Naturalism In John Steinbeck's The Grapes Of Wrath

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In Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath, the emotions that wrecked the nation in the 1930s are eloquently expressed through his distinct writing style. The struggles faced by many Americans in this time period, provided Steinbeck with ample material to create his characters who battle daily for socio-economic survival. Their animalistic qualities and residence in the lower class, contribute to the novel’s naturalistic flair. Steinbeck’s emphasis on the control the environment has over its inhabitants, and their instinctive, survivalistic nature are what qualify The Grapes of Wrath as a naturalistic novel. A defining characteristic of naturalism is the stress put on the forces that dictate a person’s actions. Often called deterministic forces,…show more content…
In Chapter 21, the migrants eagerness to feed their families and their willingness to do whatever it takes to not fall victim to the Great Depression, illustrate Steinbeck’s focus on the hardiness of the migrant farmer. Writing, “When there was work for a man, the men fought for it -- fought with a low wage, If that fella’ll work for thirty cents, I’ll work for twenty-five. If he’ll take twenty-five, I’ll do it for twenty. No, me, I’m hungry. I’ll work for fifteen. I’ll work for food”, Steinbeck presents the desperation of his characters and their compliance in the fight for survival (283). Steinbeck's intermittent chapters that do not directly discuss the Joad family, provide a plethora of survivalistic qualities innate to the migrants, such as their transition from “I” to “we” in order to ensure a higher likelihood of arriving at their destination, but mainly their fight to make it to California against the odds. The concentration with which the Joad family pushes forward is a result of their constantly developing survival instinct, as the reader ironically learns more of their humanity despite the increasingly inhumane circumstances the Joads witness and are subject to as the novel progresses (Pizer 300). Moreover, from his essay in the Twentieth Century Literary Criticism Vol 135, Pizer attests to the aforementioned nature of the Joads, claiming that, “The care with which Steinbeck molds our sense of the primitive strength of the Joads early in the novel is especially revealed in two areas of their experience. The Joads are attuned to solving the problems on their lives without outside aid” (300). Naturalism’s spotlight on the drive within the characters to counter their obstacles, in this situation the Dustbowl, is undeniably seen in the farmers forced to migrate within
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