‘Grapes of Wrath’ and the Great Recession

It’s difficult to think of anything new to say about The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck’s masterpiece. But recently I, after years of Kathy insisting I do so, got around to reading it. I couldn’t help but notice a few things relevant to the here and now, and seeing as I have a computer I figured I’d post them on the Internet.

Our Recession is Lame

Yeah, housing prices are low. Some people don’t have jobs, and many are spending less than they’d like.

Very few American children are starving to death, however.

To even compare the economic events of the past few years to the Great Depression is, I think, insulting to those who actually lived through it. Our modern unemployment rate, hovering around 10 percent, certainly leaves something to be desired; it is, however, minor when compared to the 25 percent rate nationwide in the 1930s.

Comparisons between our modern recession and the great depression seem even more foolish if you imerse yourself in Steinbeck’s epic, where entire families wander from town to town in hopes of finding a single day’s work.

Many today are without work, yes, but the vast majority of them wouldn’t even consider physical labor as a way to feed their family. Far better to collect unemployment until something comfortable comes along.

Okies/Illegal Immigrants

But you know who is willing to do physical labor? Illegal immigrants. Steinbeck’s description of depression-era “Okies” to me almost perfectly mirrors the modern illegal immigrant.

Both leave everything they’ve known behind to build a better life for family, both are more than willing to work hard to do so and both are generally regarded with suspicion–even anger–by the people they are working for. Depended on and despised.

The fact that these Okies were in the country changes nothing. Californians in Steinbeck’s novel are determined to define the incoming white American masses as outsiders, so they do so. Much of the rhetoric they use to describe these outsiders parellels contemporary to the point where it’s easy to mistake one for the other.


Al and Tom Joad both understand cars. They can drive them, they can repair them and they can tell when something’s going wrong with them. Many older individuals, however, seem to have no comprehension of how these machines work–despite depending on them.

Sounds familar? It does to me, because computers simply make sense to me. Almost every day, however, I help someone who–though depending on a computer to make a living–has almost no idea how they work.

I suppose the point I’m making here is that new technology, to the young, is normal.

This is an enormous advantage, career-wise. I’ve no doubt that Al eventually found his way into a garage and made a decent living. Likewise, I’m not worried about my employment prospects so long as there are people who can’t find their googles and as such think they have a virus.

Someday, however, my skills will be obsolete. Young people who understand future technology will infuriate me.

Barnes and Noble, Borders, Buy.com.