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Oppression: The Unlikely Savior The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck

1390 words - 6 pages

Oppress: to dominate harshly; to subject a person or a group of people to a harsh or cruel form of domination. In John Steinbeck's masterpiece "The Grapes of Wrath", the Joads are oppressed in many ways. The bank, the "monster", and big business owners are all seen as oppressors. But through this, the Joads remain resolute, in a way; oppression even strengthens the bonds between them, as they continue their exodus to the "promised land". While the maxim is that oppression always has an adverse effect on people, in Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath", oppression and hardship actually benefit the Joads and those around them.In Chapter sixteen, the Joad's truck breaks down, so Tom, Casy and Al stay behind to try to fix it while the rest of the family goes ahead. When they find what is wrong with the truck (broken con-rod) they walk to a junk yard, and look for another. The man who works at the junk yard is not the boss, he is merely an employee. He has also been oppressed by the boss, and this makes him bitter, "…You say it's all me, but, by God, he's a son-of-a-bitch. Figgers how bad you need it. I seen him get more for a ring gear than he gave for the whole car." (Page 233) The man first calls the boss a name; afterward, he talks about how the boss is very crafty, he knows he can manipulate needy people to get more money from them. This shows that the man does not like the boss or the way the boss treats customers. The man then sells a con-rod and a socket wrench to Tom and Al for quite a cheap price. So, the Joads actually benefited from the oppression of the boss because this led the employee to sell the con-rod at a lower price than the boss would have in order to spite him.As the Joads are on the road, they join up with the migrant "families". "In the evening a strange thing happened: the twenty families became one family, the children were the children of all. The loss of home became one loss…" (Page 249) These are families tied together by hardship; and to combat oppression. Within these families, there is also a system to fight hardship: "And a kind of insurance developed in these nights. A man with food fed a hungry man, and thus insured himself against hunger. And when a baby died a pile of silver coins grew at the door flap…" (Page 251) The people shared what they had, so that when they had none, others would share with them. Oppression has taught these people the anguish of hardship; and so they band together to insure that everyone has a share, and no one is oppressed. And it works, albeit very briefly.In chapter 19, the Joads arrive at a Hoover Ville, and the reception is anything but warm. They are treated like animals, with cops and contractors continually breathing down their necks. But when they arrive at the government camp in Weedpatch, things change, people actually act civilly to each other, and there aren't any cops to abuse them. The people in the government camp act this way because they know what it is...

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