In this finale, an
old man nurses from Rose of Sharon, a young women whose baby was delivered
stillborn. Some believe this is pornographic, sexually oriented, and improper,
especially for young children. In fact in some states, the sequence is taken
out. This sequence may be a vulgar, but it is an essential element to the novel
and is in no way pornographic. It shows the desperation of the migrants to do
anything to survive, no matter what the implications may entail. Those who are
missing this ending, such as those who read editions in Texas, are missing this
important element of The Grapes of Wrath. These readers may never fully
understand the lives of migrants in the 1930’s . The novel may have some adult
content, but it was never meant to be read by young children. The target
audience, ages over 14, can look beyond the visual picture and fully ascertain
the section’s deeper meaning. Others may critique Steinbeck’s use of socialistic
and anti-government messages. During the 1930’s, these ideas were very common.

In fact, Upton Sinclair, a socialist writer, was nearly elected governor of
California. Living conditions, the opposition between the Californians and the
“Oakies”, and the inability to break out of the depression all added
to beliefs of the times. Steinbeck was not advocating socialism, he was just
reflecting the times. Without these individual beliefs of the “reds”
and other people that showed either socialistic or anti-establishment messages,
the reader would get a dry, unfulfilled perspective of the lives of people
during the Great Depression. Censorship does have its place in society. There
are many things that are too risqué, degrading, and should not be shown.

Pornography, extreme sexual content, and extreme gratuitous violence does not
have its place in literature or in society. The Grapes of Wrath does not have
any of these above aspects. Of those who choose to ban this book and other works
of literature with questionable themes, many of them are wrapped up in political
correctness. In literature, life should be shown like they it is, not as someone
would like it to be. As much as political correctness advocates would like to
change things for the better, they cannot change the past no matter how hard
they try.


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