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The Grapes of Wrath Prejudice Quotes

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will examine some of the prejudices that are evident in John Steinbeck's ''The Grapes of Wrath'' against Native Americans, migrant workers from Oklahoma, and immigrants.

Background and Definitions

''Free your mind and the rest will follow - Be colour blind, don't be so shallow.''

That's a line from a song by En Vogue in the 1990s. After decades of progress, prejudices still exist.

In the 1930s when John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath took place, there was no shame in pronouncing many of the prejudices that would be shunned today. Prejudice is making negative assumptions about another person based on factors such as race, sex, or religion without full knowledge of that person.

In this novel, the primary target of the prejudice are the migrant workers that have traveled from Oklahoma to California to find work. However, prejudices against people of other races also exists. Let's examine some quotes about prejudice from this novel.

Native American Land

The migrant workers from Oklahoma are not exactly innocent of prejudice. As the banks are tractoring the sharecroppers off of their land, they claimed rights to the land because: ''Grampa killed Indians, Pa killed snakes for the land. Maybe we can kill banks--they're worse than Indians and snakes. Maybe we got to fight to keep our land, like Pa and Grampa did.''

In reality, what they did to the Native Americans to get the land to start with was worse. When the tables turn, the farmers never really make the connection between how they treated others and how they are being treated.

Moving to California

The Joad family had not even made it the California yet when they learn what is in store for them. They meet a stranger on his way back to Oklahoma from California who explains, ''Well, Okie use'ta mean you was from Oklahoma. Now it means you're a dirty son-of-a-bitch. Okie means you're scum.''

The people in California are scared that the migrant workers are going to come take what belongs to them, so they treat them badly. It doesn't take long before the Joads witness this for themselves. A police officer enters their camp and tells Ma, ''You're in California, an' we don't want you [expletive] Okies settlin' down…. An' if you're here when I come tomorra, I'll run ya in.''

It is not just the police officers that think the migrant workers are less than. The boy at the service station sells Tom some gas and is surprised at how beat up their car is.

He says to his coworker, ''Well, you and me got sense. Them [expletive] Okies got no sense and no feeling. They ain't human. A human being wouldn't live like they do. A human being couldn't stand it to be so dirty and miserable. They ain't a hell of a lot better than gorillas.''

It doesn't occur to the coworker that each of the migrant workers has a back story that has led to their current situation. Before bothering to educate himself, he forms an opinion that they are less than human.

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