The Critical Response to John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath

By Barbara A. Heavilin | Go to book overview

John Steinbeck's Spatial Imagination in The Grapes of Wrath

George Henderson


Introduction: Representation as Social Action

The winter of 1937-38 was especially wet in the San Joaquin Valley. Steady and heavy rains saturated the San Joaquin flood plain, particularly in cotton- growing Madera County. In February of that winter John Steinbeck wrote to his agent Elizabeth Otis:

I must go over into the interior valleys. There are about five thousand families starving to death over there, not just hungry but actually starving. The government is trying to feed them and get medical attention to them with the fascist group of utilities and banks and huge growers sabotaging the thing all along the line and yelling for a balanced budget. In one tent there are twenty people quarantined for smallpox and two of the women are to have babies in that tent this week. I've tied into the thing from the first and I must knock these murderers on the heads. Do you know what they're afraid of? They think that if these people are allowed to live in camps with proper sanitary facilities, they will organize and that is the bugbear of the large landowner and the corporation farmer. The states and counties will give them nothing because they are outsiders. But the crops of any part of this state could not be harvested without these outsiders. I'm pretty mad about it. No word of this outside because when I have finished my job the jolly old associated farmers will be after my scalp again ( Steinbeck and Wallsten158).

-99-

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