Leah Gaines John Steinbeck
In today’s society, people are treated more fairly than they have been in the past. Women have more rights that they have ever had and the poor working class citizens aren’t turned away. In John Steinbeck’s time, women had fewer rights and the poor were treated with disdain. John Steinbeck wanted to give a voice to the poor and the misunderstood and to change the social norms for equal rights. He accomplishes that in his two books, The Pearl and The Grapes of Wrath.
When John Steinbeck was young, he lived a comfortable life. His family was well off and could afford to send him to Stanford University. He lived in Salinas, California as a child and gathered stories from farm workers nearby to later incorporate into his books. Even being privileged as he was, he never finished college. Instead, he became a writer. In his early years of writing, he wasn’t very successful. He moved to New York to try his luck but ended up moving back West to Lake Tahoe, California. John Steinbeck’s work as a writer reflected the society that he lived in. He wrote about the social injustices of Native Americans and the poor people of the depression. He exposed how horribly some people were being treated and helped to be an influential voice for them. One of his influential writings is The Pearl.
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The indigenous people of Baja, Mexico have been struggling with racial injustices for centuries since the white men inhabited their land. In The Pearl, Kino and Juana are faced with many difficult choices including choosing greed over family. “It was the wildest daydreaming and very pleasant. His lips moved hesitantly over this- “A rifle” Kino said. “Perhaps a rifle.” (Steinbeck, 32) Kino finds a pearl hoping that it would pay for his sons’ medical treatment after he was stung by a scorpion, but it ended up in the entire family’s downfall.
Kino and Juana try to sell the pearl for money but don’t get the deal that they were looking for since Kino and Juana are indigenous people who had long been cheated by the European settlers. So, why should they get a fair deal? Imagine how that would make someone feel. You can’t get money for your son because you are Mexican. The Doctor even said, “Have I nothing better to do than cure insect bites for little Indians.”
The pearl buyers only wanted to scam Kino out of the pearl’s actual worth. However, being the strong-headed people that they are, they refused the deal and attempted to go to the capital. John Steinbeck points out in his writing that because Kino and Juana are the native people they are treated with disdain and not as equal with the white men. By writing The Pearl, we have a sense of what society was really like back then and how we can change it for the better today. John Steinbeck not only respects people like Kino and Juana but also fights for them.
In The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck writes about a poor family immigrating to California to look for work during the Great Depression. Their land was taken away by the government and demolished with a tractor. “How can we live without our lives? How will we know it’s us without our past?” (Steinbeck, 114) The Joads had to go through so much when they were forced to leave and it was all for nothing. When they got to California, most of the jobs were taken up and the ones that weren’t didn’t pay enough to feed one person let alone feed an entire family.
No one who had a job during the Great Depression understood how the poor felt. They were misunderstood and forced into jobs that didn’t pay enough. John Steinbeck incorporated this unfairness into his writing of The Grapes of Wrath. He made sure that everyone in his society knew what was happening even if that meant that he might be called a traitor or a communist. He did what he had to do and now all of his hard work paid off.
We are more considerate of the poor and misunderstood today than we were ever before. “Our people are good people; our people are kind people. Pray God some day kind people won’t all be poor.” (Steinbeck, 239) By the end of the book, all of the Joads were put down. They had hope though, that in the future people wouldn’t be treated as badly as they were and that the poor would get equal opportunities at a life.
John Steinbeck devoted his life and time to help the oppressed people. He raised awareness and changed what society thinks of the lower class to this day. If the lower class workers weren’t around, then most of the everyday items we have wouldn’t be around. The poor people who worked for companies during the Great Depression made and evolved the items that we use today. Every time you walk by a poor person and judge them, think about all of the American’s who suffered during the depression. Think about the racism in Baja, Mexico and try to be kinder and more thoughtful towards them and their situation.