A problem this world has is that In spite of the growing numbers of people of color globally, oppression by predominately white governments remains a problem. There have always been a few people who recognized their blight. One of those people was John Steinbeck. In his books, John Steinbeck was a voice for the underdog. He had seen as he was growing up, many poor migrant workers and wanted to be a voice for them and people like them. He did this in virtually all of his books, two of which were The Pearl which was about a Native Mexican family’s struggles, and The Grapes of Wrath which was about a family of farmers trying to escape the economic catastrophe, the Dust Bowl.
In John Steinbeck’s childhood, he worked on a beet farm during breaks from school and because of this he developed an appreciation for the land. He also saw the living conditions of his fellow workers and had empathy for them.
He also came to feel for people like them, people who are poor or oppressed because of their color or ethnicity. John was born in Salinas, California to John Ernst Steinbeck, the treasurer of Monterey County, and Olive Hamilton Steinbeck, a former teacher. John’s mom instilled in him at a young age a love to read and write. At the age of fourteen, he decided he was going to be a writer. Once he graduated from Salinas High School he went to Stanford. A decision he made just to please his parents.
He went to Stanford for six years and although he said he had fond memories of the school and loved the English classes, he left without a degree. After leaving Stanford he moved to New York and worked as a reporter while getting impressions for the book he was planning on writing. He then moved back to California, where he got a job as a caretaker near Lake Tahoe and wrote his first few books the first of which was Cup of Gold.
Although is his first few books were unsuccessful he forged on and then in 1935 wrote his first successful book, Tortilla Flat. He continued being a very successful author. But in 1937, he wrote a somewhat controversial book, Of Mice and Men. This book was controversial because of how he described the mentally challenged Lennie among other things but that was just a taste of what was to come. In 1939, he wrote The Grapes of Wrath. This was his most controversial book and although it won him the Pulitzer prize not everyone liked it. In fact, some critics called it socialist propaganda. Libraries and schools banned it because of its coarse language, The farmers association of America disliked how it described corporate farmers, and even his hometown hated it. They even burned some of his books. With all that happening he continued writing and in 1962 he won the Nobel Prize.
One of John Steinbeck’s many books was The Grapes of Wrath. In this Novel, John is yet again a voice for those who had none. But the difference this time is he is being a voice for the farmers whose lives were destroyed because of the Dust Bowl. These farmers are treated terribly, paid terribly, and hated. In fact in the book the corporate farmers talk big on handbills they sent to many people but pay less than promised. This conversation took place in one of the camps, “’Tom said, ‘Back home some fellas come through with handbills—orange ones. Says they need lots a people out here to work the crops.’
The young man laughed. ‘They say they’re three hundred thousand us folks here, and I bet ever’ dam’ family seen them handbills.’ ‘Yeah, but if they don’ need folks, what’d they go to the trouble puttin’ their things out for?’ ‘Use your head, why doncha?’ ‘Yeah, but I won’t know.’ ‘Look,’ the young man said. ‘S’pose you got a job a work, an’ there’s jus’ one fella wants the job. You got to pay ‘im what he asts. But s’pose they’re a hundred men.’ He put down his tool. His eyes hardened and his voice sharpened. ‘S’pose they’s a hundred men want that job. S’pose them men got kids, an’ them kids is hungry. S’pose a lousy dime’ll buy a box a mush for them kids. S’pose a nickel’ll buy at leas’ somepin for them kids. An’ you got a hundred men. Jus’ offer ’em a nickel—why, they’ll kill each other fightin’ for that nickel. Know what they was payin’ las’ job I had? Fifteen cents an hour.
Ten hours for a dollar an’ a half, an’ ya can’t stay on the place. Got to burn gasoline gettin’ there.’ He was panting with anger, and his eyes blazed with hate. ‘That’s why them handbills were out. You can print a hell of a lot of handbills with what ya save payin’ fifteen cents an hour for fiel’ work.’ This book is a parable to a worldwide problem. This problem is Corporate companies’ dishonesty and how they use people desperate for money, people who have no voice and the companies cheat these people and pay them as little as possible.It’s not just that but all around the world people cheat and use other people just because they can and will benefit from it. As you can see from all John Steinbeck’s books especially The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck is a voice for those who don’t have a voice, for whatever they are discriminated John is there for them.
A different book John Steinbeck wrote was The Pearl he was a voice for the native Mexicans who were oppressed by the rich Europeans. The story’s main focus was Kino and his family finding the Pearl and the bad things that happened to them afterward, this was a protest to social hierarchy and how people that are on the bottom are treated and how it is next to impossible to rise up in the hierarchy. Along the way John Steinbeck also showed how the native Mexicans are oppressed by white supremacists and his opinion on this throughout the book. He did this through his description of the oppressors and the description of Kino and his people throughout the book. Near the start of the book the doctor says “Have I nothing better to do than cure insect bites little Indians? I am a doctor not a veterinarian.” Sadly enough this happens all over the world.
All around the world humans are treated as less than human by white supremacists. In fact that was Hitlers base philosophy, you don’t look like me or you don’t think like me then you are less than human and your life doesn’t matter. He like many people knew that this needs to stop but him unlike others publicized his opinion in form of books. In his books he was voice for those who didn’t have one. In the case of The Pearl, he was a voice for all of those who are oppressed throughout the world. He did this through the example of the Native Mexicans who were oppressed by the white supremacists. This piece of literature was an outcry against racism, socialism, and supremacism. The Pearl was one book of many that John Steinbeck wrote to be voice for those who didn’t have one.
In Conclusion John Steinbeck was a great man and author. But all men come to an end and on December 20, 1968, he had a heart attack and died in New York City. He died with his 3rd wife Elaine Scott and two children from his second wife, Thomas and John at his side. In his books, he painted the picture of reality without the sugar coating most of it see it with. In those books he also was the voice of all those who don’t have one. But there must be more people to continue what he was doing. Now however you do it on social media, books, movies, or plays we must be the one who are the voice. All issues he wrote his books based on are still there. There is still socialism, Racism, Supremacism, cheating, and lying in the world today. While John Steinbeck was a author he was a voice for those who don’t have one and now that he is gone it is our turn to be that voice. To rise against the many issues of today’s world. Now just like John Steinbeck did in his time it is our time to make a difference.