Literary Conflicts in The Grapes of Wrath

Literary Conflicts in The Grapes of Wrath

The novel The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck talks about the journey of Joad family and how the family is faced by several conflicts. The family experiences before the journey started, during the journey and after arrival, clearly illustrate the four major types of conflicts. Man vs. man, man vs. society, man vs. nature and man. In this case man represents a single society which is Joad’s family and the journey is the multiple encounters that the single society; Joad family conflicts with. Joad family during their journey conflicts with the society they meet, conflicts among themselves or among family itself, conflicts with nature and other elements. The experience with the family depicts how a single entity can have different experiences with other entities both those are of the same nature and those that are different. The Grapes of Wrath implies that society can encounter different conflicts depending on ethnic, and a community setting.

Literary Conflicts in The Grapes of Wrath

Man Against Man

The conflict between man and man is repeatedly evident in the story, beginning right from when Tom kills a man at a dance and claims that is was in self defense. This can be seen when he says “I killed a guy in a fight…….He got a knife in me and I killed him with a shovel that was laying there” 28. This quote illustrates the clear conflict that usually exists between men. Although the incident is not included in the book, this dialogue clearly indicates what can occur when conflict is not resolved amicably. In fact, the manner with which the conflict escalates to the point of a man being killed is typical of serious man against man conflicts.

Conflict is also seen when the farmers discover that one of them has betrayed them in chapter 5. The chapter focuses on the conflict between the farmers and the bank, which has sent people to come and evict the farmers from their land. The quote “”What are you doing this kind of work for – against your own people?” is a clear indication of the conflict between the farmers and the messengers of the bank sent to drive out the farmers from their land.  The tractor driver actually fails to see the farmers as human beings, as do others like him, who have been sent to drive the farmers out of their land. The conflict however, ends with the farmers having to move away from their land, despite their best efforts.

Another instance of man against man conflict can be seen when the migrant families go to buy parts from a second hand car dealer. It is a classic demonstration of the migrant families having to buy inferior parts and cars. Due to the increased demand for cars amongst the migrating families, the car dealers opt to exploit the families in light of their desperation. They not only sell to them damaged cars and parts, but charge them exorbitant prices, as they are aware that these families do not have any option. The quote

Man against Society

Man in the novel conflict with several issues in the society, even the most promising and hardworking people find themselves on the wrong side of the society. The conflict among man and society exists because of the different society that exists. Because of this difference, we see Jaod’s family migrating from their mother land to new lands. Tom Joad the protagonist in the story is imprisoned for four years in McAlester due to his disagreement with what the society expects. “Sure I have been in McAlester. Been there four years.…I’m, going to my old man’s place so I don’t have to lie to get a job” (16). Using Tom’s story we can clearly see that the society demands a lot from man and there is no room for relaxation. Joad has to get a job to survive and the even though he has been in prison for a while his family and the surrounding do not expect him to have time to relax. Rather than the fact that he is the oldest son in Joan’s family, being a man call for a major responsibility from the society to guide his family. The society pushes all individuals in the society both rich, poor young and old. The forceful migration of the landowners well evidences this. The tenants have to push the landowners out of their property due to their ability to pay taxes. The banks to do not want to understand the challenges that the landowners are going through, but they have to attain their mission of making profits. The land owners feel the injustice of the tenants and the bank “We can’t depend on it. The bank- the monster has to have profit all the time “(35). The constant conflict with man and society affects all persons even those that the society depicts as good, for instance, Tom is later trusted by his family and other landowners who feel that he may help them in making their lives better. However, on the other hand, the society pushes him to his limits and forces him to solve his disputes with violence. “ The first time he knew he had missed and struck a shoulder, but the second time his crushing blow” (386). Using the conflict in the society it is clear that there are different encounters in the society depending on one’s ethnicity and social class.

Man against nature           

The setting of The Grapes of Wrath novel shows that changes that America is facing. The American life is changing from traditional to modernized America. Though these changes may seem positive to many the author John Steinbeck has a completely different opinion. Using different characters in the novel, one can tell that the change in the America’s way of life has encouraged industrialism which is driven by tractors in the communities. Changing the way of life has affected all societies and the results are negative and behold the control of man. The entire community is affected by drought and no home is left without feeling the negative impact of the natural occurrences. After Joah had arrived home he found that his family was not there but had moved due to harsh conditions brought about by nature. The conflict with man in Oklahoma is seen through the drought which makes people lose their homes. “The wind grew stronger, whisked under stones. Carried up straws and old leaves, marking its course as it sailed across the fields” (6). The negative occurrence affected the entire population but the degree of it impact depends on the society differences. For instance, the landowners had to be rushed out by the tenants and the bank for their inability to settle their debts. Even though nature was cruel to the Oklahoma community only a specific group had to leave leaving behind the tenants and the bank owners. Man does not only conflict with nature as a group or as a community but also as an individual. Noah is a man who faced natures harsh as an individual even before he was able to defend himself. Though at times modernized life provides opportunity to safeguard what we treasure this is not always that case especially for the weak and vulnerable. From Steinbeck’s story, Noah is injured when he was still a child “Pa using his hands, his strong fingers for forceps he had pulled and twisted the baby. The midwife arriving late had found the baby head pulled out of shape,” (80).

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