Parallels Between Earth Ethics and the Grapes of Wrath

The following example essay talks about the parallel between earthly ethics and grapes of wrath. Read the introduction, body and conclusion of the essay, scroll down.

John Schuman

Writing and rhetoric

Leopoard`s Land Ethic and John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath have interesting parallels. John Steinbeck start out his story describing a place in the western great plains during the dust bowl. He talks about big dust clouds. He describes how there is a great drought going on. He even goes as far to say “drying corn” (Steinbeck).


He shows how farmers were unable to grow food. Even when there was rain, it wasn`t enough to fix the problem. He goes on to describe how the people sometimes had to wear stuff over their faces to allow them to go outside. It is very reminiscent of what many documentation from that time period said about the dust bowl.

Leopold’s land ethic does make some reference to the degrading of the soil in the western great plains.

Leopard states …. is a progressive and mutual deterioration (pg 206) On that page he talks about how the western great plains were being wrecked by people not taking good care of the land. He stated that as the years passed the land was slowly dying.

So far these two parts seem to show that there was something seriously wrong with the western great plains. The land was sick but not many people in the US cared. Plants died of the plants dying to severe drought, there was a serious hidden problem that both authors saw.

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Steinbeck many times though his story showed how he hated big corporate farms. He saw corporate farms as being only focused on how they could make the most money not on the health of the land. It is shown how the most lands where owned by the bank and how people were forced off their lands due to not being able to pay the bills.

Leopold said something similar in The land ethic. He said many times throughout his story that some people only care about the resources that they can directly gain a profit from. Leopold wants people to think of the land of something more than just land. We should take care of the land out of love for the Lord not just for economic gain.

They both point out that thinking of the land only as a tool for wealth, is not right. Steinbeck shows what those big corporate farms did to people who could not pay them. The people were shoved off their land and they were treated like property. Leopold shows how people treated land as just land not as a thing worth protecting.

He used an example of how most people didn`t consider plants and animals worth protecting if they couldn`t directly profit from it. He implied by getting rid of plants and animals in a certain place, people ruined the balance of land their were part of. The dust bowl was an extreme example of what thinking like that can cause.

The destruction of native plants and animals, and practices like clear cutting field every year, allowed for the soil to easily dry up and blow away. This is one of the factors that cause the dust bowl. The lack of plants holding the soil down allowed great clouds of dust to ruin people`s lives in the western great plains.

Leopold points out in the land ethic that overgrazing and other bad farming practices have damaged the western great plains. It is interesting how he uses that example and contrasts it to how the natives handled the land. The natives did not have cattle.

Leopold once said, The role of a conqueror is eventually self-defeating. meaning that only caring about you want will come back to bite you. Look at how long ago people did not think much of the mushroom`s importance in the ecosystem. Scientist discovered how the mushroom act as communication pathways for entire forests. Leopold saw that every organism was connected together in some way from plants to predators and prey.

The land ethic is focused on the need for responsible use of the land. Grapes of wrath explores a family trying to deal with the dust bowl and the hardships it brought. The problems with the land in the Grapes of Wrath could have been prevented with a Land Ethic.

If they understood how their ecosystem worked, then they could have tried to fix the land. It doesn`t help however that they were forced to plant whatever the big corporations wanted them to plant. Big banks and companies treated the farmers like how most people at that time treated the environment.

Leopold said that in order to protect the environment , people would need to change how they viewed the land. He thought that holding people accountable for their actions could help them change their views. He compared land ethics to civil ethics, where we humans were part of a bigger community, nature.

Steinbeck focused more on how people had to deal with the results of the dust bowl. He showed how many wealthy people did not care about the poor farmers. The poor farmers had to leave their homes and were being treated as property by big corporations. Many people in the United State didn’t care about them. In California they were they were treated as less than human.

I guess the land was kind of like the farmers being treated as a tool to gain wealth not as what it truly is. Not many people in the United States cared about the land unless it directly affected them. Land is the backbone of all civilization, yet people in the USA at the time forgot that important fact. Even during the Roman times people understood land was important for their civilizations.

Both of the stories seem to be pointing to one major point, we need to take care of both fellow people and nature. That people and corporations should not just focus on money but also at the world around them. People should not just want to protect the stuff that gives them immediate profit but rather that we should try to protect and help the world around us.

The major theme in the land ethic is conservation and holding men accountable for their actions. Leopold wants people to see the world from a different perspective, one in which all organisms play a role in the others’ health. That includes humans and their effects on nature, both good or bad we still influence the environment.

The major theme in the Grapes of Wrath is looking out for others. Steinbeck wants people at that time to be aware; that their are people in America whose rights are being violated. It also shows how big corporations at the time did not care about the people who worked for them. The corporations were selfish jerks and only looked out for themselves.

Steinbeck wanted people and corporations to know that if they keep try to force people around, those who they are oppressed will rise up. It also shows how people did not care about the people who provide the food for the society. It is as one old saying goes, Don`t bite the hand that feeds you.

In conclusion both books show different sides of a related issue. People not taking care of the world around them. Grapes of wrath is people not taking good care of other people. The land ethic is about the need for people to take care of the land. We as humans should try to take care of our fellow humans. We also need to do our part to protect the world around us. We should want to care about others and the environment out of love for our Lord.

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Parallels Between Earth Ethics and the Grapes of Wrath. (2019, Nov 16). Retrieved from

Parallels Between Earth Ethics and the Grapes of Wrath
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