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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

12. Migrant

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Activities: Author Activities

John Steinbeck - Selected Archive Items

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[3343] Dorothea Lange, People Living in Miserable Poverty, Elm Grove, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma (1936),
courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USF34-009695-E].
In The Grapes of Wrath Steinbeck depicts the life of Oklahoma farmers during the Dust Bowl. The Great Depression coincided with terrible droughts that killed crops and pushed families like the Joads west to California seeking better land and a better life.

[3347] Dorothea Lange, Power Farming Displaces Tenants. Childress County, Texas Panhandle (1938),
courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USF34-TO1- 018281-C DLC].
Alternately titled "Tractored Out." Mechanization made large farmers wealthy, but left small farmers, tenants, and sharecroppers without jobs. The increased use of machines instead of manual labor, coupled with drought and falling crop prices during the Great Depression, left many farmers homeless.

[5695] Anonymous, Film Set during the Making of The Grapes of Wrath, with Part of Cast and Film Crew in Front of Small, Dilapidated House (1939),
courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USZ62-114292].
Photograph of set and actors for The Grapes of Wrath, one of John Steinbeck's most famous novels. The book centered on the Joads, a family of Oklahoma sharecroppers during the Dust Bowl who became migrant workers.

[5872] Dorothea Lange, Migrant Workers Near Manteca, Ca. (1938),
courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USF34-018767-C].
Dorothea Lange's caption to this picture reads, "A former rehabilitation client harvesting milo maize. Now operating own farm under Tenant Purchase Act. A year and a half ahead on their payments. Average loan for purchase of farm and improvements in San Joaquin County is seven thousand four hundred and sixty-five dollars."

[5910] Anonymous, Steinbeck Portrait (n.d.),
courtesy of the Center for Steinbeck Studies.
Like many American authors, John Steinbeck, though never formally investigated, attracted the attention of the FBI in the 1940s due to his involvement with communist organizations.

[5911] Anonymous, Younger Steinbeck Head Shot (n.d.),
courtesy of the Center for Steinbeck Studies.
Steinbeck concluded his Nobel Prize acceptance speech with the following words: "Having taken God-like power, we must seek in ourselves for the responsibility and the wisdom we once prayed some deity might have. Man himself has become our greatest hazard and our only hope. So that today, Saint John the Apostle may well be paraphrased: In the end is the word, and the word is man, and the word is with man."

[8968] Louis Owens, Interview: "Steinbeck's Major Theme" (2002),
courtesy of American Passages and Annenberg Media.
Professor Louis Owens discusses Steinbeck's critique of America.

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