Greed and Selfishness John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath exposes greed and selfishness that was rampant in the Midwest during the 1930’s. The novel examines the struggles of families obtaining money and leaving home. Like the Joad family, many others are stripped of their fortunes and futures due to the “big businesses,” who left the weak to suffer. The times were changing making the poverty stricken citizens change as well, even if it meant to “clean the slate” by moving away.  The Grapes of Wrath, demonstrates how the capitalist system, exploited by landowners, exploits small farmers. The novel draws attention to the crisis in the Midwest commonly known as the Dust Bowl. Steinbeck captures this by showing the final results that large businesses portrayed on smaller people. In the beginning, the novel opens with nature dealing a “bust,” to the land and people who survived off of it. “Women and children knew deep in themselves that no misfortune was too great to bear if their men were whole.”(2) The women and children see rough times in the near future but do not panic because the men stand their ground. As the novel progresses the main characters in the Joad family make decisions that could affect the entire family on their journey to a new land. After finalizing their decision to leave Oklahoma, they sold their possessions for any money they could get. “…They knew the team and the wagon were worth much more, they knew the buyer would get much more but they didn’t know how to do it. Merchandising was a secret to them.”(87) The capitalist merchants in the scrap yard, hustles them into taking a low price so he can make a profit of his own.Greed often comes hand in hand with selfishness. This unfortunate idea is shown in the proprietor camp. The organizers attempt to take advantage of the Joads by asking for Tom, who showed up late, to pay money separately then his family who already bought a spot at the campsite. Tom argues that he can sleep in a ditch for free. The owners threaten him with the sheriff who arrests vagrants. Considering the chances and law enforcement punishments, Tom, Jim Casy and Uncle John all go and sleep on the road. Tom’s anger at the camp for capitalizing on the misfortune of the migrant families, portrays Steinbeck’s view on profit-hunters. “The ideas of the ruling class are, in every age, the ruling ideas; the class which is the dominant material force in society is at the same time its dominant intellectual force.” (Elwell)California landowners sent out flyers all across the United States creating a vision of the prosperous farmers who were to move to the land. “It don’t make no sense. This fella wants eight hundred men. So he prints up five thousand of them things an’ maybe twenty thousan’ people sees ’em. An’ maybe two-three thousan’ folks gets movin’ account a this here han’bill. Folks that’s crazy with worry” (16.126).The owners hope for a pool of workers and farmers to come pouring in from the Midwest. When thousands migrated, like the Joad family,  by the time they had arrived only a few jobs were available. Economist Paul Taylor, when writing for Survey Graphic magazine, noted that many migrants were coming with hope for a better future. What they found was “a shortage of work awaited them and low wages for what was available” (Gregory).The Grapes of Wrath shows how the Joad family had been affected by the Capitalist system during their struggle to California. At their most powerless moments, the Okies seem to never lose their drive to work hard despite the landowners, banks and the law. The story of the Joads that John Steinbeck created shows the selfishness of people, and tells a story that is both inspirational and educational. The novel mirrors the struggles of an average homeless family during the Dust Bowl in the 1930’s.

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