The Great Depression was a devastating time in American history, in which many suffered. Unfortunately, the most brutal adversity the people suffering faced was due to other men and not the natural conditions of the Dust Bowl. This is very prominent in John Steinbeck’s book The Grapes of Wrath, where the Joad family is making a trip on route 66 to get to California, which is supposed to be a haven for those suffering due to the Great Depression. The Joad’s journey is rough in many ways and we see that their land was taken due to man’s selfishness and many problems the Joads come across, are due to people who are unwilling to help.
Man being selfish and full of greed is not new and has always been an ugly feature of man. The selfishness of man that took the Joad’s land is shown when Casy and Tom Joad go to Tom’s family’s farm. Upon arrival, they notice it’s been deserted and find a couple of squatters that refuse to leave the land and get information from them. The squatters talk about the Banks being a “monster” not run by men but created by men that couldn’t control what it turned into. The monster thrives on money and invests and must continue to grow by taking more and more land. This chapter shows how man created the Bank in order to make a profit and eventually due to man it turned into something that created even more greed in man. The Bank turns their back on the people who need their help the most, the people running it see nothing but profit that is needed to keep this monster they created at bay. Unfortunately, for the Joads and other families, this means their suffering, due to those who could be helping.
This suffering can cause men to do things they may not want to do but need to do in order to survive. While still at the farm the squatters talk to a tractor driver who was plowing through their land whom they noticed he is a little boy named Willy Feeley, who grew up in a neighboring farm. They ask him why he does this when he knows how they work in the farms and he says simply that they pay him three dollars to drive the tractor and he needs the money for his family so he does the job. This is an unfortunate turn of events as an important point is brought up. Men might not mean to turn their backs on their peers but the conditions they are put under cause them to. The bank is a force that man made that is causing others to be in this position where they don’t have a choice because if they deny the Bank would just find someone else who is desperate for those three dollars. This power that is held over the Joad’s head is constant in this book as they encounter many who are in this position.
Power, time and time again has proved to change men and cause them to turn their backs on others. When the Joads begin work at a peach orchard they were quickly mistreated. The orchard underpaid the workers by a large margin. They were able to do this because of large advertising that swindled the workers. The store would sell overpriced goods that the workers must pay for because they can’t afford gas to go to any other store for food. The people running this knew this and instead of making fair prices they use their power and abuse it to make the most money out of the Joads and the rest of the workers. The Joads and other workers were well aware of this but when they revolted the situation only worsened for them. During such a time of need men should be able to rely on each other but sadly most take advantage instead.
The Joad’s problems are all rooted in mankind and its ugly side that can quickly come out in these dark times. These problems rooted in mankind are problems that have been present throughout history. Men are constantly taking advantage of one another in the worst of situations, because of the selfishness and greed buried under the society of mankind. This is the horrific truth that led to the suffering of many in the Great Depression.