Before I read Grapes of Wrath, I was just hoping for insights about the Great Depression; but now that I read it, I realize what the book talks about is, unfortunately (and sometimes fortunately), very much contemporary. At least, it is in Turkey.
Grapes of Wrath is set in 1930s, when a big drought has affected Oklahoma and many other states, therefore driving the tenant farmers from their homes. Hundreds of thousands hungry people pack up whatever belongings they have left, and set out to find the promised jobs in the west, only to find out their desperation is being used to lower the wages. You see, clever farm owners have found out that if there is an unbelievable amount of hungry people desperate to feed their families, you can lower the wages as much as you like, because they'll accept the jobs no matter what. The rich keep getting richer, and the poor keep getting hungrier and angrier.
The book follows the Joad family to explain the tragedy of the "Okies". Tom Joad returns from prison and catches his family just before they leave for California. They live on the road in first half of the book, and they try to live in California in the other half.
The reason I said what the book talks about is unfortunately contemporary is, I see the trend of "The rich get richer, the poor get poorer" in almost everywhere in the world. And like we see in the book, the way to get richer is to screw the poor. Being from a developing country (Turkey, to be specific), I'm very much familiar with economic inequality. The two reasons of economic inequality in the book are man's inhumanity to man and lack of unions. Of course, the latter is no longer valid, but the former pretty much is. And I think this quote from the book is what fascinated me the most:And the great owners, who must lose their land in an upheaval, the great owners with access to history, with eyes to read history and to know the great fact: when property accumulates in too few hands it is taken away. And that companion fact: when a majority of the people are hungry and cold they will take by force what they need. And the little screaming fact that sounds through all history: repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed. The great owners ignored the three cries of history.
This is what's happening now. Sure, the owners, -politicians and the other immensely rich-, have greater means to repress people now. But as we are seeing now in protests all over the world, Turkey, Brazil, Egypt, Greece - people are sick of being repressed, being ignored, being screwed. And from this desperation, comes something the rich don't have: Humanity. This is what we fortunately have in common with the book. Just like poor "Okies" on the road and living in Hoovervilles helping each other whenever they can, and never losing their kindness, protesters behave in a way we've long forgotten. From what I've seen in Turkey's Gezi Park protests: The more gas canisters thrown at the protesters, the kinder the protesters become. The more violence they're shown, the more flowers given to the police. Double the tragedy, you're quadrupling the solidarity. Yet the government still isn't ashamed.
All these "great owners" should stop and ask themselves, can they continue for long? Because in the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage
, that I can say.