“Grapes of Wrath” Connects to Political Outcomes of Dust Bowl Era

Abbey Whittington, Staff Reporter

The Booth Library will host another presentation as a part of their ongoing Dust Bowl series at 4 p.m. Wednesday. The program, titled “The Politics of Drought in ‘The Grapes of Wrath'”, will connect Booth Library’s Dust Bowl exhibit to political issues addressed in John Steinbeck’s novel at 4 p.m. tomorrow.

Robin Murray, an English and women’s studies professor, will present Steinbeck’s portrayal of the Dust Bowl through the novel along with references from the film.

Even though the novel and 1940s film with John Ford utilize the drought as a protagonist, Steinbeck discusses much more than a trip to western America.

The aftermath of the drought caused many controversial issues in America involving environmental law such as water rights, which “The Grapes of Wrath” mentions through a family of Dust Bowl refugees.

Both the novel and film draw their inspiration from the environmental history and law regarding America’s views of water rights during the Dust Bowl, droughts and abundances of water.

Murray will be citing the legal and environmental history found in the novel during the presentation.

“Influenced by activist goals and anti-corporate philosophy and media, Steinbeck wrote ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ not only to entertain but also to send a message condemning corporate barons and uplifting their victims,” Murray said.

Some important aspects of “Grapes of Wrath” Murray intends to focus on during the presentation are Steinbeck’s work demonstrating how refugees suffered and the dangers of their migration, his support for labor unions and his wish for an alternative to corporate farming such as Tom Collins’ Farm Security Association Camp.

“’The Grapes of Wrath’ is the story of a family’s struggle for survival in the Promised Land. It is the story of migrants’ struggle to survive. But it is also the story of a nation, America,” Murray said. “Through allusions to Christ, the Israelites and the great Exodus, ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ becomes a story of our quest for profound comprehension of our commitment to our fellow men and the earth we inhabit. In the Age of Anthropocentric climate change, ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ also illustrates the ongoing power of its environmental legal context.”

The program is free and open to the public and will be held at Booth Library in Conference Room 4440.


Abbey Whittington can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]