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The Dreams Of The Depression Essay, Research Paper
The Dreams of the Depression
During the years of the 1930?s many people were affected by the economic disaster called the Great Depression. The long drought made farming unprofitable, and so the farmers, who have occupied the land for decades, had to leave. The banks that owned the land threw out the farmers in the rural South and Southwest. According to the handbills given to them, good jobs are plentiful in California. All of the farmers joined thousands of other poor families on a lengthy trek West. In the book The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck suggests that even though people are faced with the worst possible situation, their dreams give them hope to continue on their journeys.
Faced with the problem of losing their land, the Okies dream of starting a new life in California. The Joads, with the rest of the migrants, have been presented with the option of living in the slums or having a better life. When the Joad?s are first removed from the land they see the contrast of the barren land, on which they live on, and of California, which is fertile and lush. They see the orchards and fields growing fruit, nuts, cotton, and vegetables of different sorts. California is seen as the Promised Land, the land of milk and honey, and hundreds of thousands of migrants, including the Joads, dream that they may live in ?paradise?. Their dream of living their lives in wonderful California help them overcome many of the obstacles they face during their journey. For example, when the Joads realise that they have to leave, their dream of making it to California encourages them to work hard to make money and make preparations. With the money they make, the Joads buy a car and begin the journey to ?paradise?. As they begin to travel, they face the prejudice people who see the Okies as ?dirty son-of-a-bitches? and ?scum?. But the migrants are so determined to reach their destination and fulfil their dream that they ignore the imprudent comments and continue their journey to California.
As the Joads travel west, Connie and Rose of Sharon dream of giving their child a better life. They were very much in love and seemed happy of having their first child. Connie and Rose are obsessed with the baby, that they let the baby rule their thoughts and dreams. When Rose of Sharon begins to talk about how she ?wants it nice for the baby?, Connie replies with empty promises of a nice house, their own store, and most important for Rose of Sharon, ?a doctor when the baby?s born?. However, when they journey becomes more and more stressful, Connie becomes more unsettled about the whole idea of parenthood. When Connie abandons Rose, she becomes sick, lethargic and has feelings of bitterness over being deserted. Pa comments that ?Connie wasn? no good?. After the departure of Connie, Rose?s dream of having a baby still exists and her ailments begin to go away and she gets more sleep and nourishment. She also begins to act like her old self again, irritable and very concerned that her child will be affected by everything that happens.
Although Ma and Al have different ideals, they both have a common dream of settling down. The main dream Ma has is to settle down in California with the whole family. But through the entirety of the book, Ma faces many problems and her dream helps her overcome those problems. The first person who leaves the family, though not intentionally, is Grandpa Joad. He dies of a stroke and Ma accepts the fact that people die. Other people who leave the family are Noah, Grandma, Tom, and in the end, Al. Through all her pain and suffering, Ma has sustained her position as the ?citadel? of the family and continues her physical and moral support to help fulfil her dream. Al on the other hand, has a different idea of the dream. Although his mother wishes the family to stick together, Al wants to settle down with the person he loves, Aggie Wainwright. Like his mother he, too, has to overcome some problems. Whenever the family moves from camp to camp, Al does not have the chance to settle down, but his patience prevails and he finally fulfils his dream.
As a preacher, Jim Casy felt that he was full of the ?sperit? and that it was God?s will, and his dream, to help people. With all his thinking, the act that triggers Casy?s dream is when Muley innocently mumbles an idea about sharing a jackrabbit with Casy and Tom for dinner. ?I ain?t got no choice in the matter. If another fellow is hungry, he can?t just go away and eat alone.? Casy says, ?Muley?s got a-holt of sompin?, meaning that Muley has a philosophy in life, a protocol to live by. Most of Casy?s actions are related to the thoughts he had that night. Along the journey to Californian Casy begins to act on his dream, he would say grace, perform funeral rites, and even helps Tom fix the Wilson?s car even though he is not a preacher anymore. When they are in the Hooverville camp, Casy gets to ?practice what he preaches?. When Tom trips the sheriff, Casy starts kicking him and knocks him out. When the police officers come to get someone, Casy takes Tom?s place because ?somebody got to take the blame. I got no kids. They?ll jus? put me in jail, an? I ain?t doin? nothin? but set aroun?.? While Casy was in jail, he was thinking about a way to help people, unions. Casy starts a union in the Hooper Ranch and organises a strike. He is trying to fulfil his dream by helping the people in the long run, showing them that their strength lies in collective action. By being the union organiser, Casy has put himself in a critical situation. When the police officers find Casy, he turns to them and says, ?You fellas don? know what you?re doin?.? In this scene Casy is somewhat Christ-like and sacrifices himself for the good of mankind, ultimately fulfilling his dream.
Even though Casy is murdered, Tom decides to continue Casy?s dream of equality. Throughout the story, Tom has accepted many things, his prison sentence, and the harsh blows from the bank. What he cannot tolerate is unfair and abusive treatment from the police officers and the landowners. Tom is also very aggressive, he speaks harshly to the truck driver, he scolds the one-eye man, and he tells off the man at the gas station. The reason he does this is that he believes that no one should feel pity for himself and feel defeated by life?s hardships. He believes that people shouldn?t just give up when they are faced with a problem and accept the consequences, somewhat like Casy?s dream. The turning point in his life is when the sheriff kills Casy. Tom sees the officer as abusive and almost instinctively kills the officer. After he kills the police officer Tom starts to act like Casy, he hides out and starts thinking. When his mother comes to see how he is doing Tom explains to his mother that it is his dream to follow Casy?s steps. He recalls Casy?s saying, ?Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lif? up his fellow, but woe to him that is alone when he falleth, for he hath not another help him up.? This basically means that if people start working together they can make more progress in their journey instead of trying to accomplish their goal by themselves. Tom is like Casy?s disciple who spreads his word and tries to make Casy?s idealism a reality. Tom restates his dream when he tells his mother, ?I?ll be aroun? in the dark, I?ll be ever?where-wherever you look. Wherever they?s a fight so hungry people can eat, I?ll be there. Whenever they?s a cop beatin? up a guy, I?ll be there.
Even though the Joad family has faced many problems through their journey, their patience and hard work allow them to prevail through the hard times and achieve their dreams. Everyone has dreams and with every dream there are always problems for which the person must overcome.
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