Trampling out the Vintage: Steinbeck's Crusade Against Injustice

Essay by will2434University, Bachelor'sA-, March 2008

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"This is the beginning, from 'I' to 'we.'" - The Grapes of WrathBread-winning family men were torn asunder from their positions of meager power as the structural integrity of America's economy was undermined from the top down. Only the wealthiest of people remained wealthy. The poorest of people, determined to succeed against all odds, ran themselves quite literally down a path to fermented, rotten, never-ripe failure. The working class men and women, the hands that executed the head's work with the heart's mediation, were the new face of the United States of America. They brought with them a plea for change; political, economic, and social. There was a new economy, a new President, and a New Deal. What also arose out of necessity, to help make sense of the unfamiliar and inscrutable, was a new leftist written and visual landscape, a distinctive and defining era in US history.

To attempt to contextualize the shift in the media is to ask what else was affected by the Depression in such a manner. I come repeatedly to the forgone oversimplification: everything. People who were rich became poor, and because the rich had always been of interest in a capitalist society, so now were the poor, because they were essentially the same set. All else follows. A strong shift of cultural authority occurred, removing it from the bourgeoisie, and placing the power in the hands of the largest class, the newly created working class. To appeal to the "common man," authors, photographers, playwrights, and directors needed to cater to their needs. No longer alone in their subjugation to the bottom of the cultural pyramid, the voices of groups such as immigrants, Jews, and blacks became increasingly important in the years following the Great Crash. Films like Little Caesar (1931) dare to...